IN A BLOW to Congress, the party on Friday lost control over Mendarda taluka panchayat in Junagadh district, a month after its two members, including taluka panchayat president, joined BJP. Congress had wrested Mendarda taluka panchayat from BJP in the local body elections in December 2015. While Congress had won nine seats, BJP managed 7 seats. Labhu Chavda was made president of the panchayat. She, however, last month joined BJP along with chairman of executive committee Shantilal Rakholiya.
Following the defection, Vinu Khunt was appointed the acting president and a notification was issued for election to the post of president. On the day of election on Friday, BJP fielded turncoat Chavda as its candidate, while Congress nominated Bhanu Kachhadiya as its candidate.
However, Congress members later boycotted the vote and Kachhadiya drew a blank. Chavda won eight votes, with Shantilal abstaining. Mendarda SDM Jayesh Mayatra, who acted as presiding officer, said: “Due process was followed. If somebody didn’t vote, it was his decision. The election was held as per the rules of state election commission.”
Congress conceded defeat, but accused BJP of sabotage. “Top BJP leaders flexed their money and muscle power for sabotaging Congress. They used every trick and made our members to defect,” Harshad Ribadiya, president of Junagadh district unit of Congress, told The Indian Express over phone.
BJP rubbished the allegation. “The two Congress members joined BJP out of their free will. They had issues with Congress after the election in 2015. This is one step towards making Junagadh free from Congress,” Junagadh district BJP unit chief Kirit Patel said.