Putting all speculations about rift between him and chief minister Omar Abdullah to rest, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Friday ruled out any move by his party to push for contentious 73rd and 74rd amendment of Indian Panchayati Raj Act in the state.
“I am nobody to announce amendments like 73rd and 74th (of Indian Panchayati Raj) here. It’s people of Kashmir and their representatives to decide. The amendments are state prerogative,” said Rahul after meeting more than 3,000 panchs and sarpanchs at Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre, located on the banks of Dal lake.
Last month, J-K Pradesh Congress Committee president Saifuddin Soz stirred a controversy when he shared a letter with the media accusing the government of slow progress on devolution of powers and insisted on bringing 73rd and 74th amendments in the J-K Panchayati Raj Act.
Omar, who is ruling the state with coalition partner Congress, replied to the letter saying “there was no need to bring these amendments as J-K has its own constitution, and all amendments, if required, will be made by the state assembly”.
Omar's statement was seen as division within the coalition.
On Friday, Rahul Gandhi, made it clear that the Congress was not keen on imposing or pushing these amendments in the state. “My only interest is devolution of power and Omar seems quite keen on that. The third tier polls (of the Panchayat Raj) are also being held now. Congress stands for devolution of power,” said Rahul.
Earlier, hundreds of panchs and sarpanchs interacted with Rahul for couple of hours. From security issues to rights, grassroots representatives put forth a list of areas concerning them.
“We made it clear that out biggest problem is that due rights are not being handed over to us as per the Panchayati Act. Security is an issue but we believe if all rights are handed over to us and we work for poor, we may not need security at all,” said sarpanch Basheer Ahmad from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
But several grassroots representatives staged a walked out in protest. “He (Rahul) has nothing concrete to offer on issues like salaries of panchs and sarpanchs, security and rights. We are being turned into security forces’ informers here. We should not be pitched as anti-militancy force,” said a disappointed sarpanch on the condition of anonymity.
It was Rahul’s first meeting since he expressed his concern in Delhi over the spate of killings carried out by suspected militants of grassroots representatives in north Kashmir last month, followed by mass resignations through newspapers.