In an apparent show of strength, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat rang in the New Year by felicitating 8,000 of the 9,000 newly-elected Sarpanches (village panchayat heads), who it claimed owe allegiance to the party.
The village panchayat elections, which concluded last month, were held for around 9,000 of the over 10,000 panchayats in the state.
The elections, as per the convention, were held without party symbols, and both the BJP and the Congress had claimed success of candidates backed by them.
The ruling BJP, however, sought to demonstrate its supremacy with a colourful event at the party headquarters “Shree Kamalam” outside state capital Gandhinagar on Sunday.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and state party President Jitu Vaghani arrived at the venue in an open jeep, showering flowers on the newly-elected panchayat heads and scores of members. The winners were sporting BJP sashes.
Among the village heads honoured on the dais was Dhanjibhai Korat, who was elected from Mota Samadhiyala village in Una taluka of Amreli district — the epicentre of the statewide Dalit agitation.
Korat’s supporter Ramesh Sarvaiya, winner of the lone Scheduled Caste ward in the panchayat and relative of Balu Sarvaiya, one of the seven victims of the assault by “gau rakshaks” (cow protectors) last July, was also felicitated.
Besides Rupani and Vaghani, Union Ministers of State Parshottam Rupala and Haribhai Chaudhary, both from Gujarat, were also present.
Speaking on the occasion, Rupala asked the newly-elected Sarpanches to work for rural growth, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made special arrangements to ensure the grant for villages reach directly to the bank accounts of the Sarpanches.
He also said that each village panchayat will be getting Rs 25 lakh in five years from the Centre.
Vaghani said: “More than 8,000 Sarpanches, sporting BJP sashes, have been felicitated today (Sunday). This is the beginning of Congress’s end in Gujarat… The beginning of 2017 indicates the end of Congress