Panchayat elections, a litmus test for BJP-Congress in Himachal

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Shimla: Counted as a precursor to the 2012 assembly elections, ruling party BJP and opposition congress are gearing up low lying cadre’s for setting up proxy candidates for the upcoming Panchayati Raj elections as rules debar holding them on symbols along party lines.

Hitting out at BJP for the delays in announcing the reservation roster to ensure 50 percent seats for women candidates in Panchayats, congress spokesman Kuldeep Rathore said, “congress apprehends that the new roster is tailored to suit those candidates who have the backing of BJP and the government.”

The state government though has yet to notify the reservation order to be followed in the pachayat elections, said SC Negi, secretary state election commission, however, we are prepared to conduct the elections well before 23 January, when term of the existing bodies ends.

Minister for Panchayati Raj, Jairam Thakur said that there was a problem in distributing the OBC populations over the existing panchayats, which has been sorted out and the roster would soon be made public. Elections could be held in late December or early January

While congress has just backed Kaul Singh Thakur for another stint as president of its state unit, BJP has a head start and has already readied a team of one minister and two party office bearers for each assembly segment to select suitable candidates as well as preempt multiple party backed candidates from entering the fray for any seat.

BJP spokesman Ganesh Dutt says, “Though the panchayat elections will not be held along party lines, but we are scouting for candidates with a clean track record, whom BJP will be backing.”

In fact our strength is drawn from the devolution of powers to PRIs and the support extended to the government at the very grass route level.

To avoid division of votes, the candidate selection process is also trying to ensure that there is only one party backed candidate for the position being contested, he added.

Issues that will crop in the run-up to the elections are, says Rathore, “the failed policy to regularize unauthorized encroachments, lingering problem of bad condition of roads in the state, mishandling of the apple procured under MIS and others.”

The party is scheduled to meet on 20th November, in which Mani Shanker Aiyar, congress incharge for Panchayats is expected to participate, where we will decide upon the strategy to be adopted for the ensuing elections, he said.

For a fresh term of 5 years elections to 3038 panchayats, 75 block samithis and 12 zila parishads are lined up to held year end or early next year. Given the political message that would be drawn from the outcome of these elections, both congress and BJP are working out to put up a good show.

Editor-Reporter with Hill Post, Ravinder Makhaik as a journalist has for over two decades worked for India’s leading newspapers and television networks.

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