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19 May 2018

10 parishads free of Opposition

TT, Calcutta: Trinamul will rule 10 out of 20 zilla parishads in Bengal without a single Opposition representative amid questions on whether such hegemony of the ruling party at the highest tier of the panchayat system is good for democracy.

The results of the rural polls held on May 14 revealed that Trinamul had bagged all seats of the zilla parishads in Jalpaiguri, South Dinajpur, East and West Burdwans, North and South 24 Parganas, Bankura, Hooghly, East and West Midnapores.

"I can't recall any instance where a zilla parishad was free of Opposition. This is bad for democracy as absence of Opposition representatives would result in loss of checks and balances in the zilla parishads, which act like local governments," said political scientist Biswanath Chakraborty.

He has explained that as per panchayat rules, Opposition members are an integral part of various standing committees in the zilla parishads. Such panels, which play an advisory role to the zilla parishads, get a democratic shape with the inclusion of the Opposition members, said Chakraborty.

A panchayat department official explained the consequence of a zilla parishad without Opposition.

"There are several standing committees, including those on food, health, education and PWD. Views or comments by Opposition members on the committees are considered to be valuable as they reflect the stand of their parties on the issues concerned," said a panchayat department official.

Besides, the leader of the Opposition in a zilla parishad heads the vigilance and monitoring committee of the rural body. In the absence of Opposition members, this important committee would have to be headed by a member of the ruling party.

Officials in the panchayat department explained that the vigilance and monitoring committee was extremely important in terms of running the zilla parishads properly. The committee's main deliverable is keeping a tab on expenditures incurred by the zilla parishads. As an Opposition member heads the committee, large-scale financial irregularities by the body are averted.

"The committee headed by the leader of the Opposition was considered to be the watchdog of public money," said an official.

The complete hegemony of Trinamul in the zilla parishads could leave the ruling party in trouble in two ways, sources said.

First, there would be no check and balance on the expenditure to be incurred by the zilla parishad. This could lead to large-scale misappropriation of funds. Second, the ruling party could face another problem as there is a chance to develop two power centres in the zilla parishads where no Opposition member was elected.

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