Coalition partners on collision course over Panchayat Act

Coalition partners on collision course over Panchayat Act

National Conference disagrees with Congress on the Central law

The coalition partners in Jammu and Kashmir government are heading towards a tussle on empowerment of panchayats with National Conference on Wednesday rejecting Congress demand for incorporating 73rd and 74th amendments to the constitution in the state's Panchayati Raj Act.

“The Panchayati Raj Act enacted by the state legislature is very comprehensive and it substantially incorporates the spirit of the constitution amendment. Constitution of finance and election commissions have also been envisaged in the state Act,” Minister for Rural Development and Panchyati Raj Ali Mohammad Sagar told reporters here.

“The state Act is much stronger than the Central Act so there is no need to incorporate 73rd and 74th amendments of the Indian constitution in the state Act,” the NC minister added.

He claimed that union rural development secretary B. K. Sinha during his visit to the state accepted that J&K’s Panchayati Raj Act was far better than the Central Act.

While Congress demands that the Central Act should be incorporated in the J&K Panchayati Raj Act,  its coalition partner National Conference has been maintaining that extension of central laws has eroded the state's autonomy.

The state Congress had recently passed a unanimous resolution at the delegate session calling for adoption of the 73rd and 74th amendment of the constitution of India in the state Act.

Immediately after passing the resolution in Jammu on May 19, state Congress president Saif-ud-Din Soz said incorporation of these amendments in the state Act would go a long way in empowering the Panchayati Raj system.

Sagar said that government had received several amendments and recommendations from the opposition parties in the last budget session of the Assembly.

“The government has formed a search committee which has been asked to see whether any amendments are needed to make the Act stronger,” the minister said.

Sagar claimed that the Panchayati Raj institutions put in place by the government have been adequately empowered and decentralisation of powers to the grassroots level has been ensured.

A senior state Congress leader wishing anonymity said Panchayati Raj minister  Sagar’s press conference will widen the differences between National Conference and Congress.
“The NC is creating hurdles in the empowerment of panchayats but they will have to do it at any cost. Congress high command has given a go-ahead to the state leaders to incorporate the 73rd and 74th amendments in the Act at any cost,” he said.

The Congress leader apprehended that if panchayats are not empowered there will be no participation in any such democratic activity in future in the state.

When contacted  for comment on Sagar’s remarks, former minister and All India Congress Committee member member Abdul Gani Vakil said the party would continue with its efforts to incorporate the amendments in the state Act.

“We will pursue it and are sure we can convince them (NC),” he told Deccan Herald.
Asked what will be his party’s stand if the NC doesn’t agree to the demand, Vakil said, “If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. A decision will be taken at an appropriate time if such situation arises.”

Threats to panchayats

Sarpanches and panches elected in elections last year in Kashmir Valley have become soft targets for militants who have asked them to resign from their posts or face the consequences.

Militants of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) outfit have circulated posters in parts of south Kashmir, including Shopian district, threatening the panches and sarpanches with “dire consequences” if they did not follow the diktat.

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