Panchayat president posts on sale in Tamil Nadu

Panchayat president posts on sale in Tamil Nadu

Representative image. (iStock photo)

Local body elections are aimed at handing over power to the powerless through democratic means, but the very goal is being subverted in parts of Tamil Nadu.

As the state is set to face elections at the grassroots level after a gap of over three years, allegations of posts of panchayat president and councillors being “auctioned” for huge sums of money by village heads in parts of the state have cast a shadow over the local body polls.

Videos of village heads auctioning the posts for money ranging from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 50 lakh have been dotting the social media ever since the polls were announced. Political observers say auctioning of panchayat posts have been happening for decades together especially in villages dominated by powerful castes and nothing has changed even as awareness about the local body elections is high compared to earlier years now.

The posts are “auctioned” by the villagers for a particular sum of money and the highest bidder is directed to deposit the money to a committee appointed by the village heads. Once the post is “auctioned”, the village heads give a diktat asking others not to file nomination.

The diktat has so much effect that even if another candidates contests, he would lose for sure, the observers point out.

“Auctioning of panchayat posts is not new in Tamil Nadu. The usual reason they cite for auctioning of such posts is the building or renovation of a temple. Such auctions directly challenge democracy and the system,” Dr. G. Palanithurai, professor at the Gandhigram Rural Institute, Dindigul, told DH.

Palanithurai, who has authored studies on people’s participation in local body polls, blames the State Election Commission (SEC) for being a “mute spectator” to subversion of democracy saying the agency should have identified the vulnerable areas and kept a watch on them.