Arunachal Pradesh to be without Panchayati Raj from next month as govt delays polls; Congress threatens to move court

Arunachal Pradesh will have no Panchayati Raj institutions from next month following the government's inability to hold elections ahead of the expiry of the elected bodies' current term.

In a letter to deputy commissioners, secretary of Panchayati Raj Bidol Tayeng mentioned "constitutional issues" as the reason behind the government's decision not to hold the elections to the elected bodies whose term expires on 31 May.

"While the government is working to frame new Panchayati Raj Rules in conformity with The Arunachal Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2018', an institutional mechanism to discharge function of Panchayati Raj Institution during transition period has been worked out by the government. The copy of the notification is being forwarded to you soon," said the letter dispatched on 28 May.

Weeks ago, state chief election commissioner Hage Kojeen was quoted by the media as saying that 14 May was proposed to the government as the date for holding the elections. But the government opposed the decision saying that the exercise could not be conducted since the bill to amend the Panchayati Raj Institution had been passed by the Assembly.

 Arunachal Pradesh to be without Panchayati Raj from next month as govt delays polls; Congress threatens to move court

Panchayati Raj aims at bringing governance closer to the people through local government units constituted with elected members. In Arunachal Pradesh, the first election to the Panchayats was held in 1969 following the implementation of the Daying Ering Committee recommendations. Since then, polls have been regularly held in the hill state and the law was also amended after the Constitution 73rd Amendment Act, 1992 was passed in Parliament providing for a three-tier system.

Why the new amendment?

On 15 March, the state Assembly passed a bill to remove the Anchal Samiti — the intermediate institution of the three-tier Panchayati Raj system. The step was taken following the 73rd Amendment of the Constitution which allows a state with a population less than two millions to do away with the intermediate level.

Arunachal Pradesh has a population of 13.8 lakhs.

The amendment envisages a two tier system with the gram panchayat and zila parishad. Panchayat minister Alo Libang told the media that financial factors also motivated the government to table the bill since eliminating the middle tier would help save about Rs 5 crores which could be diverted for development work. Like the other Northeastern states, Arunachal Pradesh is a special category state, which enables the state to avail special financial packages from the Centre.

Why were polls postponed?

The government's decision to postpone the panchayat polls has, however, raised eyebrows and has spurred Opposition parties into action in Arunachal Pradesh.
Many observers are of the opinion that the elections are unlikely to be held ahead of the Assembly polls next year. "BJP has expanded its membership since it captured power in Arunachal Pradesh. There will be too many candidates seeking tickets and this will only fuel dissent. The party's goal would be to prevent internal squabbles so that it has an edge over the Congress in the Assembly polls," said Professor Nani Bath, who teaches political science at Rajiv Gandhi University.

The Congress, meanwhile, has already firmed up a plan of action to oppose the government's decision. The youth wing of the party has been activated in several districts for a signature campaign in support of the elections on the date proposed by the state election commission.

"The BJP government's move is absolutely undemocratic. Elections must be held as laid down by the state election commission and we will approach the court if necessary," said Takam Sanjay, former Member of Parliament (MP) and president of state unit of the Congress.

Updated Date: May 29, 2018 20:09:35 IST