Jammu and Kashmir Congress leader Shahnawaz Choudhary today accused the state government of working towards "weakening" the panchayati raj system and alleged that steps like indirect election of sarpanches would lead to horse-trading. The general secretary of the state Congress and state convenor of Rajiv Gandhi Panchayati Raj Sangathan (RGPRS), said his party would launch a state-wide awareness campaign against the "undemocratic step" of the PDP-BJP government. Amid protests and walkout by the Opposition parties, Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council had last year passed an amendment to the Panchayati Raj Act, allowing indirect election of sarpanches by panches instead of a direct election. "Indirect election of sarpanches is a joke on democracy and will weaken the panchayati raj system.
Instead of strengthening the institution, the government has disturbed the basics of democracy," Choudhary said. At a meeting of RGPRS at the state Congress headquarters here, he said, "The previous government had tried to strengthen the Panchayati Raj in the state by passing the bill in the Assembly as per the provisions of 73rd amendment. "But the PDP-BJP government, instead of implementing it, have diluted the state Panchayti Raj Act and has imposed indirect elections in panchayats," Choudhary said. The RGPRS meeting passed a resolution to fight against the government's decision of holding indirect elections of sarpanches. Choudhary said the move has shattered the faith of the people in the present dispensation as "this will give rise to horse-trading". "Conducting indirect elections and centralising panchayats will lead to weakening of the institution. This is murder of democracy," he said. Choudhary said RGPRS advocates decentralisation of power, enhance devolution literacy among panchayati raj institution representatives and generate awareness amongst the citizens regarding the role and power of local self government.