Kishore Chandra Deo Calls For More Powers To Panchayats In Kashmir

Kishore Chandra Deo Calls For More Powers To Panchayats In Kashmir

28 September 2012
Times of India


New Delhi: Congress stirred Kashmir's panchayat pot further with Union minister Kishore Chandra Deo lamenting that the state had not devolved powers to grassroots institutions and had dashed the hopes raised by successful elections held after three decades. In the wake of killing of sarpanchs by terrorists, panchayati raj minister Deo expressed concern and asked the state to give 'adequate security' to representatives of panchayati raj Institutions. Deo lamented that training imparted by his ministry to 29,719 panchs and 4128 sarpanchs from J&K had come to naught in the absence of any real powers being given to them. 'Holding successfully the much-awaited elections to PRIs in J&K had given rise to hopes that the democratic process in the strife-torn state would now be on the rails,' he said, in a tone conveying it was an opportunity lost. The statement putting the Omar Abdullah government in the dock follows sudden Congress focus on the problems of panchayat leaders in the state. The gunning down of sarpanchs and their mass resignations turned into national focus when Rahul Gandhi raised the issue in Congress Working Committee on Tuesday and called it a 'serious matter'. As if on cue, party activity on this front has only got intense. While a panchayat delegation from the state met Rahul on Thursday and junior home minister Jitendra Singh asked the Union home secretary to provide for security of panchayat leaders in J&K, the Youth Congress has launched an agitation to force the Abdullah administration to devolve powers to PRIs. The concerted Congress focus has put Abdullah on the defensive while earning the campaign the billing of 'Rahul vs Omar' battle. Both sides have denied any personal tussle between the heir apparents of Congress and National Conference but indications suggest Congress may only stoke the issue further till it sees a conclusion of its liking where it can claim victory. The agitational activity despite being in the ruling coalition is seen to help Congress reactivate its organizational machinery after its workers turned inert over being sidelined in the Abdullah government. According to observers, Congress was trying to identify itself with a national issue since the disappointment of panchayats is threatening to cede the upper hand of hardline elements opposed to cementing of democracy in the strife-torn state. While Rahul's initiative at the CWC was about J&K, there are signs of panchayats being his new mobilizational tool. After the CWC, the young leader went to Jharkhand and repeatedly said how panchayats remained powerless despite elections in the state while also referring to Kashmir in the same breath. He added he would fight to get them real powers of governance. The focus on panchayats could be a new strategy to win over the vast rural base that sees the strengthening of panchayats as cementing of local governance in which they have a direct stake. Rahul would be the Congress mascot in 2014 polls.