JAIPUR: In a bid to resolve the growing tensions between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin pilot over the recent changes in rules for electing chiefs of municipal bodies in Rajasthan, the state UDH minister Shanti Dhariwal has given a clarification that seems like an effort to please the two big guns of the ruling Congress.
Dhariwal has said that under the hybrid formula in Rajasthan, unelected candidates or leaders who don't contest the local body elections will be allowed to become the mayors or chiefs of a local body only under rare or very special circumstances.
Political observers are seeing this as a compromise formula to resolve the Gehlot-Pilot differences on this issue after the matter reached the party High Command last week following which Congress President Sonia Gandhi had directed the state party in-charge and AICC General Secretary to mediate and resolve the conflict between the two senior leaders.
Pilot had openly opposed the new changes and termed them as ‘undemocratic’ in the spirit which will also promote horse-trading as they will allow unelected leaders to become mayors and chiefs of local bodies in Rajasthan.
After the Hybrid formula for electing chiefs of local bodies became a major bone of contention between the Gehlot and Pilot camps, state UDH minister Shanti Dhariwal, a close aide of Gehlot, tried to pacify both sides over the disputed points of the matter. In the new scheme of things, while the hybrid formula will be kept alive in the state, it will be put to use only in exceptional cases and utmost efforts will be made to ensure that only elected councillors are elected to the coveted post.
Reverting to the old system of electing civic body chiefs only from among the councillors (except in the rare cases) Shanti Dhariwal said, "Mayors and chairpersons of municipal bodies will be elected only from among those who are elected as councillors. In some exceptional cases, if the party which gets the majority in a municipal board does not have a councillor from the caste group or gender for which the mayor/chairperson post has been reserved, then only an outsider will be allowed to step in." Dhariwal further clarified that any non-councillor who gets indirectly elected as mayor/chairperson in such exceptional cases will not be required to contest any election to become a councillor.
After Pilot’s open opposition, it was believed that due to pressure from the party high command, the entire hybrid formula might be dropped and a fresh notification may be issued by the state government. It has now been clarified that no changes are being made in the notification that was issued on October 16 and had triggered a row. When Dhariwal was asked if any amendment was now required to the present rules, the UDH minister said, “As of now, it is not required. But we are examining this and if required we have time till November 16 when elections for mayors and chairpersons are scheduled in the state."
Interestingly, Deputy CM Sachin Pilot has claimed the new situation to be his moral victory and said," I am happy that the government has changed its decision of having unelected people run for the post of mayor and chairman. I believe it is against the ethos of our democracy and I am happy that the issue has now been recognised and the government has changed its earlier decision.”
In contrast, CM Gehlot has argued that unnecessary confusion has been created on this issue for if any un-elected outsider will be appointed as a chief of a local body, it would be impossible for elected councillors to tolerate the same. “The UDH Minister has told me that unelected people will be permitted to be chiefs of local bodies only in exceptional cases. And even in those cases, the decision will have to come from the relevant political party whether it’s the Congress, BJP, BSP or any other party,” the CM said in a press meet in Jaipur.
The Deputy Leader of Opposition Rajendra Rathore has attacked Congress government, putting a question mark over the selection of the head of the body in the civic elections. Rathore described the civic elections as the murder of democracy. "Even though the autonomous governance minister may have announced the civic elections, it is still not clear who will be the chairman of the local bodies. Minister has given his statement with a lot of "ifs and buts, if no person in the reserved category can be a councillor and if anyone from outside can become a chairman without a being a councillor, then the situation is a murder of democracy," Rathore said.