For the first time in three decades, model village Hiwre Bazar in Ahmednagar district is set to see a contest in the January 15 gram panchayat elections .
The drought-prone village has earned the distinction of being a model village for its efforts on rural transformation and water harvest. Till the 2015 polls, the village took a collective decision on who will run the gram panchayat to avoid conflict. The village head, Popatrao Pawar, was holding the position for the last 30 years.
Last year, the Centre bestowed Padma Shri to 61-year-old Pawar. This year, he has been challenged by private school teacher Kishore Samble. Efforts made by Pawar and his supporters to avoid the election has failed with the group led by Samble seeking a change of guard in the village.
“A collective and consensus approach was always the strength of this village, which helped Hiwre Bazaar emerge as a role model in rural development. Still, we believe in democracy and elections are a part of the process,” said Pawar.
“While taking some hard decisions in the interest of the village, you often cannot please everybody. Therefore, deviating from the past, we are set for a contest in the gram panchayat polls,” he added. Speaking about Samble’s clarion call for “parivartan”, a member of his group said: “The elections are to end the monopoly of one group, which takes all the decisions in the village.”
The Hiwre Bazaar gram panchayat, with seven seats, will go to polls along with 14,233 other village bodies on January 15. The counting of votes will start on January18. The gram panchayat polls are not contested on party symbols. Another interesting election that is being keenly watched is in Ralegansiddhi, social reformer Anna Hazare’s village in Ahmednagar.
Earlier this month, Hazare, who is revered by villagers, had convened a meeting to avoid a contest between two groups. He urged the villagers to arrive at a consensus and ensure all nine candidates are elected unopposed. However, his efforts failed and of the nine candidates, only two were elected unopposed.