In Rajasthan, ministers unhappy with Gehlot’s decision on mayoral polls
The local self-government department had on Wednesday notified the Rajasthan Municipal (Election) (Fourth Amendment) Rules, 2019, under which any citizen can contest the election to the post of chairperson and mayor.Updated: Oct 18, 2019 08:54 IST
At least two ministers in Rajasthan have voiced their dissent against the decision of the Ashok Gehlot-led government to now allow anyone to become a mayor in the state.
The two ministers expressed their unhappiness and one of them said on Thursday that the cabinet was unaware of the decision before it was announced.
The local self-government department had on Wednesday notified the Rajasthan Municipal (Election) (Fourth Amendment) Rules, 2019, under which any citizen can contest the election to the post of chairperson and mayor.
The new rule comes days after the announcement that elections to these posts will be indirect, meaning that elected members of municipalities and corporations will choose their chief.
However, members of Parliament or the state legislative assembly, or a member or chairperson of a Panchayati Raj institution cannot contest for this, the notification said.
The new rules are an amendment to rule 78 of the Rajasthan Municipalities (Election) Rules, 1994.
Food and civil supply minister Ramesh Meena said people appreciated the decision of indirect election but people and public representatives have expressed their apprehension with the hybrid election model.
“We have suggested Dhariwal to reconsider the decision,” he said.
Meena was referring to urban development and housing minister Shanti Dhariwal.
Cabinet minister and the party’s spokesperson Pratap Singh Khachariyawas said it will be an injustice to those working in the field and winning councillor election.
Another minister, who did not want to be named, said the issue of the hybrid formula was not discussed in the cabinet and majority in the cabinet weren’t aware of any such development.
“It is a sin and not expected in a democracy. The whole formula seems to be like a political appointment. What is the need for an election then?” the minister asked.
Some Congress leaders said soon after the notification senior leaders, MLAs, office bearers and ministers communicated their dissatisfaction to the state leadership.
Chief minister Ashok Gehlot said the decision was taken in the interest of the people.
“Certainly, whatever has been decided has been done after giving a thought. Why should unnecessary bitterness increase in Rajasthan,” he said while speaking to reporters when asked about the opposition within his council of ministers.
“Earlier, we stated that there should be a direct election but then we saw that they (the Bhartiya Janata Party) are talking of abrogation of Article 370, patriotism, religion and are dividing the society,” he said.
“In such a scenario if more elections are held then the rift will increase and this is not what we want. I want that people of all religion, caste and of political parties hold dialogue,” the chief minister added.
There are seven municipal corporations (Nagar Nigam), 34 municipal councils (Nagar Parishad) and 149 municipalities (Nagar Palika) in Rajasthan. Elections for them will be held later this year.
The opposition BJP has also cornered the government on the issue and the leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria said he had not seen such a drama in democracy.
“Those who cannot become a councillor, now will become a mayor. If the government wants to make their close ones heads then why they don’t make direct appointments in the local bodies,” Kataria said.
The president of the BJP’s state unit Satish Poonia said the government earlier indulged in politics in the name of delimitation. They proposed direct elections of mayor and then differences came in their party over direct and indirect – what will favour them, he added.
“Whatever model they bring, people have understood them. People have full faith in PM Narendra Modi’s leadership and policies but Congress has been apprehensive after the abrogation of Article 370,” he said.
Political analyst Narayan Bareth said the decision of the Gehlot government will undermine democratic institutions.
“Local self-government is the foundation of democracy but both the parties are taking it casually and do not work to strengthen it. More experimentation will weaken the system. Whosoever is made mayor or chairperson should go through the electoral process, which is a must for democracy,” Bareth said.