BJP-Shinde govt reverses MVA decisions on local body president polls, voting process in APMCs

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In a bid to strengthen its hold in rural Maharashtra, the Eknath Shinde-led government on Thursday announced that presidents of nagar panchayats, nagar parishads and sarpanch of gram panchayats in Maharashtra will be elected directly. In doing so, the government has reversed the decision of the erstwhile Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, which had mandated election of panchayat and parishad heads through elected members of the respective local bodies.
The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, along with senior government officials. “We have decided to hold direct polls for presidents of nagar parishad, nagar panchayat and sarpanch of gram panchayats,” said Shinde.
During the meeting, the cabinet also decided to give voting rights to farmers to elect members of Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs).
Incidentally, both these decisions were earlier taken by the Fadnavis-led BJP-Shiv Sena government during its tenure (2014-19), but they were reversed by the MVA after it came to power in 2019. Now, after coming back to power, the BJP-Shinde government has scrapped the MVA’s decisions.
This is, however, not simply political assertion by the new government. With the upcoming elections of local bodies, the BJP, along with the Shinde camp, plans to make deeper inroads in rural belts through direct elections of presidents of nagar parishads, nagar panchayat and sarpanch of gram panchayats.
In 2018, then chief minister Fadnavis had advocated for direct election of presidents of local bodies. The move was opposed by both the Congress and NCP, then in opposition. The BJP-led government, however, pushed its poll model and it yielded positive results for the party, which gained a foothold in local bodies, which had been the stronghold of the Congress and NCP till then.
When the MVA came to power in 2019, it replaced the direct election system with indirect polls, in which elected members of gram panchayats elected their sarpanch, while members of nagar parishads and nagar panchayats selected their presidents with a consensus or majority.
“All the decisions have been taken after adequate consultation with members of local bodies. The demand for direct election of local bodies’ presidents or sarpanch came from their representatives,” said Fadnavis.
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