Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): The Congress on Monday accused the BJP of weakening Panchayati Raj institutions by not holding elections in time in states ruled by it and reducing funds for the local self government bodies.
The opposition party claimed that the Panchayati Raj institutions were empowered during its rule but Prime Minister Narendra Modi was claiming credit for it.
It was reacting after Prime Minister Modi accused the previous Congress governments of meting out "step-motherly" treatment to villages in the country after independence.
Speaking at a public event in Rewa in Madhya Pradesh on the occasion of the National Panchayati Raj Day, Modi said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has changed the situation and pumped in huge grants to panchayats.
Addressing a press conference here, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh alleged that the BJP had voted against a crucial Constitutional amendment bill in 1989 that sought to empower Panchayati Raj institutions (PRI) during Rajiv Gandhi's tenure as prime minister.
"Today marks an important day in our political history as 30 years ago, the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act came into effect on this day. This amendment gives constitutional status to Panchayats and this is the biggest contribution of the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi to India's political system.
"The bill could not be passed in September 1989 when Rajiv Gandhi was the PM as Congress did not have a majority in Rajya Sabha, where the bill fell short of five votes. The BJP also voted against the bill. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Bill became an Act on April 24, 1993 during the Congress government rule," he claimed.
"But our prime minister is trying to take credit for this today," Ramesh said.
He claimed that the BJP has not held PRI elections in time in party-ruled states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana.
The BJP also has not released grants to Panchayati Raj institutions in time and has reduced the grants given under MGNREGA, which has also been weakened, he alleged.
"It shows that the BJP does not believe in the 73rd and 74th Constitutional amendments," Ramesh said.
He said that even though women were given one-third reservation in the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, today there are almost 32 lakh elected representatives in the 3-tier Panchayati Raj system, of whom about 15 lakh are women alone.
Claiming that Panchayats were strengthened during the UPA regime through rural development schemes, he cited the "revolutionary" MGNREGA which came into effect in 2006 .
"The money for the MGNREGA goes into the account of gram panchayats but the Modi government wants to weaken MGNREGA. Today, 2.5 lakh gram panchayats don't get enough money. Many times, elections to panchayats are not held every five years," Ramesh alleged.
"We urge the Modi government to hold elections in Panchayati Raj institutions in time and give grants to them in time," he said.
On the prime minister citing data to support his statements, Ramesh said, "The prime minister is a master at playing with statistics".
In his speech on Monday, Prime Minister Modi also said that the previous governments used to avoid spending money on villages because a village was not a vote bank in itself. "That is why they were ignored," he said.
"Many political parties were running their 'shops' by dividing village folks," he said.
"The BJP has ended this injustice meted out to villages and opened our treasury for their development," Modi said.
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