Punjab Panchayat Elections

Panchayat elections were held in Punjab in the month of May. Earlier elections for all the three tiers of panchayat hierarchy used to be held simultaneously, but this time round, the rules were changed and Gram Panchayat elections were held after results had been declared for the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls. Also, unlike previous elections panchayat pradhans were no longer directly elected leaving it to the elected panchayat members to elect their head.

The ruling Akali Dal was clearly wary about the possible fallouts of the simmering agrarian crisis in the state and therefore it employed all the money- and muscle-power at its command to virtually rig the panchayat elections. In many places, members of the newly launched Akali student organisation (the so-called Student Organisation of India) worked as storm troopers for the ruling party.

Basing on a 12-point charter of demands, we fought the election in an organised manner in Mansa district and also in pockets of Barnala and Sangrur districts. A few candidates were also put up in Bathinda and Ludhiana districts. The key issues highlighted in our campaign were the questions of homestead land and wages as well as opposition to privatisation and SEZs. In fact, in some areas people fought a pitched battle for land and even spent several days in jail in the course of the election campaign.

We had put up six candidates for the Zila Parishad in Mansa and they polled some 12,000 votes, the highest being about 5,600 votes. In Barnala district, our three ZP nominees polled a total of nearly 3,500 votes. At the GP level we won some 60 seats in all, nearly 40 of them in Mansa district. This includes a near-total majority in one panchayat where we won 8 out of 9 seats. Among significant features of the election experience in Mansa mention should be made of a growing inclination among dalit voters towards our Party and our expansion in old communist-influenced areas 

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