Ahmedabad: The Gujarat Panchayat Parishad, the umbrella body of the three tiers of panchayat organizations in the state, on Tuesday said it will hold a daylong demonstration in Ahmedabad on 23 January against the state government stripping the powers of elected heads of gram, taluka and district panchayats and transferring these to talatis and taluka and district development officers.

“We will need a new freedom struggle to restore the autonomy of democratically elected panchayat bodies that have been rendered powerless by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat, not through legislation but by passing executive orders,” said Bharatsinh Solanki, president of the Gujarat unit of the Congress party, which holds a majority of the seats in the state’s panchayat organizations.

Solanki, addressing his first press conference after last month’s state assembly elections, said ever since the BJP’s drubbing in the 2015 taluka and district panchayat elections, the government has started ruling the local self-government bodies through executive orders, and this has rendered the elected chiefs of gram, taluka and district panchayats powerless. “The Congress party will make this the main plank of its campaign in the forthcoming panchayat elections,” he said.

The dates for the elections 14,265 gram panchayats, 17 taluka panchayats and two district panchayats are yet to be announced.

Solanki said the Congress has already appointed observers in all gram, taluka and district panchayats to ensure that the party cadre is fighting fit for the elections. “As in the recent assembly elections, in which the people in rural constituencies rejected the BJP, in the coming panchayat elections, too, the people will defeat the BJP,” he said.

Echoing Solanki’s views, Paresh Dhanani, the newly appointed leader of the opposition in the Gujarat assembly, said there was widespread anger among farmers against the BJP government for its failure to mitigate their problems, such as providing timely and adequate supply of water, electricity, seeds and fertilizer, and minimum support prices for their crops.