|EARLY TIMES REPORT|
JAMMU, Nov 19: Political parties in the state, including the ruling National Conference (NC) and its coalition partner Congress, have started wooing the over 30,000 panchs and sarpanchs with a view to ensuring the victory of their candidates seeking election to the Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Council. Panchs and sarpanchs will elect four MLCs, two each from Jammu Pradesh and Kashmir province. Election will take place next month in the first week and the Election Commission of India had made all the required arrangements for the smooth conduct of the ensuing elections. The main opposition People's Democratic Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Jammu & Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) have also fielded their candidates. A few independent candidates are also in the fray.
The NC and the Congress, which will contest two seats each, have already intensified their campaign in their own way to win over the otherwise humiliated and grossly ignored panchs and panchs. They are expecting a clean sweep, as they have everything at this disposal. The PDP is also expecting to fare well. The BJP and the JKNPP are also trying their luck, but it is difficult to say that they will come out of the exercise victorious. Both these parties have to work against all odds and it is not an easy task to surmount the difficulties facing their candidates. It is the PDP which can give a good fight and even capture one or two seats. However, it would depend on the strategy they devise to turn tables on the NC and the Congress.
The issue is not who wins how many seats. The question is: Why should panchs and sarpanchs take part in the coming electoral exercise and elect four MLCs? There is no reason that induces or motivates them to waste their time in an exercise that is not going to benefit them in any way. Even otherwise, these panchs and sarpanchs constitute a most neglected, humiliated and unprotected lot. And the parties which have humiliated them are none other than the NC and the Congress. The NC rejected out-of-hand their highly reasonable demand seeking security and empowerment under 73rd constitutional amendment in the Indian Constitution. The Congress did raise the twin issues for sometime, but finally decided to go with the NC, thus suggesting that it and the NC were on the same page as far as their negative attitude towards the demands of panchs and sarpanchs was concerned.
Only day before yesterday, JKPCC president Saif-ud-Din Soz disappointed all panchs and sarpanchs by announcing that there was no need to provide security to them and that the state government could not adopt 73rd constitutional amendment in its entirety. He did say that the Congress party had given a concrete shape to what it wanted to do to empower panchs and sarpanches, but he subjected his suggestion to the condition that it would ultimately depend on what decision the NC finally took. He said his party would try to evolve consensus over the issue - something not going to happen. Earlier, AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi had snubbed panchs and sarpanchs saying that it was for the state government to take a final call and decide the issue this or that way and that he did not visit Kashmir to ask the state government to concede their demands.
The fact of the matter is that the NC and the Congress have willfully rejected both the demands of panchs and sarpanchs for reasons not really difficult to fathom. Both the parties want the elected panchayats to remain toothless institutions, as all the ministers and all those legislators, who are out of the Council of Ministers, hate the idea of transferring some financial and administrative powers to the grassroots level institutions. Panchs and sarpanchs are not that fool; they are fully aware of the ground realities. One has to wait to see how panchs and sarpanchs behave on the D-day.