'Illegal' panchayats to be elected legally?

By Sandesh Prabhudesai (EdiThought)
01 May 2012 07:17 IST

Chief minister Manohar Parrikar has accepted all the observations made by Church-backed Council of Social Justice and Peace regarding irregularities in the panchayat elections, except their demand to postpone the elections by six more months. Fine. What it simply means that the chief minister of the state agrees that the elected panchayat councils would be “illegal”, but elected legally. And because of constitutional obligations, the government is helpless.

What are the irregularities? Well, they are primarily in two areas – delimitation of wards and reservation of wards, especially for the OBC. The government admits that it could not rework on the irregularities committed by the BDOs, panchayat secretaries and talathis, of course in collusion with the village-level politicians. In short, the fraud is admitted and allowed to be continued for the next five years.

Many village-level politicians have managed to change the wards as per their whims and fancies while the percentage of OBC has been worked out as per their convenience. But very few villagers or organizations have raised their voice against it, though practically everybody is upset with it. Some have approached the government while quite a few have even approached the court. Only one panchayat of Calangute has managed to get its election postponed to 21 May while getting the BDO, panchayat secretary and talathi suspended for the ‘illegality’.

The CM admits that the irregularities have taken place also because the powers of delimitation and ward reservations have been given to the Directorate of Panchayats. But it blames the erstwhile Congress government for these irregularities. Director Panchayats Menino D’Souza blames his own BDOs, secretaries and panchayats for it. If we ask these officials, they may simply blame the bottom level politicians, who are ‘very close’ to the top level politicians. The vicious circle of ‘kho-kho’ goes on conveniently while the frauds would continue ruling.

The only solution, according to Parrikar, is to amend the Goa Panchayat Raj Act and hand over the powers of delimitation and ward reservations to the State Election Commission. He plans to do it in the winter session. He as well as his panchayat minister Laxmikant Parsekar hopes that the next panchayat election – of 2017 – would take place in a regulated manner. Till then, the BJP government ‘wants to’ carry on the illegal legacy of the Congress government.

One of the argument of helplessness is that the term of existing panchayats ends on 19 May and there is no provision to appoint administrators. Secondly, no election can be postponed once the election process begins. Here, the date of nominations is over and over 10,000 have already filed their nominations.

Well, the state election commission has postponed one election of Calangute to 21 May. It means its counting would take place at least on 22 May and the new panchayat council would be constituted not before 23 May. What does it mean? Calangute will have no panchayat for five days? And which constitutional provision permits the government or the SEC not to have any authority to run the Calangute panchayat for five days? And if it is possible in Calangute for five days, why is it not possible for all the 185 panchayats for five months?

Or is it that the government wants the same local politicians, who were saluting the Congress leaders till yesterday, to salute them now and shake up the grassroot base of the Congress? Is this decision not to regularize the irregularities the legal helplessness, or a deliberate political strategy?

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Sandesh Prabhudesai (EdiThought)

Sandesh Prabhudesai is the Editor of goanews.com. He has been earlier the Editor of Sunaparant (Konkani daily) and Editor-in-Chief of Pruden (TV channel). His collection of selective editorials of Sunaparant has been published as 'Goff'. He writes brief thoughts as EdiThought for goanews.com, but not on regular basis.

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