The local self governments have completed five years in power and new Panchayats and Municipalities would have come into existence in November after the polls.
It’s a regular constitutional process that should be carried out without any impediments. After Panchayat raj came into existence during the tenure of Rajeev Gandhi, the Panchayat and Municipality polls have been taking place consistently at specific time periods. No complaints have been raised against the Election Commission (EC) for failing in its duty. But things are turning topsy-turvy this time with both the government as well as the EC involved in a tussle over conducting the polls on time. Neither the government nor the EC is able to decide about when to conduct the elections and both sides have left it with the court. The imbroglio has sparked a controversy with the two parties continuing to blame each other for the crisis. While a faction of Congress blames the Muslim League who handles the portfolio for local self governments, the latter defends itself saying that things moved as per the decisions taken unitedly by the UDF. The Opposition on the other hand has been trying to turn the situation as a ploy by the government to delay the Panchayat polls until the Assembly elections get over.
The High Court had stayed the government decision of forming 69 new Panchayats while approving the formation of 28 new Municipalities and Kannur Corporation. The State Election Commission (SEC) had pointed out the practical difficulties in conducting the polls in the new local bodies saying that it would delay the election process and said that the polls could be conducted in October based on the 2010 delimitation. But the state government wanted the entire polls to be held on the basis of the recent delimitation extending it to new municipalities and other local bodies recognized by the Court. These moves from the government are apparently delaying the entire poll process to be held on time. The Commission said that the coming two months were not enough for carrying out the ward revamping in 28 Municipalities, re-scheduling of Block Panchayats, renewal of voters list and also to complete the entire poll process. The time limit for holding Assembly elections would also exceed if the polls were scheduled to be conducted in two phases. The government would put blames on the Commission for its inefficiency. The SEC critisised that the Court did not pay heed to the Commission’s constant urging since 2012 to take effective steps to complete the polls to local self bodies on time. The government has now suggested restructuring the process so as to form new three-tier Panchayats and Municipalities to come into existence on December 1. Therefore the future of polls now depends on the Court decision.
The political parties which had completely neglected the essence of Panchayat raj which implemented decentralization of power focusing on progress and development and transformed the Panchayat-Municipality governance for petty political motives, are responsible for the present uncertainty and also for dragging a democratic institution like the EC into a controversy. Besides political interests, allegations of communal interests like taking into consideration the caste and religion of the region as a yardstick for influencing the formation of new Panchayats were also raised. The disputes and uncertainty could have been avoided if the new Panchayats were formed and wards revamped on time through consensus and effective communication between the main political parties. The crisis is also a consequence of not carrying out an opinion consensus within the same Front at the required time and for the required period. The state government as well as the parties should therefore take effective steps and resolve the current imbroglio.