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April date for panchayat polls

Ranchi, Jan. 22: The long-overdue panchayat elections will be held in April.

Rural development minister Pradeep Yadav said the government had sent a communication to the state election commission and the poll panel had suggested probable dates.

The minister, however, did not give details of the dates. “The election will not extend beyond April, not even to May 1,” was all that Yadav, elected recently to the Lok Sabha from Godda, was willing to say. “Tenders have been invited for the printing of ballot papers,” he added.

On January 20, The Telegraph had quoted chief minister Babulal Marandi as saying the panchayat polls would be held “immediately after” the budget session, which is likely to conclude by March-end.

Yadav said the government was “reconsidering” the reservation provisions made for the posts of deputy chairpersons in the panchayat arrangement in the Scheduled Areas. He indicated that the provisions could be done away with after an amendment in the budget session.

Leaders of different social groups have protested against the reservation for the posts of deputy chairpersons, arguing that since the last delimitation of the Scheduled Areas, several panchayats do not have a predominance of tribal population.

The posts of chairpersons in the Scheduled Areas were reserved following an amendment adopted by Parliament in 1996. Marandi had maintained that the amendment “did not prevent” reservation of the posts of deputy chairpersons and, therefore, the government was right in making the provision.

Yadav said the panchayat polls would be held in four phases in the state’s four divisions — North Chhotanagpur, South Chhotanagpur, Palamau and Santhal Pargana. The minister said the government would seek the opinion of leaders of different political groups on whether to conduct the elections on a “party basis”.

Sources described the BJP’s recent focus on the rural areas, tribes in particular, as a “rehearsal” for the panchayat elections. Another dimension to the rural polls is the likely “indirect” participation of the extremist outfits.

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