You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Maharashtra sarpanchs to be elected directly now

LiveMint logoLiveMint 03-07-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: In a move aimed at expanding Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) footprint in Maharashtra, the BJP-led state government on Monday approved a proposal for direct election of village sarpanch (head of the Gram Panchayat or a village body comprising elected representatives).

The state cabinet, at a meeting on Monday, decided to amend the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat Act of 1958 to pave the way for direct election of the village head from among the people. At present, the village sarpanch is elected from among elected representatives who only can vote in the election. The amendment will facilitate direct election of heads in 28,332 villages of the state governed by Gram Panchayats.

The Gram Panchayat is the basic unit of the three-tier Panchayat Raj system of governance in India, the other two being Panchayat Samiti (block committee) at the block level and Zilla Parishad (district council) at the district level.

“In simple terms, the amendment will enable a bona fide village resident to contest the election for village head. This may bring in more talent and help the village body focus on development,” said a rural development official, requesting anonymity.

In May 2016, the BJP-led government revived a system of direct election of municipal council presidents. The party reaped a rich harvest in the municipal council polls contested during the November-December-January period for more than 4,700 seats of councillors across 218 municipal towns. The BJP won a maximum 1,109 seats of councillors and 71 posts of municipal council presidents in direct elections as against 952 and 34 seats won by the Congress respectively. Elections were contested for 218 municipal councils across the state.

“The BJP was not a significant rural player in Maharashtra till mid-90s. But it made inroads in late 90s and later largely due to OBC and Maratha leaders it got in its fold. Yet, the party has been finding it tough to break the stranglehold of Congress and NCP over the village bodies. The provision for direct election of sarpanch is also aimed at exposing these bodies to general population of the villages and make them stakeholders so that bright people are elected,” said a senior BJP leader, requesting anonymity.

BJP leader and Maharashtra minister for rural development Pankaja Munde later told reporters that the government would soon come out with an ordinance to amend the Act to facilitate direct election. “The current system of electing the sarpanch from among the elected representatives has had many undesirable consequences. For instance, the elected representatives who voted against the sarpanch keep bringing in no-confidence motions that create instability and affects development works,” Munde said. She pointed out that apart from introducing direct elections, the amendment would also give more financial and executive powers to the sarpanch. “The sarpanch will be empowered to make budget for the village and present it to the Gram Sabha (village assembly) for approval. This will facilitate village-level planning and only those people who have a demonstrated commitment to solving local problems will get elected as sarpanch,” Munde said.

Nationalist Congress Party leader Dhananjay Munde has called the move a “demonstration of the Fadnavis government’s double-standards”. “On the one hand, they are introducing direct election of sarpanch to empower village bodies. On the other, the government has assigned to itself the district collector’s powers to decide on the suspension of elected representatives of local self-government bodies. If the government starts deciding on suspension of elected representatives, it would lead to horse-trading,” Munde has said in a statement issued to media.

More From LiveMint

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon