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Modi strikes at critics; BJP gains in local polls

Manas Dasgupta

Two dissident BJP MLAs, Sidhartha Parmar and Rakesh Rao, suspended from the party

GANDHINAGAR: The Narendra Modi juggernaut continued to roll in Gujarat crushing the Congress challenge in the elections to local self-government bodies and silencing the Chief Minister's critics.

The State BJP on Friday struck at dissident MLAs, suspending two vocal critics of Mr. Modi, Sidhartha Parmar and Rakesh Rao. Ramilaben Desai, another dissident BJP MLA, was suspended immediately after the party won the elections to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation a fortnight ago. The suspensions have sent a loud message to the dissident camp that the party would not tolerate any revolt against the Chief Minister.

The BJP won 16 of the 23 district panchayats, 134 of 209 taluka panchayats and 38 of the 49 municipalities in the State, which went to the polls on Tuesday. The urban and rural voters alike voted for the saffron party, which sought votes in support of Mr. Modi's "development'' programme.

The Congress, which was in control of 20 district panchayats and most of the taluka panchayats and municipalities, could win only in seven district panchayats of Gandhinagar, Rajkot, Anand, Broach, Surat, Bulsar and Dangs, 85 taluka panchayats and 11 municipalities, mostly with slender margins.

Negative politics

Mr. Modi, who called on the former Chief minister and dissident leader, Keshubhai Patel, on Thursday, attributed the BJP's success to the "sincere and dedicated" work of partymen and the Congress defeat to its "negative politics." The Congress sought votes, highlighting the Centre's rural employment guarantee scheme and other such programmes, but the people "rejected" the UPA Government's policies, he said. The success in the civic elections would be stepping stone in implementing the developmental programmes of his Government. With the same party in control of all tiers of administration, the implementation of programmes could be expedited.

Mr. Modi and State BJP president Vajubhai Vala said the party would organise "victory celebrations" on the

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