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Punjab panchayat polls set to be delayed as MLAs want say in reservation

Punjab panchayat polls set to be delayed as MLAs want say in reservation

Punjab CM Capt Amarinder holds meeting: Tenures of zila parishads, block samitis end on July 9, of panchayats on Aug 9.
Chandigarh : Elections for panchayats in Punjab due in July and August look set for postponement by at least two months as there’s still no final word on wards and posts to be reserved for women and Scheduled Castes, HT has learnt.
As MLAs of the ruling Congress want more discussion on specifics, chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh held a meeting on Tuesday with rural development and panchayats minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) president Sunil Jakhar, besides officials.“Each ward and a suitable candidate must be looked at again before going ahead with the polls. Political needs have to be addressed,” said one of the more than a dozen MLAs — Congress has 77 in a House of 117 — who met Jakhar earlier this month to raise the issue. Government was waiting for the Shahkot assembly bypoll to be over to ponder on the forthcoming polls. Result of the bypoll, voting for which took place on Monday, is scheduled for Wednesday.
A major issue is that the state cabinet in June increased reservation for women in urban local bodies and panchayati raj institutions from 33% to 50% — it was one of the promises made by Congress before assembly elections early last year.
Jakhar said apprehensions raised by MLAs “have a basis” because “reservation within reservation has to be settled”. He added, though, “We asked the minister and the head of the department (financial commissioner, rural development and panchayats), Anurag Verma, to be make arrangements so that elections can be held on time.”
Verma said, “A clear picture about the polls will emerge in July.” Reservation and marking of wards, besides other preparations thereafter, will take at least two months, said a senior official who was part of the meeting too. When tenures of the current elected bodies end, government has to announce poll dates and appoint interim administrators from among officials.
Sultanpur Lodhi MLA Navtej Singh Cheema was among the MLAs who raised the matter. “The forthcoming elections (of panchayats, block samitis and zila parishads) are different from usual, because there’s 50% reservation for women. Selecting the right candidates is a big issue. So, we wanted to discuss the matter at the top government levels,” he said.
Another official of the rural development department, however, said on the condition of anonymity, “There is not much scope to tweak the system of reservation of wards, because it takes place by rotation, and there’s roster in place. In 2008, the SAD-BJP government ignored the roster, which led to litigation. In 2013, the same government decided to follow the roster. The present government should also understand this issue.”

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