Why panchayat polls matter: Parties in Punjab take fight to the grassroots
These elections at the grassroots are an indicator of the political mood in the state and will set the tone for the 2019 general election. Hindustan Times takes a 360-degree look at the elections that matter.punjab Updated: Sep 08, 2018 09:56 IST
Punjab heads for block samiti and zila parishad elections on September 19 with 9,691 and 1,392 candidates, respectively, filing their papers till Friday, the last day of nominations. The Congress aims to wrest control of most rural bodies, which were in the Akali-BJP hold since 2007. The panchayat elections will follow on October 14. These elections at the grassroots are an indicator of the political mood in the state and will set the tone for the 2019 general election. Hindustan Times takes a 360-degree look at the elections that matter.
Role and significance
Punjab will elect 13,278 sarpanches, 2,900 members of 150 block samitis and 354 members of 22 zila parishads. The role of the three bodies going to the polls is to drive development in rural Punjab. The party that wins a majority is the one that has an energised worker base. This is sure to help it in the 2019 election. The rural elections are a barometer for the three prominent players in Punjab, namely the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine and the Aam Aadmi Party, to assess the strength of their cadres.
The ruling Congress is pulling out all stops to emerge victorious, while the SAD-BJP and the AAP accuse it of stopping their candidates from filing papers. In the run-up to the elections, violence was reported from Guru Har Sahai, Zira, Makhu, Dera Baba Nanak, Kartarpur and Dharamkot. Firing was reported in Patti. Akali spokesman Daljit Cheema and AAP co-president Balbir Singh blamed the Congress, while its state president, Sunil Jakhar, denied the allegation, saying free and fair elections are being held.
Development for all
All three parties harped on development though Cheema said the Congress government should implement its poll promises and Balbir Singh focused his campaign on amenities, health and education. Jakhar said the Congress wants to end the 10-year rule of ‘jathedars (Akali representatives)’ on rural bodies, saying they had disturbed the course of development.
Symbol and symbolism
Panchayat elections involve a small electorate that is a homogenous group at the village level so parties say they don’t want to divide them. It’s another matter that each party offers tacit support to a candidate. The parties contest the zila parishad and block samiti elections on their symbols because it involves a larger area and reaching out to individual voters is not possible.
The Ranjit Singh commission report on sacrilege incidents strikes a chord with rural Punjab. The Congress is making all attempts to play the religion card and win Panthic votes. This is an opportunity for it to assess how effectively it can use the report against the Akalis in the 2019 election. The AAP says the Congress has been trying to save the Akalis on the sacrilege issue and it will expose the two. The Akalis say the Congress is using the Panthic card to hide its shortcomings since it came to power in March 2017.
First Published: Sep 08, 2018 09:56 IST