JAIPUR: The Rajasthan government’s decision to choose Heads of urban local bodies through indirect election has sharply escalated the rift within the ruling Congress.
The decision has created a virtual split in the Gehlot government as even dy CM Sachin Pilot has questioned his own government's decision on the election. Taking a stand contrary to the view of CM Ashok Gehlot, Pilot claimed that he was not consulted about the decision notified on Wednesday.
While polls to urban local bodies in Rajasthan are due in November and earlier this week, the state government had made the move that allows people who are not elected councillors to contest for posts like mayors and chairpersons of corporations and municipalities; of course, the non-councillor candidates would still have to be elected by councillors to the top posts.
A gazette notification to amend the rules on election of mayors and chairpersons was issued on Wednesday. Under the new rules, those who did not contest election as councilors and even defeated candidates would be allowed to be elected as Chiefs of urban local bodies.
This has greatly upset Sachil Pilot and his camp. Talking to reporters in Jhunjhunu on Friday, Pilot said, "This is not a good decision and I do not agree with this. The decision is not practical and not politically right. There is a need to change this decision. We decided to hold indirect election for the posts of mayor and chairperson. This was fine. But suddenly a new decision appeared that was not discussed in the cabinet or in the legislative party meeting."
Pilot, who is the Rajasthan Congress president, even claimed that the new system, which is being called a hybrid, will allow people to become urban body heads through the back door. Earlier, Transport Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Ramesh Meena, who are regarded close to Pilot, had also opposed the move.
However, Urban Development and Housing minister Shanti Dhariwal had strongly defended the decision at a recent press conference in Jaipur. Dhariwal told reporters, "The cabinet has taken the decision for in-direct election of mayor and chairperson. Ward councilors will now elect them. A mayor or chairperson elected by the public usually ignores councilors and development works get affected. When a directly elected mayor or chairperson is from one party and the majority in the corporation or municipality is of the other party, it also stalls development."
But after Sachin Pilot's criticism, another senior member of the Gehlot cabinet, Master Bhanwarlal, the Social Welfare Minister, has opposed the new rules and asserted that letting people who are not elected as councillors to become Mayors and Chairpersons in urban local bodies is wrong and this decision should be reverted.
Clearly, the decision to amend the rules on election of mayors and chairpersons has greatly intensified the Congress factionalism in Rajasthan.