The educational qualifications clause for panchayat polls has led to increase in number of educated representatives in rural governance but it has also revealed its drawback.
About 260 sarpanchs were elected unopposed due to the absence of eligible candidates and about 15 sarpanch posts have been left vacant as none of the candidates fulfilled the educational criterion.
The state government had in January introduced an ordinance affecting an amendment to the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 fixing educational qualifications for the candidates. The ordinance required candidates contesting zila parishad and panchayat samiti polls to be Class 10 pass and those contesting sarpanch elections to be Class 8 pass. In scheduled tribe areas, the eligibility for sarpanch was fixed at Class 5 pass.
The social activists, who opposed the educational criteria, have been linking unopposed election of sarpanchs with the fact that it was due to the lack of educated candidates that a single person was elected without contest. The activists are banking on the fact that only 97 sarpanchs were elected unopposed in 2010 panchayat polls while the number has increased manifolds this time.
Nikhil Dey, a social activist with Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, said an election without a contest is against democratic spirit. Dey said as far as election of educated zila pramukhs and panchayat samiti pradhans is concerned, earlier also educated people were elected for these posts.
“Comparative analysis of unopposed elected sarpanchs in 2010 and 2015 makes the picture clear. It is due to haphazard manner in which the education qualification ordinance was implemented,” he added.
However, the ruling BJP is taking the development in positive light. Party president Ashok Parnami said educational qualification would go a long way in strengthening the panchayat level system.