Children play no part in the electoral process, but the fate of over 20 taluka panchayats in Gujarat now lies in their hands.
With the BJP and Congress winning equal number of seats in as many as 22 talukas in last month’s local body elections, presidents of these panchayats are being selected through draw of lots. And children are the ones doing the honours.
Simran Hussain, 11, helped to break the electoral deadlock in Dholka taluka in Ahmedabad district on December 16 when she picked one of the two chits to hand over the president’s post to Congress’ Gauriben Dabhi. Which of the two parties would administer the panchayat had remained undecided after both the BJP and the Congress bagged 11 seats each.
Children like Simran will decide the fate of the other 21 talukas and two district panchayats in a similar fashion on Tuesday.
“A child deciding the fate (of a candidate) is a democratic way, which has been widely accepted by all the parties,” said panchayat minister Bhupendrasinh Chaudasma.
Though choosing by draw may not seem democratic, officials say it is legal and enshrined in the Gujarat Panchayat Act of 1993. “Draw of lots was made part of the Act in 1993. All parties have accepted it fully. There have been no complaints,” BB Sain, principal secretary, rural and panchayat development, said.
Last week, when the deadlock at Dholka was broken, only Simran, the taluka development officer and the panchayat’s 22 elected members were allowed inside the room. Even Chaudasma and other political leaders were kept out.
“We say children are messengers of God. There is a message in here for me. I feel I am the chosen one and should carry out my duties with utmost dedication,” Gauriben Dabhi said.
Though in vogue since long, the use of draw to decide outcomes had been used sparingly in the past.
But the recently-held local body elections threw up a whole lot of ties after many panchayats ended up with even numbers of total seats to accommodate 50% reservation for women. And wherever the adult electorate proved to be indecisive, it is the children who are deciding.