The grass-root political leaders in Odisha seem all fired up and ready to go, even in the face of the daunting super-mutant Omicron-led Third Wave. The number of nominations filed for the all-important sarpanch posts tells a larger tale.
As per the data released by the State Election Commission (SEC), for the 2022 edition of the Panchayat elections, a high of 34,613 nominations have been received for the post of sarpanch.
In Odisha, the elections to the bodies like Ward Members, Sarpanch and Panchayat Samiti members are not held on the party lines. And the flocking of record nominations for the all-important sarpanch posts pops out the budding leaders' big appetite for the grass-root democratic privileges and perks.
2017 Vs 2022
In 2017, the total number of nominations filed for the sarpanch posts were 26,539. A total of 3,288 nominations were filed for the 853 Zilla Parishads and over 1.37 lakh for the Panchayat ward members. More than 22k nominations were received by the SEC for the post of Panchayat Samiti members.
The new normal pandemic had no traces then in the State or even in the country. And a sort of carnival ambience had been ruling the rural landscape. A feverish campaign was launched by all - from parties to independents.
Cut to 2022. The heads of the third wave are up. And the SEC has put an embargo on all sorts of poll jamboree.
Despite the signs of peaking third wave, while 34,613 nominations for the sarpanch have been received by the SEC on the last day of filing nominations, it received 3,999 for Zilla Parishads (ZP), over 1.62 lakh for ward members and over 28 k for samiti members.
However, a number-crunching lets to fore the enthusiasm meter of the budding politicians in rural Odisha.
While for the base of the rural democracy pyramid (means for Panchayat ward members) the nominations have posted only an 18 percent rise vis-a-vis the 2017 filings, the increase for the sarpanch has been 30 percent.
The growth of nominations filed in 2022 for the ZP has been 22 percent and around 27 percent for the samiti members.
Moreover, on average, for each sarpanch in a Gram Panchayat, at least 5 nominations have been received. On the contrary, the ratio has been 1: 4 for ZPs and PS members. For each ward member, an average of only around 2 nominations were filed, the SEC data revealed.
Lure Of Sarpanch?
As per the Odisha Panchayati Raj department notification, sarpanches have been vested with the power to call tenders for development works worth up to Rs 1 lakh. The State government has recently raised their monthly honorarium by 25 percent to Rs 2350. Besides, they are entitled to other perks like travelling and Gram Panchayat sitting allowances.
Moreover, the duties and functions of a sarpanch lay a perfect launchpad for their future political career, as their job profiles endear them to the masses on the ground and they are most sought after by the MLAs and MPs during general elections, who count on them for winning a large number of gram panchayats to establish a lead over the rivals, observed political observers.
As per political observers, the contest for sarpanch is also being looked up to by the aspirants as a popularity meter to draw the attention of big political leaders in their respective districts and at the constituency level.
It seems the lure for the sarpanch is guided by factors ranging from payouts, remunerations and perks to power. And therefore a sharp rise in nominations for the post is seen even in pandemic times.
18 Lakh First-Time Voters To Cast Ballot
As per the data released by SEC, a total of 2.79 crore voters will cast their ballots in the 2022 Panchayat polls. On contrary, the eligible voters in 2012 polls were around 2.609 crore. The data further adds that over 18.07 lakh first-time voters will exercise their universal suffrage this time.