National Conference-Congress combine’s sweeping win in the legislative council polls might have offered a moment of respite for the ruling government but it is the opposition PDP which will have the last laugh over the outcome of the results which might spring up a surprise in 2014 assembly elections, RS Gull reports.
J&K’s more than 34000 Panchs and Sarpanchs finally filled the four berths reserved for the Panchayati Raj Institutions in the state’s legislative council. For the ruling National Conference – Congress coalition, it is a significant win. While the victory has cheered up the parties, it is quite a huge victory for the individuals who will take oath as the ‘lawmakers’ of the state. It is a jump over the trajectory curve that will improve their mobility, social standing, personal economy and obviously the status.
Under the system in vogue, every single member is entitled to a monthly pay bill of Rs 80,000 plus allowances of Rs 1000 daily. Since J&K has twin capital cities, they will get accommodation at both the places and the legislative system will pay for their air tickets plus half of the ticket value as DA for the duration of stay or tour.
Once in a year, they are eligible to avail travel worth Rs 1 lakh for the family. Earlier, they used to have one vehicle but, under the new system, they will have the facility of three vehicles including a police gypsy and a bullet proof car. The government has already purchased a fleet of Bolero vehicles for all the lawmakers of the state.
Apart from the medical allowance that is part of the package, they can claim any rightful amount on health care in a year and it has invariably been seen that every law maker does spend around Rs 2 lakh on healthcare in a year. Apart from a laptop that they will get immediately, they are eligible for a housing loan of not less than half a million rupees in a term and, by and large, it has been seen there is a good default on that front, invariably cutting across party lines.
However, the biggest boost is the constituency development fund (CDF) which was recently increased to Rs 1.5 crore a year. This amount is being spent on various developmental works strictly decided by the lawmakers. It is the lawmaker who decides through which agency the particular funding will be spent. The executive only takes orders – usually no questions are asked. Unlike the members of the state legislative assembly, the ‘elders’ lack a territorial constituency so they can spent anything anywhere as long as it falls within the state. There are instances in which the lawmakers donated part of the funds to the NGOs! For any person who have access of Rs 9 crore in a six-year term, it is a sure fire basics that should enable him or her to cultivate a particular constituency on long term basis. Already, law has been fiddled to make lawmaking a pensionable service.
Given the fully-funded life and lot of avenues to create stakes of a society in a person, the loss for all the losers is a major setback. And this election is no exception.
Losses apart, this election has been very interesting. Political parties did everything possible within their means and possibilities to ensure better management of the Electoral College restricted to not more than 34000 voters. While Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and most of his ministers almost proceeded on leave from governance, the PDP did not rest for more than a month. They visited places which they might have rarely visited during their political career to see how better they can manage a small group of voters across the state.
While the two principal opponents fought each other on various fronts including governance and future vision, there was just one major controversy. The parties openly accused each other of bribing the Panchs. The final shot was that of Omar Abdullah who accused his opposition of gifting make-up kits to the female Panchs. It was termed a very sexiest comment that even triggered a symbolic reaction from a group of females. This, however, did not impact the overall outcome of the exercise. During the day of polling and a day later, there were reports that the coalition partners have had problems in managing the voters at the grassroots level as voters polled only one vote in certain belts and abstained from using the other. The results affirmed the trend but suggested it was a limited localized affair. At the end of the day, it was the coalition that swept the polls – all the four seats. —