MUMBAI: After reaping a huge political benefit from direct election of municipal council chiefs, the BJP-led government of Maharashtra decided on Monday to elect sarpanches (gram panchayat heads) similarly.
Direct election allowed the BJP to win 56 mayoral elections last year. The party expects to repeat this performance in the upcoming elections to 8000 gram panchayats, scheduled for September-October.
Meeting on Monday, the state cabinet decided to amend the Maharashtra Gram Panchayat Act, 1958, to facilitate direct election of sarpanches. The amendment bill is likely to be introduced in the monsoon session of the legislature, whcih is scheduled to begin on July 25.
Apart from facilitating direct election of sarpanches, the cabinet also decided to vest them with added powers to make the village budget. Under this scheme, the directly elected sarpanch will prepare the budget, and the village committee will endorse it. For which purpose, the village committee too would have to be bestowed with additional powers.
The amended law on sarpanch elections would require them to have passed class VII. However, that provison would apply only to who were born in or after 1995. Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have already cleared similar amendments to their legislations.