Maharashtra: State assembly passes bills proposing direct elections of municipal council president and gram panchayat sarpanch

The bill was moved by the Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who holds the urban development department.

Sanjay JogUpdated: Monday, August 22, 2022, 08:38 PM IST
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Despite strong opposition from opposition parties, the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on Monday passed by voice vote the Maharashtra Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Industrial Townships Act, 1965 (Amendment) bill proposing the direct election of the municipal council president. The bill was moved by the Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who holds the urban development department. Further, the assembly also passed by voice vote the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat Act, 1958 (Amendment) bill moved by the rural development minister Girish Mahajan proposing the direct election of the gram panchayat sarpanch.

Shinde strongly justified the government’s intent to table these two bills saying that there was the demand from the people that the municipal council president and gram panchayat sarpanch be elected directly. He clarified that it was not the government’s agenda.

‘’The decision for the direct election of municipal council president was taken way back in 2006. We have not changed that decision now. The urban development minister took the decision, it is not the decision of one minister but it is the decision of all the ministers. A gangster can be elected in a ward on the basis of money but he cannot win on the basis of money in the entire city,’’ said Shinde.

Shinde further said that the Maharashtra State Sarpanch Parishad had demanded that the gram panchayat sarpanch should be elected directed from the people. ‘’ We accepted that demand. We are working based on the demands of the people, we are not implementing our agenda. We are working according to the will of the people,’’ he noted.

‘’We have taken decisions in the interest of the people. Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and I have decided that we will not do any work on the strength of the majority but by respecting the opposition parties,” said Shinde.

The Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar suggested that CM should be elected directly from the people. CM in his reply how CM can be elected from the people then should the Constitution be amended? ‘’Our government is working according to the constitution,’’ he opined.

‘’Opposition says that I am not capable. Would I have carried out a major operation if I was not capable? (referring to the coup staged by him along with 40 Shiv Sena MLAs and 10 independents in June),’’ said Shinde amid laughter from ruling and opposition parties.

Earlier, Pawar reminded Shinde that during the Maha Vikas Aghadi government as the urban development minister he had presented the bill reversing the Fadnavis government's direct election of municipal council. ‘’So what has changed in the last two and half years for Shinde in his new role as the Chief Minister to table this bill proposing the direct election?’’ he asked.

‘’Such decisions are harmful to democracy. If you are going to elect the municipal council president by the people, why don't you also elect the chief minister?’’ he asked. He said that the implementation of Fadnavis government’s decision for direct election of municipal council president was not successful.

Pawar said that Gram Panchayat elections are not held at party level or on party symbols. But other elections are held on the symbol of this party. Therefore, only those who have money, money muscle, will remain in terror. So, this step is dangerous for democracy. Therefore, this bill should be repealed.

Former NCP minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who had assumed the Mumbai Mayor’s post twice, also opposed the direct election and made a strong case for withdrawal of the government's move.

Shiv Sena legislator Bhaskar Jadhav demanded that the Shinde Fadnavis government should go back to the law and judiciary department and bring back the bill as there are several shortcomings in the bill. He brought to the CM’s notice that there is no provision in the bill not recalling the directly elected president of the municipal council.

Besides, Jadhav said there was no provision to move no confidence motion against the directly elected president after two and half years. Jadhav claimed that Shinde has been taking all decisions that BJP wanted and cautioned him to be aware of this plot.

Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan alleged there was pressure on Shinde as somebody (without naming BJP) was doing back driving.

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