More than 80,000 candidates are in fray for elections to various panchayati raj bodies in Himachal Pradesh which are to be held later this month, the state election commission Thursday said. There are around 3,600 gram panchayats, 78 panchayat samitis and 12 zila parishads in the state, most of which will be going to polls in three phases from January 17 to 21.
Final lists of contestants to various posts of all three tiers of panchayati raj institutions have been displayed in public offices following the expiry period of withdrawal of candidature, the commission said.
For the 11 Zila Parishads going to polls this month, the names of around 1,200 candidates have been finalised for 249 seats following the rejection and withdrawal of candidates. Elections to the Lahaul Spiti Zila Parishad and some other panchayati raj bodies are due later this year as their terms have not expired yet.
For the block development council or panchayat samiti elections, more than 6,700 candidates are contesting for nearly 1,700 seats. For the gram panchayat elections, there are more than 16,000 candidates contesting for the pradhan posts, around 18,500 candidates contesting for the up-pradhan posts and around 39,500 candidates contesting for ward membership.
Over 100 panchayats elected unopposed
At least 102 panchayats, including 33 in Sirmaur, 23 in Kinnaur and 11 in Lahaul-Spiti, have been elected unopposed. Besides, 14 pradhans, 30 up-pradhans and 54 panchayat samiti members have also been elected unopposed. Election officials said that an award money will be given to panchayats which have entirely been elected unopposed.
*Petitions challenging reservation rosters dismissed*
The High Court of Himachal Pradesh has dismissed four civil writ petitions, which had challenged the reservation roster issued for the elections in some parts of the state. The petitions alleged illegal repetition of reservation of some areas for a particular category. But following the government’s submission, the high court concluded that in every third cycle of elections, there is bound to be repetition of reservation in some areas due to the formula for reservation of seats as per Article 243 of the Constitution, the HP Panchayati Raj Act and the HP Panchayati Raj (Election) Rules.
Some other issues raised in the petitions were also dismissed because the election process is already underway and the petitions could not be considered maintainable at this late stage due to the limitations on judicial review imposed by Article 243-O of the Constitution, the high court said.
For the future, the court has directed the state government to make fresh allocation of reservation in case of re-organised, bifurcated, separated or newly-created gram panchayats, keeping in view the changed population structure. The court has also asked the government to make the reservation rosters public at least three months before the start of the election process so that such disputes can be resolved timely.