Maharashtra: Govt to introduce amendment Bill in Budget Session, cancel direct polls to sarpanch’s post

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Elections to nearly 9,000 gram panchayats are expected to take place around September this year.

The state government is expected to introduce a Bill to amend the law and cancel direct elections to the post of the village sarpanch in the upcoming session of the state legislature.

Following a nod from the state Cabinet last month, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government had written to the office of the state Governor regarding an ordinance that would reverse the previous BJP-led government’s decision to have sarpanches elected directly by the electorate. Officials said Raj Bhavan has responded suggesting the legislative route instead.

Rural Development Minister Hasan Mushrif said a draft amendment Bill is already being prepared. “We will introduce the Bill in the first week of the coming Budget Session,” Mushrif told reporters in Ahmednagar. “The government’s policy is that sarpanches will be elected from among the elected representatives.”

Elections to nearly 9,000 gram panchayats are expected to take place around September this year.

The previous BJP-Shiv Sena government had in 2017 introduced an amendment to the Maharashtra Village Panchayats Act, 1958, to allow any resident of the village whose name is in the voters’ list and who is at least 21 years old to contest and vote for the post of sarpanch, ostensibly to democratise the village governing body. The Shiv Sena, incidentally, had opposed the move. The previous year, the BJP-Sena government had also similarly amended the rule for elections to the post of municipal council presidents, re-introducing a directly elected president.

Since the 2017 ordinance and later the amendment to the law, elections to the office of the sarpanch have been held simultaneously with the general elections to the panchayat.