Home Minister P Chidambaram on Monday said it was possible that naxalites contest and win seats at village or block level in the ongoing panchayat elections in Jharkhand, but emphasised he wasn’t worried on this account.
“It is possible that some of the naxalites might themselves get elected. It is possible some of the panchayati institutions at the village and block level will get captured by the naxalites,” the home minister said at a seminar on the developmental challenges in extremist-affected areas of the country.
“So what... At least they will have to be accountable to the people,” he said, against the backdrop of reports that the lone candidates in many of the 3,000 seats, for which no elections were held, had Naxal backing.
The home minister — who had recently convinced the cabinet to amend a Planning Commission Integrated Action Plan to kick-start developmental activities in Naxal-affected districts — indicated he would be satisfied with the first panchayat elections in three decades in the state if “some kind of a panchayati institution comes into being”.
Stressing on the return of elected representatives in local bodies, the home minister said it was encouraging to see a large number of people coming out to vote in these elections despite a clear boycott call by the Maoists. According to preliminary reports, the second phase held on Monday witnessed about 60% polling.
The panchayat elections in Jharkhand are the first in the country to have been held under security cover provided by Central forces. The five-phase polls — that began on 27 November — will end on 24 December.
Chidambaram had argued against the Planning Commission’s move to depend heavily on panchayati institutions in drawing up and executing the Integrated Action Plan, saying these institutions did not exist in naxal-affected areas.
The home minister, who had pushed for giving the power to plan and execute the Rs 3,300- crore plan to a panel of three officers headed by the collector in each of the 65 districts — said this was an experiment that would be evaluated. “If we cannot trust these three All India Services officers with Rs 25 crore, we might as well wind the service,” he said.
He made it clear that he was all for directly giving money to these institutions once they came up and took root.