ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Panchayat Elections:Overcoming State's Resistance

Bihar

The panchayat elections, held after 20 years and a long court battle, may not immediately make a difference to the quality or nature of governance in the rural areas of the state. But in the interim there has been a change in the way people perceive developmental issues and most importantly, for the first time, people will be able to directly confront those who hold power. This will pave the way for effective people-friendly governance.

At last, a recalcitrant state has been compelled to hold elections to its panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) which it has been evading for nearly two decades. The last panchayat election was held in Bihar in 1978 and prior to that in 1971. But then holding of panchayat elections was not mandatory. In fact, till the enactment of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment in April 1993, there were only three states, namely, Maharashtra, Gujarat (since 1963) and West Bengal (since 1978) where periodic panchayat elections, at least at the village level, had always been held on time.

Therefore, it was not in Bihar alone that panchayats were given a raw deal rather, in varying degrees, it was true of most of the states in the country. Yet no other state could compete with Bihar in taking recourse to ingenious methods to postpone panchayat elections. As a matter of fact, Bihar’s tryst with decentralised governance is so bizarre and grotesque that one wonders that an endless saga of defiance and manipulations would come to an end once the election results were announced and the panchayat bodies were set up with newly elected representatives.

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