Give more powers to local bodies: Naidu

Pondicherry Oct. 3. The BJP president, M.Venkaiah Naidu, has urged the Centre to devolve effective administrative and financial powers to panchayat raj institutions.

Addressing presspersons here today, he said the Union Government should utilise the conference of the Project Directors of the District Rural Development Agencies (DRDAs) to be inaugurated by the Prime Minister, A.B. Vajpayee, in New Delhi tomorrow, to evolve measures to bring a Constitutional amendment to devolve powers to local bodies as it would help them fully discharge their responsibilities.

He said though the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution had earmarked 29 subjects to the local bodies, no administrative or financial powers were given to them. This handicap could be overcome through an amendment to the Constitution. `Gramraj was essential to achieve Ramraj dreamt by Gandhiji.'

Mr. Naidu said the coming winter session of Parliament should deliberate on this important issue and called upon the opposition parties to support the issue.

The BJP chief, who was here to meet the cadre, said such meetings were being held at State, district and block levels in a phased manner. A convention would be held on October 8 in Gujarat. He said no State should postpone elections to civic bodies and the constitutional amendment that he wanted the Centre to bring in now should ensure periodical elections to panchayat bodies.

On the disinvestment of public sector undertakings, he said the NDA was committed to achieve the goal. He appealed to the Ministers in the Union Cabinet to have their discussion on disinvestment in the Cabinet without airing the views in public as it would send wrong signals. As far as sharing of the Cauvery water between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka concerned, Mr. Naidu said both the States should have mutual discussions to sort out the problem or act with the cooperation of the Centre or go by the court verdict.

The BJP secretary, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, the Union Minister of State for Shipping, S. Tirunavukarasar, the BJP Pondicherry State president R. Kesavelu, the MLA, A.M. Krishnamoorthy, and the organising secretary, Ragu Sundararaman, were also present. Earlier a rousing reception was accorded by the cadre to Mr. Naidu on his arrival here.

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