Modi goes for kill in panchayat polls, Congress edgy

Twentyfour district panchayats, 208 taluka panchayats and 53 municipalities making for a voting population of 2.48 crore go to polls Thursday with 17,908 candidates in the fray for 804 district panchayat seats, 4,071 taluka panchayat seats and 1,890 municipality seats. 

Modi, who leads the BJP charge, has been criss-crossing the state in the hope of paling principal rival Congress into insignificance. "Nothing less than a total wipe out of the Congress will do," remains his slogan.

"Heads will roll if there is any setback," said a senior BJP leader, adding "we see it as a run-up to the 2,012 state assembly elections and are very serious about it".

The Congress may be hard put to retain control of its six district panchayats, 20 taluka panchayats and six municipalities.

"The municipal results were in no small measure due to a manipulation of the electronic voting machines (EVMs). We will be extra vigilant this time," says state Congress legislature party leader Shaktisinh Gohil.
 
The Congress suffered a debilitating defeat in the Oct 10 municipal polls, which followed its losing the citadel of Kathlal in assembly by-elections.
 
The party chose to hurl its national leaders into campaigning after the pummeling in civic polls. Among those who campaigned were Gujarat Congress incharge Sudhakar Reddy, and central leaders Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot and Subodh Kant Sahay. The Congress has even been summoning Gujarati film actors to push its prospects.

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