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Bhandari criticises Union Panchayati Raj Minister

Written by: Staff
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Gangtok, Apr 6 (UNI) Sikkim Pradesh Congress president Nar Bahadur Bhandari today criticised Union Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer for praising the state for its panchayat system.

Mr Aiyer, who visited the state recently, said the state had one of the best run panchayat systems and could be a role model for rest of the country.

Mr Bhandari told a news conference that Mr Aiyer was invited by the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) government to supress the Governor's statement.

Mr Bhandari said Governor V M Rao had expressed his displeasure over the functioning of the Panchayati after extensive touring and interaction with the people. Mr Bhandari said the governor had pointed out that the government had no accountability in the panchayat system.

Mr Bhandari dubbed Mr Aiyer as a spokesman of the SDF government and his trip to Sikkim as an ''aerial pleasure trip''.

Mr Bhandari, who was the chief minsiter of Sikkim between 1979 to 1993, wondered how Mr Aiyer gave a clean chit to the government on the first day of his arrival without talking to the people and knowing the ground realities.

He said 75 per cent of the Panchayats in the state were nominated and not elected. Mr Aiyer who was in-charge of Sikkim during the gram panchayat elections made the statement despite being fully aware of the situation.

Mr Bhandari claimed that the minister committed an offence by making such a statement and the Congress would take up the matter with party president Sonia Gandhi.

He said though the state unit had requested Mr Aiyer to tour the state only after PCC President returned from Asom after campaigning but that did not happen.

Mr Bhandari also condemned the statement of B B Gooroong, press Advisor to Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, that the Sikkim Legislative Assembly members were protected by Disqualification Act, 1978, for holding office of profit.

The Congress leader said as per the Act the MLAs appointed as Chairpersons and Chief whips were only entitled to get compensatory allowances not remunerations, benefits, and other allowances.

The Act also did not permit cabinet ministers status to such persons.

Drawing remunerations and facilities more than what had been prescribed in the the Act was reason enough to disqualify the MLAs.

He criticised Mr Gooroong for misleading the people by giving wrong facts.

Mr Bhandari said as many as 17 MLAs of the ruling SDF were holding offices of profit and demanded their disqualification.

He said a nine-member team of the party led by him had submitted a revised petition to the Governor yesterday to initiate steps for the disqualification of the 17 MLAs for holding offices of profit.

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