Patna: Rural Bihar is witnessing unusual scenes these days, with several candidates who were defeated in the recently-held Panchayat elections threatening people who didn't vote for them. In the first instance, a candidate who contested for the Mukhiya post threatened to harm voters who didn't support his candidature. In another instance, a former ward member forcibly stopped the village tap water supply to express anger over her defeat.
Local media has reported on dozens of defeated candidates across the state, warning the voters in their respective villages of dire consequences.
The 11 phase elections for the three-tier Panchayati Raj system began last month. So far, three phases of elections have been completed, with results declared. These polls are the first statewide elections conducted after the Bihar Assembly polls, held in October and November last year.
With political activities at their peak amid annual Durga Puja festivities, people of Manjharia village, under Saphi panchayat in Turkaulia block in East Champaran district, are living under fear following threats from a defeated candidate, Paras Choudhary, who contested for the Mukhiya post.
Angry over his defeat, Choudhary claimed that he had identified five villagers who had betrayed him by not voting for him.
A villager Dinesh Singh has lodged a written complaint in the local police station, alleging that Choudhary blamed him and several others for his defeat, and abused and threatened to kill him. "My family members and I are fearing for our lives," Singh said.
Police officer Kanchan Bhaskar said police are investigating the case.
In another similar display of anger, a ward member Vinita Devi of Nawadih panchayat, under the Kaukol block in Nawada district, stopped water supply to the entire village. It caused issues for villagers dependent on the water supply under the Nal Jal Yojna.
Local villagers alleged that Vinita and her husband Ranjit Kumar had disconnected the water supply from the mini water supply centre after her defeat.
In the last two weeks, Hindi dailies in the state have reported on several other similar cases from different panchayats.
According to reports, voters in most panchayats elected new faces over the old ones. More than 80% of existing Mukhiyas, Sarpanch and ward members were defeated in multiple villages as people preferred new candidates who promised corruption-free development in panchayats.
The panchayat polls were delayed due to the second wave of COVID-19. The polls were scheduled to be held in April-May 2021.
In August, the state cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar approved the proposal for the panchayat elections to elect over 2.59 lakh representatives. Following that, the State Election Commission(SEC) formally issued the notification for the polls. According to the official release, the first phase of voting was held on September 24, and the last phase of voting is scheduled for December 12.
The panchayat polls will not be contested on the party lines. The candidates contesting these polls will not be allowed to use the flags of political parties during the campaign.
In view of floods in north Bihar districts, the SEC has decided that polls will first take place in the flood-free districts. The flood-affected districts will have polls either in November or December.
According to officials, there will be no panchayat elections in 300 panchayats, as they were merged with new urban bodies created by the state government. In a bid to boost urbanisation, the government last December had approved the creation of over 100 new urban local bodies and upgraded the status of existing ones.
Leaders and workers of all major political parties, including the ruling NDA and the opposition Mahagathbandhan, have become active to ensure the success of candidates backed by them. The campaigning in Panchayat elections mainly involves door-to-door campaigns and small meetings.