S. Annamalai

Conduct polls in 2006 on party lines, as in Kerala, says expert

MADURAI: Assembly elections come and go, but these reserved panchayats are destined to remain headless. The election manifesto and rhetoric of the major Dravidian parties, All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), have no reference to the four reserved panchayats in Madurai and Virudhunagar districts, which, except one, have found it impossible to elect a president since 1996 when elections were held under the revised Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994.

The ruling party manifesto speaks only about the "achievements" of "Puratchi Thalaivi Amma" in local governance and claims "local body [sic] has attained self-sufficiency." The "achievements" include implementation of the New Anna Marumalarchi Thittam, Namadhu Gramam, computerisation of village panchayats and provision of cell phones. But there is no assurance that elections will be held to the Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattarmangalam panchayats in Madurai district and Kottakachiendal in Virudhunagar.

The DMK manifesto, which is also silent over this issue, says: "We will insist the Centre bring in suitable Constitutional amendment to remove the shortcomings and complications in the functioning of the present three-tier local bodies." The Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have vowed to conduct elections in these panchayats. But the Dalit Panthers of India, which attempted to back candidates in these panchayats, is for a legal solution.

The new Government has to look into the question of de-reserving these panchayats, where elections could not be held, or the elected president had put in his papers after assuming office. Only in the case of Nattarmangalam had there been a president, Yosanai, between 1996 and 2001. When the dominant caste Hindu group was anticipating de-reservation in 2001, the Government decided to extend reservation for another five years.