Following the Karnataka government’s decision to postpone gram panchayat elections by six months, civic groups and activists in the rural areas have come forward seeking explanation behind the move.
The Grama Panchayat Hakkottaya Andolana (GPHA), a civic platform for Gram Panchayats and Gram Sabhas in rural Karnataka, alleged a possible connection to the flow of money usually used by parties behind the move.
“Is the decision to postpone the elections linked to the limitations the present situation may place on the unchecked flow of money, on political machination, on extravagant campaigns, and on voter enticements?,” GPHA convenor Damodara Acharya questioned.
Meanwhile, the government has also decided to appoint councils in each gram panchayat. “We have decided not to leave the administrative body vacant. Hence, we will form administrative councils at every Gram Panchayat under Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj Act 1993,” Panchayat Raj Minister KS Eshwarappa said on Saturday.
The Andholana further noted that the move might “endanger democracy”. “The administrators or administrative committees so appointed, are they not likely to function favorably to those who appoint them, instead of being accountable to the citizens they are meant to serve?,” the Andholana queried.
Further, Acharya pointed out that there appeared to be an urgency for such appointments without critical deliberations or consultations. “Does this not raise doubts whether the move intends to protect vested interests of certain individuals or is it linked to party politics of those in power?” the statement said.
Karnataka comprises of 6,012 Gram Panchayats — the term of most of them are expected to end by June and July 2020. “Due to the COVID-19 situation, we will not conduct elections and postpone them for six months,” Eshwarappa had announced on Saturday.
At the same time, the Andholana noted that collaborative measures were taken by hundreds of panchayats with local organisations and donors to respond to the hardships faced by people due to the COVID-19-related lockdown.
“In such a challenging situation, replacement of these ‘corona warriors’ who have been highly responsible, accountable, elected local governments, with an administrator or a committee appears to be a tactic to centralise governance,” the Andholana said.
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