Govt clears bill; sarpanch only from elected members
After Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari rejected their ordinance, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government on Tuesday passed a bill to elect sarpanchs (village headman) of gram panchayats from among the elected members. The Fadnavis government had amended the law to introduce direct elections by voters.
The BJP had reportedly changed the law to ensure control over gram panchayats. The elections are not fought on any party symbol.
A day before the amendment, the SEC announced elections to 1,570 gram panchayats from 19 districts on March 29, which
will see direct elections of sarpanchs. The state government has now decided to approach the SEC, requesting it to hold the elections as per the amended Act.
The amendment to the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act was passed without any discussion, amid the ruckus in both the Houses over the issue of farmers and atrocities against women. Rural development minister Hasan Mushrif later said the amendment was according to the constitutional provisions and to ensure smooth functioning of rural bodies. “When a chief minister or even mayors in municipal corporations are not elected directly, why should voters elect only the sarpanch? The BJP government made the amendment for political gains, but it led to discord between members and sarpanchs as, in many cases, they belong to different political ideologies,” Mushrif said.
“We had to issue an ordinance to reverse the decision taken by the previous government, but honourable governor refused to sign it and asked us to pass the bill. The SEC should have consulted with us before announcing the elections,” Mushrif said.
SEC officials said that although the programme for the elections has been announced, it could be reconsidered. “The elections are more than a month away, so there should be no problem in holding it as per the amended law,” said Kiran Kurundkar, secretary, SEC.
Leader of the opposition, Praveen Darekar, said: “Today the bill was passed in the Council, without showing it on the proceedings of the house in advance. This is unfortunate.”