By: Varun Rattan Singh
Elections to Panchayati Raj institutions in Himachal Pradesh are about to end, making them momentous in the sense that there are many firsts associated with the electoral process, from 50 % reservation for women to contesting urban local bodies elections on party symbols. But, besides the regular inanities and once-in-five-year revelry that accompany any electoral battle, the PRI elections in the state this time were characterised by total lack of issue-based politics. While local issues are expected to dominate the campaigning process in panchayat polls, ground reports suggest lack of commitment from candidates towards the development agenda. So much so that even the parties have forgotten to issue manifestos, even as candidates are fighting elections to urban bodies on party symbols.
On the whole, panchayat elections have kept people busy with laste-night parties and revelries at the cost of contestants. The mood has been certainly lively and upbeat even under harsh winter conditions. No wonder, there are villages after villages showing high voter turnout despite the inclement weather.
The mood has been no different in urban areas with contestants making last-minute efforts to reach out to their ward members. Everybody is heard talking as to how the voters these days have become smart. And yet, no one is asking contestants what change they would bring about in the next five years. Each and every contestant is given assurances of taking care of the ‘individual’, and voters wants to enjoy the party as long as it lasts.
For the first time, we the people are supposed to elect a president and a vice-president of municipal committee. Amidst all this humdrum, a random survey of some panchayats and committees suggest that none of the candidates are contesting the elections with a manifesto. As a voter, we are not sure as to what we can expect from the candidates in the coming five years. On what accounts and measures can we hold the candidate responsible over the next five years? Where is it that these candidates plan to take our towns & villages from here?
It is surprising that municipal elections in most parts of the country are fought on the basis of party manifestos, whereas political parties in Himachal have taken things for granted. It is certainly a case of political parties not owning up the responsibility of participating in these elections in their true spirit.