Guwahati, Dec 20 (UNI) Enthusiasm, campaigning, fighting and bickering for the Panchayat polls have eclipsed even past general elections in Assam.
As Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi kick-started the Congress campaign, the state secretariat was deserted with each minister's presence in his earmarked district.
All political parties have launched manifestos and thousands filed nomination papers so far.
''This only signifies that Panchyati raj is successful in Assam and power has gone to the grassroot,'' said Mr Gogoi. He makes it a point to attend almost every political rally.
But barely two months ago, in his presence Union Minister for Panchyati Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar had termed Assam as the worst performing state and advised Panchayat members and officials to make a trip to Kerela to see the implementation. According to him, majority of the funds had gone down the drain.
That is perhaps the reason behind the unprecedented involvement of ordinary people in this round of polls slated for December 31, January 4 and 10.
''People are getting more aware. They have realized that power is now in Panchayat,'' said AGP President Brindabon Goswami, who is making local level arrangement with both BJP and Assam United Democratic Front(AUDF) for the polls.
Although the total figure is not yet available as nominations were pouring in from all over the state, about 6000 candidates had so far filed papers and the same number getting ready to do so.
There were revolt and violent protests against every political party. Two persons even committed suicide for not garnering tickets.
''The Panchayat poll is a competition to grab power and money.
The basic fact remains that everyone wants a slice of power,'' said Guwahati University Political Science teacher Dr Noni Gopal Mahanta.
Individual blocks get Rs 1.5 crore under the National Rural Area Workers Guarantee Scheme.
''This enthusiasm is not for betterment of Gramsabha or devolution of power. It is simply a competition to make money,'' said sitting Nalbari panchyat member Ritamani Bhuyan. Disgusted with nepotism and corruption at the grassroot level, she has decided to stay away this time.
Actual implementation of Panchayat Raj will start from now as 33 departments had been handed over to the Panchayat and the state government will play a more advisory role.
''Hence there is unprecedented enthusiasm all around. We have given tickets to those who can not only win but also administrate large amount of funds. These are future leaders,'' maintained CPI national executive member Pramode Gogoi while releasing the party manifesto.
So much so that after the state government postponed Panchayat poll in the Rabaha Autonomous Council area on technical ground, the non Rabhas had attacked police stations and injured seven policemen demanding election to the Panchayat.