Bihar, where the posts of Mukhias (chairmen of the village panchayats) was not
reserved, a study points that following the 2001 panchayat elections due to
reservation the percentage of Dalits in panchayats had risen to 17 percent but
the percentage of Dalit Mukhias had declined from 1.31 percent to 1.06 percent
which is much below the share of Dalits in the population.1
But another study of the 2001 Bihar panchayat election points out, that despite
the backwards and Bhumihars retaining substancial social and political at the
grassroots, due to heightened awareness , Dalit Mukhias who managed to win were
all elected in direct contests most of them from districts that have
experienced the worst atrocities against the Dalits like Gaya, Jehanabad, Aurangabad,
to the recent 2006 panchayat elections, the new JD(U)-BJP government formed by
Nitish Kumar in 2005, promulgated the bihar panchayat raj ordinance, 2006,
which provide among other : 50 percent reservation of the total seats in the
Gram Panchayat fro Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Castes; of
these 50 percent for women belonging to these categories; the seats were to be
reserved based on the respective population of these categories to the total
population of the area.
studies hold that elections were still conducted on the basis of the old feudal
“might is right” principle and the polls witnessed larse-scale violence, the
worst being in Nalanda and Nawada districts of south Bihar.
Even where Dalits are in the large number this
doesnot necessarily provide them democratic representation. In a study of four
villages in the Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh in which the Dalits form a
majority of the population, in 1995 panchayat elections, many Dalit families
decide to put up their women as candidates for the post of Pradhani reserved
for Dalit women. However, some respondent pointed that their elections was the
result of a tacit agreement between powerful Jat(landowning middle caste) and
the forward and better-off Dalit families.3
A recent study provides example among women representatives
1 Ashok K Pankaj and
Mahendra P Singh, “The Changing Socio-Political Profile of Local Political
Elites(mukhias) in Bihar: A Study of the
1978 and 2001 Panchayat Elections”, Contributions
to Indian Sociology 39, 3 (2005): 412.
2 Shaibal Gupta,
“Bihar: New Panchayats and Subaltern Resurgence”, Economic and Political Weekly 36, 29 (2001): 2743.
3 Sudha Pai, Opcited, 51.