The three-tier local body polls in Kerala will be held in two phases on November 2 and 5 with more than 2.5 crore voters heading for the numerous polling booths across the state.
The filing of nomination papers as well as the scrutiny has been completed. Despite the many drawbacks, the three-tier Panchayat system in Kerala would pave way for major changes in the path of de-centralisation of power if implemented effectively. Experts from developed countries visit the state to study about the Panchayat raj governance mainly due to the productive aspects of the system. No party is dubious that the development in the lower sections with public involvement and the implementation of the welfare schemes for the people are ideal concepts. The fact that nobody regrets about the present scenario of turning the local body polls into a mere political battleground and downgrading it as a drainage of factional political competition ignoring the fundamental aspects of de-centralisation of power, shows our political immaturity. Freeing the power centres of people off politics might not be happen; but downgrading them as training sessions for the local leaders and as places to rein down the political foes is in no way acceptable. Nobody would dare to term the recent reports of run-arounds for candidature, shifting allegiance and horse-trading in the present political scenario as signs of a healthy democratic process. Besides all these aspects, the voters in the state apparently, haven’t comprehended the main topic of discussion in the polls. The political leadership on the other hand, are clinging on to the usual controversies and aggravating the tense atmosphere instead of giving room for discussions about de-centalisation of power, people’s plan campaigns and new innovative ideas related to development. New controversies are being kicked up related to Vellapally Natesan’s political experiments and Swami Saswathikananda’s ‘Jalasamadhi’.
The ‘Solar’ and ‘Bar bribe’ controversies had only died down recently. But new controversies have erupted, kick-started by the media ahead of the looming polls. It doesn’t mean that such issues shouldn’t be raised in the local body polls. Former Iraq president Saddam Hussein was the topic of discussion at the Panchayat polls at the time of the First Gulf War. Even though seeking votes by staging national and regional incidents is not wrong, the propaganda should be focused on the matters concerning the development and progress of the region which otherwise would be akin to toppling the democratic progress. The political parties should grow to such a level as to prepare separate manifestos for each Corporation, Municipality and Panchayat and then approach the voters. The voters too are responsible for fostering a democratic tradition that encourages the allies and groups coming forward to resolve the issues prevailing in the region and to formulate new schemes for the basic development of the state. If the voters manage to brush aside the narrow minded thoughts of the political allies and factions and face the issues, the political parties would be surely compelled to approach the public with election manifestos with attractive agenda. The Election Commission should be vigilant in ensuring that the candidates follow peaceful and healthy propaganda in coming days and the officials should monitor the model code of conduct enforced. Even though there is no total ban on flex boards and banners, the candidates should consider the EC’s suggestion not to use them due to the environmental issues. The concerned political parties should strongly oppose the cheap custom of luring the voters through money. The election campaigns and programs that hinder the normal peaceful lives of the people should also be avoided. It’s when we utilize the polls as an opportunity to comprehend the actual sense of democracy that our right to vote becomes valuable.