Now, Maharasthra voters can directly elect sarpanchs | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Now, Maharasthra voters can directly elect sarpanchs

Mumbai city news: The state cabinet decided to amend the Grampanchyat Act 1958 to make the direct election of village heads a reality.

mumbai Updated: Jul 04, 2017 09:58 IST
Surendra P Gangan
Panchayat elections will be held later this year.
Panchayat elections will be held later this year. (HT File)

The Maharashtra government has decided to allow people to directly elect sarpanchs or village heads. Though the Opposition has termed the move anti-democratic, political analysts believe the Bharatiya Janata Party will reap the benefits of this decision during panchayat elections later this year.

A majority of gram panchayats — village level local self-government bodies — have traditionally been controlled by workers of the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party despite the fact that elections are not contested on party symbols.

The state cabinet decided to amend the Grampanchyat Act 1958 to make the direct election of village heads a reality.

It has also said that contestants should have studied until Class VII pass. The sarpanch will also have more administrative powers and present the annual budget in the gramsabha on August 15 every year. The gram panchayat will not be able to move a no-confidence motion against the sarpanch in the first two years after his or her election and six months before of the next election.

The decision to give more powers to village heads and the introduction of budget assumes significance as 28,332 gram panchayats in the state have been allocated about Rs15,000 crore as development funds.

The direct elections will lead to more competition and spending during elections, according to experts. Though the government maintains that it will provide a level playing field to all candidates, observers believe that candidates with the backing of the ruling parties will benefit.

The government has said that the decision would curb horse trading that takes place while electing sarpanches from elected representatives of gram panchayats.

The decision comes after the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government succeeded in installing the highest member of municipal council chairman in elections held earlier this year. After the government decided to elect municipal council presidents directly, the BJP won the highest number of seats (71 seats of 191 councils that went to election in three phases). The Congress, which had the highest number in councils, could win only 35 seats.

In some of the councils such as Karad municipal council, the president does not enjoy a majority in the house.

“This will lead to confusion and chaos, and the democratic system will be hit badly. In some councils, the presidents are in a minority. This has hampered development,” Congress state president Ashok Chavan said.

Rural development minister Pankaja Munde said: “It is in the interest of democracy that a common worker without any political background can contest the election. The decision was taken only after the studying the system in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.”

She said that decision to fix minimum qualification for the election will help in improving the administration.

Analysts have reacted cautiously on the decision, saying it could prove a dual-edged sword. “It is a welcome move as it gives a level playing field to all keeping dynasty and party politics at bay. But it could also be favourable to the ruling parties, especially the BJP. This has been proved in the municipal council elections,” said Vishvambhar Chaudhary, a political analyst.

The elections to 8,439 gram panchayats will be held from October. More than 11,500 gram panchayats will face election till December 2019.

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