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Direct Vs Indirect Election to Grama Panchayat President: Reflections and Implications
This discussion paper is a qualitative analysis built on opinions. Though there is no one-to-one link between performance and service delivery of grama panchayats (GPs) and method of election to GP president, the paper talks about opinions, which support direct election. There is a discussion going on at the policy level in States like Karnataka whether to go in for direct election of the president of the gram panchayat or not. Although the overall preference of stakeholders and people is for direct election, the empirical data and the opinions of those with whom we interacted fail to clearly bring out the justification for direct or indirect election of GP president. The reasons are many: the differences in structure and size of the panchayats across selected States, linkages with higher level of PRIs, their financing mechanism and devolution of powers. In the absence of counterfactuals with similar panchayati raj system in States with direct election it is difficult to say which system is better than the other. Though the differences are not very significant, resource mobilisation, efficiency in delivery of services and utilisation of funds appear to be better in States with direct election. And, quick decisions, higher social auditing, higher social equity, satisfaction with election system and low incidence of no-confidence motion, dominance of caste are also the features noted in States with direct election. On the other hand, cooperation and collective decision, weightage to the institution rather than the individual, competition among members for getting benefits to their wards are some of the merits of indirect election. After weighing the merits of both the systems, direct election clearly stands out as a preferred system.
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