After sweeping all six municipal corporation elections last week, the Bharatiya Janata Party's impressive march continued in rural Gujarat as it claimed 21 of the 24 district panchayats.

The party also claimed 162 of the 208 taluk panchayats, and 41 of the 53 municipalities, elections for which were held on Thursday and results declared on Saturday.

Unable to stop the BJP juggernaut, State Congress president Siddhartha Patel sent in his resignation to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, accepting moral responsibility for the party's rout in the local self-government elections, its performance being, perhaps, the worst in the history of Gujarat.

No tampering charge

Unlike in the earlier round of elections, the party did not claim that electronic voting machines (EVMs) were tampered with in favour of the ruling party. Mr. Patel said party workers had fought the elections with zeal and enthusiasm, and that the adverse results were “indigestible.” Accepting “moral responsibility for the party's debacle,” he submitted his resignation to Ms. Gandhi.

The results were worse than those of the 2005 elections when the Congress had claimed six of the 24 district panchayats.

Saturday's results also indicate that the Congress is fast losing ground in its citadel of central Gujarat, as it lost the Anand district panchayat to the BJP after more than a decade, and was also defeated in the Dabhoi municipality, the home Assembly constituency of the Congress State chief.

Last month, the BJP won the Kathlal Assembly by-election for the first time in 50 years, perhaps heralding the downslide of the Congress in the central Gujarat region, which has provided two of the three Ministers of State in the Union Cabinet.

The Rajkot district panchayat, which came under the Congress fold in the last elections after more than decade-and-half, slipped out of its control again though the party had surprised many by winning the Rajkot Lok Sabha seat in the last parliamentary elections.

The Congress will have to make do with only the Gandhinagar and Tapi district panchayats, while in the Broach district panchayat six independents will decide the fate as the BJP won 14 and the Congress 11 seats in the 31-member House.

The BJP wiped out the Congress from the entire Kutch-Saurashtra and the central Gujarat regions, leaving only the capital district panchayat of Gandhinagar in north Gujarat and the tribal-dominated Tapi district panchayat in central Gujarat.

The whitewash of the Congress was equally pronounced in the elections to the 208 of the 225 taluk panchayats. The Congress had 81 taluk panchayats under its control before. The BJP's strength increased from 127 to 162 taluk panchayats. Two taluk panchayats went to the Janata Dal (United). No party was able to secure a clear majority in six bodies.

The BJP dominance in urban Gujarat remains unchallenged, and after re-capturing the Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar municipal corporations last week, the party claimed 41 of the 53 municipalities, while the Congress could capture only three municipalities, five going to other parties. The results of the two municipalities are yet to be declared.

In the Porbandar and the Botad municipalities, the BJP and Congress have each won 21 seats, with no other party or independents having won any seat to tilt the balance.