(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 17, 2010
On Kerala Panchayat Elections
KERALA, the tiny southern state is recognised for its contribution especially in education, public health and decentralisation, and its achievements have been considered as model of development attained through equitable distribution in the back drop of comparatively low economic growth. The state which has made a giant leap in the fields of decentralisation and women empowerment through projects like Kudumbashree, is going to witness another edition of local body elections in the month of October. Kerala has three tier local self government system that came in to existence on October 2, 1995, after the 73rd and 74th amendments of Indian constitution. The foremost and distinguishing character of this election which is scheduled to be held in two phases ie, on October 23 and 25, is the implementation of 50 per cent women’s reservation. Elections for 76 municipalities and 5 city corporations will also be held along with this. The reservation is not confined to only the number of candidates, it is implemented at the level of elected posts as well. Women presidents are going to lead more than 50 per cent of panchayats, municipalities and city corporations. On November 1, the 54th anniversary of formation of Kerala state, out of 1209 elected presidents, 606 women will take oath and assume the power.
Kerala has the long tradition of nurturing self government and decentralisation. Even the non-communists may admit that whole credit of this triumph goes to the communist party led governments. Kerala’s History of the decentralisation process starts right from the first ministry led by the legendary communist leader E M S Namboodiripad. Soon after assuming power in 1957, E M S ministry took a historical decision to form administrative reforms committee to look into various aspects of decentralisation. This move was aimed to introduce political decentralisation through the constitution of elected district governments. Though this committee under the chairmanship of chief minister E M S really ignited the process, unfortunately the renegade forces of the rightwing toppled the elected government with the help of Congress party’s central leadership in 1957. This caused the premature death of the first attempt for decentralisation in Kerala. The next government headed by Congress leader Pattom Thanupillai which came to power in 1959 put this process into the backburner. The second communist government which came to power in 1967 again took initiative to introduce the bill in assembly. But the bill could not be passed.
The renewed attempts to introduce the district council bill succeeded in 1990. The LDF government led by E K Nayanar established district councils in 14 districts of state. The district panchayat came into existence in February 1991. Through these councils, devolution of power from state planning board to district councils was made. The government allocated 24 per cent of state budget to the councils to set up schemes in the jurisdiction of district councils. In addition to this, 5 per cent of state budget was transferred to district councils on the condition that funded programmes could be implemented only with the involvement of local governments within the district. This was a revolutionary step in the field of decentralisation. The councils prepared their own schemes to revitalise the fields of education, health, and infrastructure, since 19 departments and 240 subjects were handed over to the councils.
Tragically the Congress led government which came to power in 1991 started strangulating the district council by withdrawing the powers given to the councils by the previous government. Gradually the councils became a carcass of what the predecessors dreamt. In April 1994, these councils were abolished and the power to decide on district projects was reallocated to state government departments within each district. The reason behind this vengeance was that all districts except Malappuram were governed by the Left Democratic Front.
When the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments were passed, Kerala enacted a law for the introduction of three tier panchayat system all over the state in 1995. This is the fourth election to the three tier panchayat system. The Left Democratic Front led by CPI(M) has a great winning record in the previous election to the three tier panchayats.
In 2005 elections, all
corporations (Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam,
The following are the results of 2005 panchayat elections:
Kasaragod Total LDF UDF BJP
Village panchayats 39 19 14 06
Block panchayats 04 03 01 00
Dist panchayat members 16 06 09 01
Village panchayats 81 60 21 00
Block panchayats 11 09 02 00
Dist panchayat members 26 21 05 00
Village panchayats 25 18 07 00
Block panchayats 03 01 02 00
Dist panchayat members 16 06 10 00
Village panchayats 78 69 09 00
Block panchayats 12 12 00 00
Dist panchayat members 28 23 05 00
Corporation Dvns 55 46 07 00
Village panchayats 102 30 72 00
Block panchayats 14 03 11 00
Dist panchayat members 32 07 25 00
Village panchayats 91 71 20 00
Block panchayats 13 11 02 00
Dist panchayat members 29 27 02 00
Village panchayats 92 78 13 00
Block panchayats 17 15 02 00
Dist panchayat members 30 25 05 00
Corporation Dvns 52 29 22 00
Village panchayats 88 67 21 00
Block panchayats 15 13 02 00
Dist panchayat members 28 20 08 00
Corporation Dvns 71 42 29 00
Village panchayats 73 38 35 00
Block panchayats 11 06 05 00
Dist panchayat members 23 12 11 00
Village panchayats 73 52 21 00
Block panchayats 12 11 01 00
Dist panchayat members 33 19 14 00
Village panchayats 54 35 10 00
Block panchayats 09 06 03 00
Dist panchayat members 17 10 07 00
Village panchayats 52 33 19 00
Block panchayats 08 06 02 00
Dist panchayat members 16 14 02 00
Village panchayats 71 64 07 00
Block panchayats 13 13 00 00
Dist panchayat members 27 25 02 00
Corpration dvns 52 38 14 00
Village panchayats 78 62 16 00
Block panchayats 12 10 02 00
Dist panchayat members 27 21 06 00
Corpration dvns 86 76 10 00
This LDF is confident enough to repeat the victory in these elctions. The steps taken by the LDF government to strengthen the local self governments is a positive factor. Even opponents may also admit that there is no anti- incumbency feeling. Being a consumer state, Kearala is a major casualty of the price rise due the recurring petrol price hike. But the steps taken by the Left government to check the price hike of essential commodities especially during the festival seasons made a strong impact on the people. The combined effort of the co-operative sector and civil supplies department succeeded in intervening in the public distribution and this made the festivals like Onam and Ramzan less costly. EMS Bhavana Paddhathi, a flagship program of this government became a great success. All state public sector industrial units became profitable. The LDF hopes these programmes will have a major impact in this election.
Kerala has a brilliant record in efficient and transparent implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Social welfare measures were extended to the beneficiaries of MNREGA. Now all the beneficiaries enjoy the benefits of availing rice for Two rupees a kilo and they are also included in the special health insurance scheme. Thavinjal panchayat in Wayanad district has bagged the best panchayat award as it spent Five crore rupees for MNREGA projects. A well organiSed social auditing all over the state makes the implementation accountable and successful.
Projects like Kudumbashree also helped the state to find avenues for job opportunities and resource management. Kudumbashree is multifaceted women based poverty eradication program jointly initiated by government of Kerala and NABARD. This project also attracted national and international recognition. Kerala’s performances in the field of law and order, tourism and local self government also gained recognition from the central government.
In spite of all hindrances from the central government, the state is doing its best to fulfill the people’s mandate. The central government continues with a hostile approach towards the state by making attempts to deny projects like the Kochi Metro and railway component factory in Chertala. The antagonist attitude of the central government is also being highlighted in the election campaign.