In many pockets of Maharashtra, the place elections to gram panchayats are scheduled to be held on January 15, democracy is up on the market — to the very best bidder.
Complaints and movies of auctions for panchayat seats prompted the Election Commission on Wednesday to cancel elections to 2 gram panchayats — in Umrane village of Nashik and Kondamali of Nandurbar, the place the auctions reportedly fetched Rs 2 crore and Rs 42 lakh respectively.
The Indian Express visited three gram panchayats in Khed taluka of Pune district — Moi, Kuruli and Kude Budruk — and located that every one the panchayat members had been elected unopposed. A gram panchayat normally has 9 to 18 members, relying on the dimensions and inhabitants of the villages.
Also, in all three gram panchayats, the villagers admitted to working in the direction of “consensus candidates”. This, in lots of circumstances, is a proxy for subverting the electoral course of by auctions.
In Moi village, as an example, Kiran Gaware, one of many candidates set to get ‘elected’ unopposed, claimed: “It was through extensive public consultations that we managed to get unopposed candidates. It was decided that the money that would otherwise get spent in the elections would be contributed towards the construction of a temple in the village,” he stated.
When requested who paid for his candidature, he declined to remark.
The Moi story has performed out elsewhere, too. District-wise lists of candidates present how the sphere is being stored open and the enjoying area is something however stage.
* Of the 746 gram panchayats in Pune district, as many as 81 have just one candidate within the fray for each seat.
* In Nandurbar, 22 of the 87 gram panchayats will see all their members getting elected unopposed.
* In Beed district, the winners in 18 of the 129 gram panchayats have been determined.
* That quantity is 47 out of 433 gram panchayats in Kolhapur.
* In Latur, winners in 25 out of 401 gram panchayats have been determined.
There is widespread although hushed speak of public sale and cash being paid to purchase seats.
On January 4, State Election Commissioner U P S Madan had taken cognisance of the movies and media reviews of those auctions, together with these revealed in The Indian Express, and ordered district collectors to analyze, calling these incidents “completely contrary to the spirit of democracy”.
On Wednesday, in its order cancelling elections to the 2 gram panchayats, the Election Commission stated, “After going through the reports, and the various audio and video recordings, the Commission has decided to cancel the elections to these two villages. The district collectors are directed to take necessary legal action against the people involved in the auction.”
That’s simpler stated than performed. For, in lots of circumstances, the precise public sale may be off digicam. For instance, the inquiry ordered by Nadurbar District Collector Rajendra Bharud discovered that individuals who have been seen taking part within the public sale by no means filed their nominations for gram panchayat seats.
Nanded District Collector Dr Vipin Ithankar submitted an identical discovering to the EC.
“It transpired that the people who made the winning bid had not filed nominations. But we have filed cases against violation of Model Code of Conduct against them,” stated Nandurbar DM Bharud.
This, sources stated, was as a result of winners of the public sale normally don’t contest the elections themselves however area their relations or different proxies, making it troublesome for the administration to pin them down.
Also, most auctions don’t even contain a paper path. “The modus operandi is simple. A few influential voices in the village take a call on the candidates and ask them to contribute money for a common cause. It could be for the construction of a temple, or expansion of a school… usually expenditure that are not covered under any government schemes. The hopefuls are taken into confidence and the one who commits the maximum money for the cause is given the green signal to contest. The others are quietly managed,” stated Prahlad Ingole, a Shiv Sena chief from Nanded, who says he wished to contest the gram panchayat elections however couldn’t organize the cash.
Though panchayats elections, the stakes are excessive. Numerous budgetary provisions for Zilla Parishad at the moment are on the stage of village panchayats, making these seats a lot coveted on the native stage.
A village like Kuruli, in Khed taluka of Pune, has an annual finances of Rs 5 crore to be spent on native developmental works.
“Since the 74th amendment, the village panchayat has got access to funds which were previously controlled by the Zilla Parishad or Panchayat Samitis. It’s no wonder that panchayat elections now get so much attention,” stated Bhim Raskar, who runs Mahila Rajsatta Abhiyan, a Mumbai-based organisation that works on grassroots democracy. Raskar says he has personally obtained not less than 16 complaints of open auctions for panchayat seats.
Most villages in Pune district the place single candidates are within the fray are close to industrial zones. “The people who control these bodies also gain a negotiating muscle with the industries for cornering labour and scrap contracts,” stated a neighborhood Shiv Sena chief.