Politicians, grassroots leaders, experts debate on PRIs in APC event

Staff Reporter
ITANAGAR, Dec 5: The Arunachal Press Club (APC) has organized a one-day symposium, ‘Face to Face,’ on the topic ‘Should Panchayat election be held along party lines or without party lines’ here at Dorjee Khandu Auditorium in the legislative assembly building on Thursday.
Panelists from various fields took part in the symposium.
Dr George Mathew, who is the director of the institute social sciences, New Delhi, in his keynote address said that democratization of a society is very important for a healthy democracy and also for the PRIs to be successful.
“The motto of PR is to give power to the people, power to those who are in the villages of our country. This was a dream of Mahatma Gandhi. He wanted all villages to grow into a republic, a village republic, become Swaraj,” he said.
Dr Mathew opined that if political parties can fight
parliament and assembly elections, then they should keep the option of contesting elections for local governance (PRIs) open. He also called for granting more power to PRIs in the state.
North East Social Trust (NEST) Chairperson T A Husain in his address, stated that PR elections should be held along the partly line claiming that if there is involvement of parties in election, the people can question the leader and also the ones in the centre if any discrepancies arrive. When political parties are involved in PR elections, there will be an opposition and for a healthy democracy we need a strong opposition, he said.
Arunachal Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary Bengia Hashi, who is also the in-charge of Arunachal Pradesh Rajiv Gandhi Panchayati Raj Sanghatan (APRGPRS), advocated for party based elections. He said ‘there would be chaos if the elections are not fought on the party line.’ However, he added that if it is held without party line, then the government must come up with a resolution or law which will bar the election winners from joining a political party in the future.
The PPA chairman Kamen Ringu said ‘if PR election is held in party line, people will be under the command of the ruling elites and will not be allowed to take independent decisions.’ He alleged that both BJP and Congress have been using PR as a tool to gain political mileage.
“Let the people decide who rules them, not the political parties,” he added. Ringu also called upon the government to re-build and re-introduce the Panchayati Raj system without any political influence or interventions. There is no wrong in experimenting if it is for the interest of the people. ‘Let the people fight the election without any party symbols,’ he said.
The NPP MLA Mutchu Mithi speaking on the occasion said ‘if election is held along party lines sometimes people with good leadership qualities misses out if he/she fails to get the party ticket.’
Talking about the ruling party phobia in Arunachal, Mithi said that 90 percent of MLA candidates were voted to power only because they were representing the ruling party. This, he said, has to change and it can start from the village level and through the PR elections by not involving any political parties in it, he added.
JD (U) MLA Hayeng Mangfi said that money culture and horse trading is killing the democratic principles in Arunachal. He added that quality of leadership is very limited in the state and there are very less legislators who actually know the pulse of the people and who speak of pan-Arunachal.
Speaking on 33 percent reservation for women in PR elections, the MLA said that the number of capable women who can contest the PR election is very less.
‘AP is not mature enough to fight elections in political lines, so making it non-political is more feasible,’ he opined.
Speaking during the second session, P G Tago, principal of Government College, Palin under Kra Daadi district and Dr Tage Kanno, project consultant, Future Generations Arunachal were of the opinion that involvement of political parties cannot be ignored and it was required. They appealed that status quo be maintained and the election be held along the party line.
The secretary general of Arunachal Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Toko Tatung, in his deliberation, urged everyone instead of discussing whether the PR election should be held along party lines or not, the discussion should be held if PR system has been successful in Arunachal. He highlighted how PR bodies are not given any power and fund in the state.
“We must focus on the infighting that is happening in our families because of the PR elections. Villages are in chaos because of this. We are fighting against each other and losing our essence,” he said.
The prominent social activist Jarjum Ete questioned why state government is failing to conduct PR election though it is due since May 2018 and alleged that it breakdown of constitution.
Further, she questioned whether the 33 percent reservation for women will be applicable if the election is not held on party lines.
She also opined that if election is not held along the party lines then many deserving candidates/leaders will not find space and the influential clans and families will have the final say.
The convenor of Arunachal Pradesh Rajiv Gandhi Panchayati Raj Sanghatan (APRGPRS), Jaya Joram said that there must be a discussion on why the PR system has not been successful so far in the state. She also added that though the PRIs are trained and told about their roles and power, they get nothing when they demand for the same. There is no power given to the PR leaders, she added.
Former ASM of Poma Panchayat Techi Ana speaking against party based election said that a lot of money has to be invested to get a ticket from political parties and once the elections are over, the parties hardly bother about the PRI leaders.
“We have to go right from the block to state level for a ticket and spend lot of money but after the elections are over, there is no interventions from the party,” she said.
Advocate Tarh Eha, former president of Papum Pare Capital Complex District Bar Association said there should be more discussion on devolution of powers to the PRI. He also stated that most of the PR leaders in the state are not aware of their own rights.
Speaking against party based election, Eha said the political parties has become like middlemen and divides the families and people during PR election.
The debate and symposium secretary of AAPSU Marli Kamki in his deliberation stated that if there is no involvement of political parties in PR elections, there will be chaos in the grassroots politics of the state. He also raised concern that if PR election is held without party line, then it will be done on clan basis and in such situation people hailing from bigger clans will win the election.
Kamki was also of the opinion that discussion should also be on the minimum qualification required for the candidates intending to fight PR election.
There was also interactive session wherein participants put up queries to the panelists.
The sessions were moderated by Nending Ommo, assistant professor, government college Yachuli, Jumyir Basar, professor, RGU and Karpu Chisi, copy editor of The Independent Review newspaper.