Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Agents against Indian Democracy have, in the guise of decentralization of power, been ruining our social fabric by politicizing the Panchayats.

Navin Patnaik has surpassed every body in this endeavor by not only planting party candidates but also by encouraging unfathomable expenditure in Panchayat electioneering. One was to see to believe how lavishly his candidates have spent money in the base levels.

It was unthinkable in Orissa that a Chief Minister would sans qualms electioneer in aircrafts for Panchayats. But Navin did it. And in doing this he vitiated the grassroots with so much political poison that illicit guns and bombs were used as never before in Orissa. Even post-election violence has been playing havocs with rural life in Orissa. Brother killing brother, son killing father, husband killing wife, friend killing friend – may be hard to believe – but sadly the post-panchayat-polls scenario in Orissa is amalgam of these.

Instead of consolidating unity and understanding amongst villagers which Panchayatiraj aims at, electioneering has ruined rural brotherhood and corrupted impartial functionaries. Incarceration of Presiding Officers (POs), even Gazetted Officers like Block Development Officers for tampering with ballot papers and for siding with ruling party candidates to capture booths is a pointer to this.

What to speak of such low grade and low paid government servants, a constitutional authority is so corrupted by the impact of Panchayatiraj that his actions are considered as crimes against the people. As for example, the Speaker of Orissa Legislative Assembly, Mr. maheswar Mohanty, supposedly the most impartial functionary of the State, has been subjected to Crime Branch action for having contravened the Model Code of Conduct.

Mohanty belongs to BJD, the sycophant party of Navin Patnaik.

Elected MLA as a candidate of BJD, the party of Navin’s family sycophants, Mohanty was made the Speaker by Navin, his follower MLAs, taken for granted, approving. After being the Speaker he has never made people know that he has resigned from BJD. He has never said that in future, he shall not be a candidate of BJD for the Assembly. Hence he was in BJD before being the Speaker and he is in BJD after being the Speaker. And he will depend on BJD to be a candidate for the Assembly in future. Naturally therefore, he might have tried to establish that he is loyal to Navin.

Navin had made every MLA understand that his or her future candidacy for Assembly would depend on winning Panchayat polls in the corresponding constituency. Mohanty’s mind might have been stressed under this pressure and he might have tried his best to see that the BJD candidates in Panchayat elections in his own constituency win in majority at any cost and hence he might have persuaded himself to flood the Panchayats of his area with poll literatures. In such circumstances seizure of the BJD poll literatures from the official vehicle allotted to him for protocol duties is no discovery of any impossibility.

Circumstantially possible, it has attracted action under the penal code as use of government vehicle in election campaigns is strictly prohibited.

This bizarre mischief might not have embarrassed our democracy had Chief Minister Navin Patnaik shown an iota of probity in Panchayat polls.

It is a shame that he is boasting of having bagged 41 more seats in Zilla Parisads than the Congress. (BJD has officially won 344 seats as against 303 won by the Congress.) But as is being unveiled day after day, this slight majority looks like a result of rigging. If the people, as Navin has been claiming, have voted in support of his Government, why his other half, i.e. his partner BJP has been thrown into debacle?

It cannot be accepted that the people have refused one part of the Government and accepted the other part.

You can accept a coin with both of its side or refuse a coin with both of its side. So, by refusing supportive mandate to BJP, the people have no doubt refused the BJD as well.

Therefore, the slight victory in mere 41 seats over the Congress that Navin is boasting of, cannot but be an outcome of corrupt practices as is being unveiled in case of POs being arrested for vote tampering and booth capturing and rampart misuse of Government resources as is unveiled in the citizenry-activism that has led to prosecution against the Speaker on charges of misuse of Assembly personnel and vehicle in electioneering work.

But this is not the whole ill Panchayatiraj is generating. The provision for political parties putting their candidates for Zilla Parisads at the central top of the piramid of Panchayat polls has destroyed the party-less purpose of Panchayatiraj. This is making a farce of self-governance philosophy that the Panchayatiraj stands for.

Instead of becoming a boon for democracy, Panchayatiraj has become an insurmountable obstacle for democracy. Thinking minds must look at it seriously.

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