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Elections to rural local bodies by year-end in Punjab

Govt dissolves Panchayati Raj Institutions, to appoint administrators I Congress to move court | Panchayat samitis, zila parishads to be elected by Nov 25; gram panchayats by Dec 31

Team Parvasi – Inside

Elections to rural local bodies by year-end in Punjab
Chandigarh: Setting the ball rolling for elections to rural local bodies, the government today said the elections to the panchayat samitis and zila parishads will be held by November 25. The gram panchayat elections will be held by the December 31.

Political scientists estimate that in the 2022 Assembly polls, 42.88% rural votes were polled in favour of AAP, 24.72% went to SAD; 22.12% to the Congress, 4.79% to the BJP and 2.80% to the SAD-Amritsar. The remaining 2.68% rural electorate voted for other parties/candidates.

Being held ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the elections will be a litmus test for all four major political parties in the state. The ruling AAP will be testing its popularity in rural areas, while the Congress will have to protect its dominance gained in the 2018 rural bodies polls. The Akali Dal will also get a reality check on its rural vote base, especially after the drubbing it has received in elections since 2017. The BJP, hitherto considered a party of urban voters, will be testing waters in most rural areas on its own strength for the first time.

In a notification, the Rural Development and Panchayat Department dissolved the present panchayati raj institutions and decided to appoint administrators for these institutions. As many as 13,241 gram panchayats, 150 panchayat committees and 22 district councils of the state, which were elected after elections in September 2018, have been dissolved with immediate effect. There were 1,00,312 elected representatives of these panchayat institutions, of which 41,922 were women.

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A letter has been issued to District Development and Panchayat Officers, asking them to appoint Social Education and Panchayat Officers, Panchayat Officers, Junior Engineers and Village Development Officers by August 15, for maintaining the records of gram panchayats.

This has drawn a sharp reaction from the Punjab Congress, which dominated these institutions. “We will move the court against this decision and seek that the unspent funds of these PRIs be frozen and the administrators not be allowed to use these. There is a political motive behind the move to use the funds in lieu of garnering votes in favour of the ruling AAP,” said Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh Raja Warring.

Last week, the state government had announced elections to the urban local bodies, to be held in the first fortnight of November. Senior AAP leader and Finance Minister Harpal Cheema said the elections would be held almost simultaneously with the urban local body polls, to avoid frequent imposition of the model code of conduct. “

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