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TBA Exclusive: Here’s the damage that delay in Panchayat polls causes to a state

The Panchayat Elections in Andhra Pradesh are now the Centre of state’s politics. From dragging the Supreme Court into it to finally obliging to conduct the polls, the YSRCP government has had a rough few months. 
 
This is not the first time that the elections to Panchayats have been delayed in 2018 too, the then government had delayed it, believing it would affect the assembly results. 
 
But after the YSRCP government came to power in 2019, the government was supposed to hold the panchayat elections. But, with delays, the Jaganmohan Reddy led government too pushed it. And, then there was a lockdown. Despite the State Election Commission’s push last year to hold the elections, there was no response from the government. 
 
However, what followed the push from Nimaggada Ramesh Kumar’s push is an ego battle between Jagan government and the SEC. Not only was the whole drama so exhausting for anyone watching it, but it was also sickening to see how the State went to the Supreme Court to file a Special Leave Petition early this year stating COVID vaccine as a reason. 
 
But, the Supreme Court had to intervene and tell the state that elections were held in the pandemic and asked the Jagan government to stop the ego battle and conduct polls. Finally the poll schedule is out in the state. 
 
But, do you know what happens when a ruling government delays conducting the Panchayat elections? The Government of India releases funds for Panchayats every year. And, those funds get help up. This had happened once in 2018 when Rs. 3200 crore were held up by the Centre. Those funds could’ve helped Andhra Pradesh which was and is in deep financial turmoil. 
 
Now, not only has there been a delay of 1 year in holding polls which were supposed to be held in last February/March. AP’s worsening financial situation and the lack of Panchayat Raj funds is making it further worse under a government that has not been able to create wealth for the state. 
 
So, what we see here is that political parties which win the elections aren’t following any poll schedule as mandated by the laws but only do so when they feel it will benefit them. What is worse is that special cash incentives to encourage unanimous elections are being further encouraged. 
 
While having unanimous panchayats works in favour of ruling parties, there is also a problem with this. Having no competition or candidates to contest can hit the gram panchayat in the long-term. 1) Funds may be usurped just by a few. 2) Panchayats will not get more funds for development activities 3) Authoritarian rule may prevail in a unanimous panchayat against the wishes of the people. 
 
Therefore, despite handsome cash incentives that YSRCP is currently advertising in newspapers, it is a bad move for Panchayats to not go for free and fair contest and choose to be declared unanimous but also put their own panchayats at the risk of political corruption and lack of development. 
 
But, here’s a lesson for states when it comes to holding Panchayat elections. If there are no funds for Panchayats, then there will be no development in villages. That also means no good roads, no transportation or access to healthcare, no quality education or safe drinking water or any other basic amenities that humans deserve and have the right to ask their governments. 
 
We have celebrated our 72nd Republic Day recently but still talk about Garibi Hatao and Poverty alleviation today. Several schemes are still focussed on Below Poverty Line beneficiaries. And, despite all this, we still see the gap between rich and poor increasing drastically further.  
 
So, what people need to see here by keeping their eyes wide open is that…political parties are clearly happy bribing panchayats to declare themselves unanimous, but in the long run, what if they never get funds for development? Will these Panchayats or villages ever develop and have good amenities? People also need to understand that the focus of political parties across India is unfortunately not development but only electoral success. 
 
Is it all that matters to our political leaders? Think hard!!!  

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