Opposition Demands Panchayat Empowerment

NC Distances Itself From GoI Mantris’ Linking P-Polls To Kashmir

Srinagar – Amid a heated debate in the assembly on panchayat issues, legislators on Monday strongly urged the government to rise above partisan politics to empower the institution, and asserted that it should not be linked to the Kashmir imbroglio.

Speaking on a motion by Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami of the CPI (M), Chaudhary Ramzan of the NC and Nizamuddin Bhat of the PDP, members called for practical steps for devolution of powers to grassroots representatives.

 “The entire purpose of the political process of panchayat elections is defeated by the mass resignation of the members of this institution,” senior PDP leader and former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Beig said.

 “The issue has to be addressed directly,” he said.

 “The PDP will not allow anyone to play politics over panchayat empowerment, nor join the war of words between the coalition partners over the issue,” Beig said.

 “A fundamental difference in the development scenario can occur only with empowerment at the grassroots level through panchayats,” he said.

 “The government can make modifications in existing legislation with ease, and incorporate the panchayati raj 73rd amendment without any fuss,” he said.

Beig regretted linking political issues with the panchayat elections, and said that mass participation in these polls should not be connected to the Kashmir issue.

 “All sorts of apprehensions have cropped up with regard to empowering rural representatives who are now assailed by a sense of insecurity,” he said.

Taking part in the debate, Tarigami said that political parties had begun appropriate and apportion the success of the panchayat elections.

 “An alarming situation has arisen out of attempts to buy and sell rural representatives,” he said.

 “The panchayat raj system has been turned into a controversy and its elections have begun to be linked with politics,” he said.

 “Mass participation in panchayat polls cannot change the complexion of political issues. Those who think that 90 per cent participation (in the polls) resolves the complications of issues are creating a false impression,” he said.

 “This will not untie the knotty Kashmir issue. The Kashmir issue is a living reality,” he said.

 “Instituting the panchayati raj system is not a political process but a developmental endeavour which the masses participated in basically for that purpose,” he said.

Asking political parties to come clean on their position with respect to empowering panchayats, Tarigami said that under the state’s constitution, the legislature could amend any Act of the parliament.

NC leader Chaudhary Ramzan said that his party was serious about empowering panchayats.

Expressing surprise at linking panchayat polls to political issues, Ramzan distanced his party from the statements of the union home minister and the external affairs minister, saying that the NC had never linked any election process to political issues.

 “Elections cannot resolve the Kashmir issue, and the chief minister Omar Abdullah has said so much before Sonia Gandhi herself,” he said.

Nizamuddin Bhat of the PDP said that the panchayat raj system was being made a victim of controversy.

 “Institutions cannot be established merely by holding elections, but empowering panchayat leaders at the grassroots level only can realize the dream of panchayat raj,” the PDP leader said.

 “Panchayat leaders are becoming targets for being a part of a political process and are feeling highly insecure,” he said.

 “The NC and the Congress should not turn it into a prestige issue, but take practical and concrete steps,” he said.

Independent legislator Engineer Abdul Rasheed said that assembly of panchayat elections would not have the slightest impact on the status of the Kashmir issue.

The legislator insisted that the panchayat members were being targeted because of linking the polls for the institution to the Kashmir issue.

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