AMID STRONG objection from the Opposition, the Maharashtra legislative Assembly on Monday passed two amendments, under which heads of nagar parishads, panchayats, and sarpanch of gram panchayat can be elected directly by voters.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde tabled the Bill to amend the Maharashtra Municipal Council, Nagar Panchayats and Industrial Townships Act 1965. The amendment was introduced to allow election of heads of nagar parishad or municipal council directly through election.
Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar said the Bill was against the spirit of democracy. He said that similar decisions to directly elect the head were taken in the past but were reversed later as they were found to be against the democratic process.
“It will not only ensure that rich candidates prevail over the poor, but will also deny Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe candidates the chance to become the head,” he said.
NCP state president and MLA Jayant Patil reminded CM Eknath Shinde that it was him as the Urban Development Department minister in the previous Uddhav Thackeray-led government who had cancelled the direct election. “We are unable to understand what happened in a few months that he is going back on his own decision…why has he changed so much,” said Patil.
Bhaskar Jadhav of Shiv Sena said that Shinde was being used by the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) to push its own agenda. “Shinde should realise that the BJP is running its propaganda through him,” he said.
Claiming that Shinde has not changed, BJP MLAs Sanjay Kute and Nitesh Rane claimed that the earlier decisions were taken on his behalf without taking him on board.
Former chief minister and Congress MLA Prithviraj Chavan pointed out that the Bill has no mention of the provision to bring a no-confidence motion against the head. He also said that a scenario might emerge where the head will be of one party while members will come from different parties, bringing conflict into the administration of the local body.
Replying, CM Shinde said that the amendment is important for the solid functioning of local bodies. “Once elected, a no-confidence motion can be brought in after two-and-a-half years. The amendment will make the local bodies work strongly,” he said. The Bill was passed by majority.
Later, Rural Development Department minister Girish Mahajan introduced Maharashtra Grampanchayat (Amendment) Bill, 2022 whereby the sarpanch too will be elected directly instead of the earlier process of through elected members.
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NCP MLA Jayant Patil said this goes against the very nature of a parliamentary democracy. Congress MLA Lahu Kanade said this change will rob elected members of gram panchayat of the right of controlling its functioning.
Mahajan said the decision will empower panchayati raj in the state and strengthen village level development. The Bill too was passed with a majority.