In Goa, one of the most influential and powerful bodies being wooed by political parties are the local Panchayats. With land parcels in limited supply, in a tourism sector-dominated state, these bodies are required to get permits for building construction, renovation, road cutting or running a commercial venture, and can pass demolition order of any house not constructed as per maps approved by the town planning body.
Most political parties are going through the village Panchayat leaders to reach out to the community, also assuring them that their rural bodies will be bestowed with additional funds and welfare schemes.
These Panchayats are the direct point of contact if anyone in the village needs permission to construct or renovate a house, build an access road to the house, get electricity, water connection or to procure licence to run a commercial venture from their residence.
But what if a Panchayat member in a village starts campaigning for the party not supported by the sarpanch or other Panchayat members?
“They can’t oppose our choice openly. Unka kaam hamare paas rehta hai (they have to get their work done from us),” said one of the sarpanchs in Santa Cruz Assembly constituency.
In Goa, village panchayats wield enviable amount of clout. Without village sarpanch’s permission, even getting electricity or water supply is near impossible. These Panchayats in return are promised development funds and other support if the candidate is elected.
One Assembly constituency will have around five to six village panchayats. With their backing, a candidate is virtually assured of a good outing in elections. As voting day approaches on February 14, many sarpanchs and Panchayat members are busy scheduling meetings with villagers and locals they helped get permits and licences.
Union minister Sripad Naik had recently come to meet members of the Chimbel village panchayat in Santa Cruz Assembly seat. The BJP had sent its trusted Bhandari community leader too woo the village sarpanch, also a Bhandari, and members of the Panchayat in the constituency that is considered to have a significant number of Bhandari community voters.
With inputs from News18