On the birth anniversary day of the ‘Father of the Nation,’ the Congress reiterated its commitment to empowerment of the rural people through strengthening of the Panchayati Raj system. The party president and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, herself came down to this district town to announce her faith in the grass-root level democratic processes in the country on the day which also happened to be the golden jubilee of the launch of the Panchayati Raj system on October 2, 1959, by the first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, at the very venue.

“The Congress believes in empowering the people through democracy. Strengthening the Panchayati Raj system is empowering people,” Ms. Gandhi said addressing a massive gathering in the unusually hot afternoon.

Sonia’s second visit

It was the second visit of Ms. Gandhi to the town in the past five months and there was even a sense of familiarity with the place and people in her tone. “India is the country of villages. If only the rural people feel that they have the power in their hands to take decisions on their own development we can say that the country is fully democratic,” Ms. Gandhi said.

While major announcements of the day including a hike in the remunerations of the elected members of the panchayati raj bodies including panch, sarpanch, pramukhs and pradhans, were left to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj C.P. Joshi, Ms. Gandhi confined herself to the theme of empowerment, the deficiencies in the system and the party’s commitment to diversification of powers. The sapling planted by Pandit Nehru in Nagaur 50 years back survived but it went through a series of trials and tribulations, she noted.

The Congress president, who reiterated the views of earlier speakers, senior party leader, Ramniwas Mirdha and former Union Minister for Panchayati Raj Manishanker Aiyar—who is now in charge of the Congress cell on Panchayat Raj—that the system had its enemies and did not deliver the way it was expected by Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru said: “The Panchaayti Raj got weakened due to deficiencies in the system such as power politics and bureaucratic interference. The elections were delayed in some States for inordinate periods,” she said recollecting the amendments which the late Rajiv Gandhi brought about as Prime Minister to make it mandatory to have time-bound elections to the Panchaytai Raj bodies.

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