In Maharashtra, shameless auctioning of panchayat posts has been reported from at least two villages, the amounts of which lay anywhere between a whopping Rs. 1.1 crore to Rs. 2 crore.
Now, after having gained social media attention, the Maharashtra State Election Commission has called off gram panchayat polls in at least two villages. The election process for Umrane gram panchayat in Nashik and Khondamali gram panchayat in Nandurbar has been scrapped, even as elections for 14,234 gram-panchayats are held on January 15.
The shocking development has shaken the very foundations of democracy in Maharashtra. Reportedly, auctioning for the post of sarpanch and members of the panchayat was also held in an onion market of Umrane. For reasons best known to the state election commission, it seems to have been completely unaware of such anti-democratic activities taking place right under its nose. How could an event like auctioning of sarpanch posts not come to the notice of the election commission or the state administration?
Only after the commission received several complaints about electoral malpractices in the form of audio and video clips, they decide to crack the whip on the culprits.
“The commission, therefore, has decided to cancel the election process in these two village bodies. We have also directed district police authorities to initiate action against the people involved in it under section 171 (C) of the Indian Penal Code and submit a report. Police have already registered a complaint regarding the auctions,” said State election commissioner UPS Madan.
At the onion market of Umrane, the bidding for the post started from Rs. 1.1 crore, and went up to no less than Rs. 2 crore. The incident is said to have taken place on 27 December last year. It took more than half a month for the state election commission to cancel the polls in the two villages, merely two days prior to the actual elections no less.
Elections of any kind are conducted by the election commission of India or state election commissions while deploying all modes necessary to ensure that there is an absolute level playing field for all the candidates and that the voters can exercise their franchise freely and without subversion.
The incidents from Maharashtra, however, have reaffirmed the faith of many that democracy is indeed in danger in the state. The culprits must be made to face the law so that an example is made out of them, assuring the country that democracy is not up for sale in the state of Maharashtra.