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Panchayat polls: BJP, Cong in war of words Thursday, December 13, 2001

RAJKOT: A war of words has broken out between the BJP and the Congress in the run-up to the gram panchayat elections, with leaders of both parties making claims and counter-claims.

Congress leader and Dhoraji legislator Vithal Radadiya on Tuesday claimed that his party had an upper hand in villages that had opted for the Samras scheme, where the candidates had been elected uncontested.

Radadiya told 'The Times of India' that out of the 372 gram panchayats that had gone for Samras, as many as 233 were under the Congress belt while the BJP had bagged just 80.

BJP leader Mahendra Padaliya disputed Radadiya's claim. But the Congress leader challenged Padaliya to prove his contention.

According to Radadiya, who masterminded the Congress victory in the district panchayat polls held just a year ago, four gram panchayats in Kotda Sanghani and three in Maliya had gone to the Independents. In as many as 786 gram panchayats, elections will be held.

Radadiya said the gram panchayats in Dhoraji, Jasdan, Jamkandorna, Lodhika, Kotdasanghani, Jetpur and Rajkot talukas had backed the Congress. There could be some truth in Radadiya's claim as most of the places mentioned by him are considered to be his strongholds.

When contacted, Padaliya said that the BJP had not prepared any list to stake claim to the gram panchayats that had opted for Samras. "We have not made any review of the gram panchayats."

Meanwhile, both parties are feeling the heat of the polls with voters in many centres posing 'uncomfortable' and, at times, embarrassing queries to the leaders.

Most questions are on their future plans for the panchayat. It is clear that assurances alone will not work this time around and that voters have begun to demand their due.

Unlike Assembly or Lok Sabha elections national issues are of no consequence to these elections. What matters are local issues - power to irrigate fields, support price for groundnut, cotton and other cash crops and adequate water supply.

On all these counts, the ruling BJP will have a lot of explanation to do. The power supply is erratic and people in the rural areas get just 8 to 10 hours of supply.

The government has failed to prove good support prices and co-operatives have stopped purchasing groundnut from farmers, which has left them fuming.

And lack of long-term planning has ensured that the government does not have a viable solution to solve the drinking water crisis.

Congress leaders are going from village to village highlighting these 'failures'. In addition they are laying stress on the fact that two months after he took charge, Chief Minister Modi is still unable to find a 'safe' seat to contest an Assembly by-election.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]

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