Panchayat elections in Uttarakhand

The three tier Panchayat elections in Uttarakhand were held at a time when most of the MLAs and Ministers of the ruling BJP were demanding ouster of Chief Minister B C Khanduri. Ruling party MLAs want a bigger share in the loot of people’s money, but the people in the state have their own reasons for expressing their no confidence in this government as they see it as corrupt and callous as the earlier ND Tiwary regime. While the BJP received a setback in the panchayat elections, the Congress was also not spared. The people expressed their anguish against the corrupt practices of elected representatives of last panchayats and refused to re-elect them.

The reality behind the much hyped slogans of decentralization of power and people’s participation in decision making has now been exposed in view of increased corruption and coming up of a flourishing new breed of touts and middlemen in villages.

This time, the panchayat election saw more illegal distribution of liquor. Though 50% seats were reserved for women, who have been always at the forefront of anti-liquor movements in the state, but it remained controlled by men and even election propaganda at many reserved seats was conducted in the name of ‘husbands’. At some places women candidates remained completely absent throughout the elections. And after winning the ‘election’ it was the husbands who wore all the garlands in victory processions, at some places their wives followed them silently. At a few places liquor was distributed freely in the elections of women candidates who are known supporters of anti-liquor movement. This is the real face of women’s empowerment under Khanduri’s government.

In this scenario, the CPI(ML) registered its limited but effective presence with the slogans of exposing the corrupt politician – middlemen nexus and for making the panchayats a centre of struggle. The CPI(ML) campaigned against the bourgeois parties’ attempts of reducing panchayats elections into an apolitical event, and using castiest and regional sentiments. This resulted not only in an improved tally but also strengthened and reorganized our work in the areas where we fought in elections. We won two Pradhan seats in Almora and one BDC member seat in Pithoragarh district. Two pradhans and two BDC members supported by the Party in Pithoragarh also won. Party meetings were organized in all places after the elections and it was resolved to organize our work among rural women and youth in hill districts of Uttarakhand.

- Kailash Pandey

Liberation Archive