Special Correspondent

They defied the party whip in the election of the ZP vice-president

13 Congress members and three associate members form the rebel group

A delegation of rebel Congress members to meet Sonia Gandhi regarding the issue

GULBARGA: Gulbarga Zilla Panchayat president Shailaja Reddy on Monday challenged the Congress leadership to suspend or expel from the party those who defied the party whip in the election of the panchayat vice-president.

Criticising the party leadership for selectively expelling leader of the rebel camp Subash Rathod and three other members for expulsion, Dr. Reddy and Mr. Rathod told presspersons here that they would challenge the action and take up the matter with All India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi.

Dr. Reddy and Mr. Rathod said that a delegation of the rebel Congress members would soon leave for New Delhi to meet Ms. Gandhi and apprise her of the happenings in the party in the Gulbarga unit and the State where loyal party workers had no opportunities.

They said they had 13 zilla panchayat members elected on Congress ticket and three associate members of the party with them, and they would function as a separate group in the zilla panchayat. Mr. Rathod said he wondered why the party had not suspended or expelled from the party all those who had defied the party whip and voted in favour of Dr. Reddy in the election for the zilla panchayat president.

Mr. Rathod denied the charge that he had worked against the party in the last Assembly elections and said that during his meeting with Ms. Gandhi, he would also demand a high-level probe into the party’s failure to win more seats in Gulbarga district.

“A thorough inquiry will reveal the behind-the-scenes machinations by senior party leaders during the Assembly elections, which resulted in the party losing many seats.”

Dr. Reddy said that she represented the entire House in the panchayat and did not belong to any particular party or group. “All those who voted to elect me as zilla panchayat president have come together irrespective of the party affiliations to form a development front, and the front will be headed by Mr. Rathod,” she said.

Vice-president Suresh Sajjan, an associate BJP member of the panchayat, said the main aim of the front was to ensure that the amount allocated to the district was spent well and added that no misuse of fund would be allowed. “The panchayat will accord prime importance to health, education and infrastructure in all development plans.”

Dr. Reddy said that it had also been decided to hold a general body meeting of the panchayat in Yadgir.

To a question, she said that as stipulated in the link document, the Gulbarga Zilla Panchayat had been allocated Rs. 95.97 crore and, of this, Rs. 62.16 crore had been released by the Government to the panchayat. She said that Rs. 32.76 crore had been released to all departments for various development activities.