Even though the elections to the gram panchayats are not being contested on party symbols,political parties are campaigning covertly to garner support for their candidates. While the party flags,banners and rallies might be missing from the scene,leaders from various parties are rallying behind the candidates of their parties who are contesting the polls.
In fact,it is the BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders who seem more active in the villages,while the presence of Congress is mostly restricted to party workers in the rural areas. After the recent debacle in the Assembly elections,the party leaders state that it is more advisable at this time not to seek votes on the partys name and instead cash in on personal contacts.
The elections for 12 gram panchayats are scheduled to be held on December 15. While one sarpanch and several panches have been unanimously elected,for the rest polling would be held. The Congress also seems to be walking a tightrope after having supported the resolution for inclusion of the villages into the municipal corporation (MC). Once this comes into force,the existence of the panchayats would end. The villagers are divided over the issue with many not in favour of this proposal.
SAD leader Malkit Singh,who has been campaigning in different villages,says,For the elections of the panchayats,personal relations count more than the party affiliations. The person who is contesting resides in that particular area and his or her behaviour with the people counts. However,the candidates belong to different political parties. So we do visit villages to seek support for our candidates. The inclusion of the villages into the MC is a major issue among the candidates affiliated to BJP-SAD.
District president of the Congress and one of its spokespersons,Devinder Lobana has been the sarpanch of Kishangarh village twice. This time,with the seat being reserved for a woman,his wife is contesting for the seat. Facing her is the wife of a BJP leader and former member of the zila parishad Bhajan Singh Maru.
Lobana says campaigning for the elections is going on at a personal level. When nomination papers are filed,it is mentioned that we are contesting as independents. Even if people from outside come and campaign,it will not have much impact. Lobana is,however,quick to skirt any mention of the issue of merger of the villages into the MC.
In some villages,more than one candidate from the same party are contesting against each other. This is the case with Daria,where three BJP members are contesting for the post of sarpanch. With this likely to divide the votes,the advantage would be for the candidates in the opposition. In other villages as well,there are candidates with affiliations to either the Congress or the BJP.
Senior BJP leader Harmohan Dhawan says the candidates do approach him to put in a word for them. He says that though campaigning is not done openly,support is given to the candidates of the party. Dhawan is also likely to visit some villages before campaigning ends.
President of the Chandigarh unit of BJP,Sanjay Tandon has also been visiting different villages. He says,We are visiting candidates who are known to us. Since the elections are not being fought on party symbols,support is being extended to candidates in different villages. The personal equations of the candidates will matter in these elections.
Including villages in MC,lal dora extension main agendas
Most villages want sarpanchs as they are more approachable
Merger of villages into the municipal corporation (MC) and regularising construction outside the lal dora seem to be the dominant issues in the elections of the gram panchayats,apart from the village-specific problems that are being faced. The elections are scheduled for December 15.
There are 13 villages that are governed by 12 gram panchayats. Of the 12 posts of sarpanchs,three are reserved for women and one each for a scheduled caste and a scheduled caste woman. In Kishangarh,Kaimbwala and Behlana,the post of the sarpanch is reserved for women candidates. At Raipur Kalan and Makhanmajra,which have one panchayat,the sarpanch who was to be from the scheduled caste category has been elected unopposed. At Khuda Jassu,the post is reserved for a schedule caste woman.
At Khuda Alisher,there are eight candidates contesting for the post of sarpanch and 33 for 11 posts of panchs. This is the highest number of candidates among all the villages. Jaswinder Singh,a resident of the village says there were many people who were keen on contesting this time as this could be the last election of the gram panchayat with talks going on for inclusion in the MC. Most of the villagers do not want this to happen and want that the panchayats be allowed to function as the sarpanchs are approachable and development work gets done,he added.
Former sarpanch of village Khuda Jassu,Balvinder Sharma,who has been elected panch unopposed this time,says that the regularisation of construction outside the lal dora and merger of the villages into MC are among the important election issues. In many villages,the construction outside the lal dora is more than that inside. There is a need for extending the lal dora and regularising the construction. Some candidates are claiming that once the villages are merged with MC,this would be possible. However,the extension of lal dora can only be done by Parliament. People are being misled by making false claims, he said.
Among the concerns of the villagers is that in the villages governed by the gram panchayats,activities like cattle rearing are allowed,which is not the case with villages under MC. Cattle rearing is done extensively in these villages.
The candidates are also making promises for ensuring better basic amenities including better sanitation facilities,roads,etc. A candidate for the post of panch at Makhanmajra rued that no polling booth has ever been set up in the village even though there are more than 900 voters here. For the gram panchayat of Makhanmajra and Raipur Kalan,the polling booth is located at Raipur Kalan.