Jagan Reddy announces cash incentives for unanimous polls to gram panchayats
- As part of the strategy, the Andhra Pradesh government on Tuesday issued an order announcing hefty cash incentives to be given to gram panchayats where sarpanches and ward members are elected unanimously without any contest.
With the Supreme Court refusing to stall the elections to local bodies in Andhra Pradesh, the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government has now turned its attention on capturing as many gram panchayats as possible unanimously without having to conduct the elections.
As part of the strategy, the Andhra Pradesh government on Tuesday issued an order announcing hefty cash incentives to be given to gram panchayats where sarpanches and ward members are elected unanimously without any contest.
According to the order (GO No. 34), the state government will pay a cash incentive ranging from a minimum of ₹5 lakh for a gram panchayat with population of less than 2,000 to a maximum of ₹20 lakh for each gram panchayat with a population of more than 10,000, if the elections are unanimous.
“This is not a new practice. It has been there in Andhra Pradesh since 2001. Even in other states like Telangana, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, it exists. We have only increased the quantum of cash incentive to encourage unanimous elections, so that the political interference is reduced, violence would be decreased and peace and harmony would exist in the villages,” state panchayat raj and rural development minister Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy said.
Since the elections of sarpanches and gram panchayats are held on a non-party basis, the incentive would help the elected bodies strengthen the administration at the village level, he said.
Though the elections are held on a non-party basis, the YSRC has roped in all the MLAs and MPs into the electioneering to see that ruling party supporters get elected unanimously in a majority of the gram panchayats.
Senior YSRC leader and advisor to the state government Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy and party general secretary V Vijay Sai Reddy held teleconferences with party seniors to ensure that majority of gram panchayats witnessed unanimous elections.
Telugu Desam Party president N Chandrababu Naidu called upon party leaders at the grassroot level to see that there is a strong contest in the gram panchayat elections. Naidu, who addressed a meeting of party leaders, asked them not to get scared by threats or intimidated by YSRC leaders.
He reminded party workers that during the initial phase of elections to Block Parishads and Zilla Parishads in March 2020, the ruling party had created terror and made attacks on the opposition candidates, forcing them to withdraw from the contest. “Over 25 per cent of the seats in these local bodies were declared unanimous in favour of the YSRC and now in the gram panchayats, it wants to use the same tactics,” he alleged.
State election commissioner Nimmagadda Ramesh Kumar, who held a video conference with district collectors and other officials in the morning, said unanimous elections in gram panchayats were welcome as long as they were voluntary and not forced.
“We shall ensure that there would be no forcible unanimous elections. We have appointed a special officer Sanjay Singh, who will look into the prevention of forced unanimous elections,” he said.
Political analyst and Osmania University professor K Nageshwar said announcement of cash incentives to the gram panchayats was ridiculous. “Elections are part of the democratic process and people should have a choice to elect their representative,” he said.
He said going by this practice, there was no need to conduct the elections to the state assembly as well. “Why should there be elections to the state assemblies? The Centre can announce an incentive of ₹25 crore or ₹30 crore to each assembly constituency and see that the MLAs are elected on a non-party basis unanimously. Does it make any sense?” he questioned.
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