Nine thousand gram panchayats in Maharashtra have opposed the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s decision to cancel direct elections for the post of sarpanch. According to the new rule, elected gram panchayat members will pick the sarpanch (village headman) from among themselves.
“As many as 9,000 gram panchayats have passed a resolution opposing the state government’s decision to allow members to elect a sarpanch from among themselves,” said Maharashtra State Sarpanch Parishad chairperson Dutta Kakade on Monday.
In its first policy decision after assuming office in November last year, Thackeray changed the direct election process introduced by the previous Bharatiya Janata Party-led Devendra Fadnavis government. It also suspended over 600 expert directors appointed in the 302 agricultural produce marketing committees (APMCs). Within weeks of this, the state cabinet also changed the way the directors of APMCs were elected. Instead of farmers directly electing the directors, the government went back to the pre-2014 way when members of gram panchayats as well as other cooperative bodies elected the directors.
The Fadnavis cabinet had, on July 3, 2017, amended the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat Act of 1958 to facilitate election of sarpanchs (village headman) directly from among the people.
Incidentally, Thackeray, whose Sena was part of the ruling alliance that time, had disapproved of this move. Thackeray had, in July, 2017, said that going by this logic (of direct election of sarpanch) a demand for election of state chief minister in a similar way can be raised by people.