Congress wants Maya to give more power to panchayats

Subodh Ghildiyal, TNN, Sep 5, 2010, 04.26am IST

 NEW DELHI: Congress will launch a campaign aimed at pressing UP's
Mayawati government to empower panchayats as envisaged by Panchayati
Raj, in a political gambit pitting the BSP chief against the "Rajiv
Gandhi" legacy to woo the rural electorate.

The party campaign for devolution of powers to panchayats will
coincide with culmination of three-tier panchayat elections due to
start later this month in UP even though the party has decided to skip
local body elections this year.

While panchayat polls are not held on a party-basis, political outfits
have been issuing support to individuals through letters,
advertisements and party flags. Aware that it was still some distance
from regaining organisational muscle to emerge a key player in the
state, Congress is trying to turn its handicap into a weapon.

While a defeat of party candidates in panchayats would have spoilt the
perception about a rising Congress, selection of nominees from among
many aspirants at local levels risked stoking infighting.

Instead, Congress has hit upon a plan to apply pressure on the state
government for "power to panchayats". The idea is to "ask Mayawati to
work on panchayati raj as envisaged by Rajiv Gandhi".

It will not be an easy demand for Mayawati to fulfill as transferring
powers to panchayats will significantly prune the state's authority.

Rajiv Gandhi's name, it is hoped, will refresh people's memory about
the leader's dream about devolution of power to villages, besides
drawing a connect between them and Rahul Gandhi who is leading the
party campaign.

But larger objective is to polarise panchayats against BSP by telling
them the Constitution envisages a bigger role in governance for them.
It is hoped the campaign will mobilise panchayats in favour of
Congress. The sarpanches are crucial to poll campaigns owing to their
clout in village-level decision making.

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