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Bihar Panchayat polls 2011: why people prefer Mukhiya’s post to Sarpanch’s?

Bihar Panchayat polls 2011: why people prefer Mukhiya’s post to Sarpanch’s?

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Patna: the Panchayati Raj in Bihar is being welcomed by all as simply an extension of the goodness of the Nitish regime. But we need to pause and examine the Panchayat  politics on its own since it has a briefer history and has had just a few round of elections.  It is to be noted that operating at a highly localized level, the problems with the panchayat institutions need to be identified separately and should not be mixed up with the more general issues of Bihar without due analysis.

April 23, 1993 forms a watershed in the history of Panchayati Raj in India as on this day, the institution of Panchyayati Raj was accorded constitutional status through the Constitution (Seventy-third Amendment) Act, 1992, thereby seeking to transform Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of Gram Swaraj into reality. Indian democracy on the other hand has a much longer history giving it far greater opportunity to deal with its systemic problems. But what kind of specific problems do we have in the panchayat system?

To take up just one piece of data, it appears that candidates in the current panchayat election in Bihar seem far more covetous of the post of mukhiya rather than sarpanch. What is the reason – the obvious reason is that mukhiyas have financial powers whereas sarpanchs have only judicial powers of minor nature.

According to press reports, as Bihar goes to a 10-phase panchayat election that begins on April 20 and concludes in May-end, the figures say it all — 79,423 candidates are in the fray for the post of 8,442 mukhiyas, while 36,560 are fighting for the same mumber of sarpanch posts.

This means, over 10 persons on an average are contesting one for mukhiya’s post whereas only four are in the fray for a sarpanch’s post. Fifty per cent seats are reserved for women since the 2006 panchayat election. The lesser-known panch’s post, which is below the sarpanch, has even fewer takers.

This data gives us a vivid picture of the aspirations and the intentions of the candidates contesting the current elections. Whether they will be able to achieve their unholy aims in the next five years depends on both – the vigilance of the voters and the politicians/officials responsible for keeping track of audits and implementations.

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