The villagers of Singayai Panchayat in Guna district of Madhya Pradesh turned a new leaf in electoral history of the country last week when they elected unopposed all 13 women members, who had filed their nominations, to their panchayat. Among those elected unopposed is Lalita Rajput, who is the wife of former dacoit Malkhan Singh. Lalita would be heading as Sarpanch an all 12-women member panchayat now, the first of its kind in the state.
The three-phase elections to three-tier local governing bodies in the state are going to be held between June 25 and July 14 this year, through which 875 district panchayat members, 6771 janpad panchayat members, 22,921 sarpanch and 3,63,726 panchs will be elected. The first phase of election was to be held on June 25. June 10 was the last date for withdrawal of nomination papers, after which 3135 candidates were announced elected unopposed.
Behind the turnaround in women empowerment came at the prodding of Makhan Singh, the once dreaded dacoit who ruled the Chambal ravines before his surrender in 1982. When his wife Lalita filed her nomination papers as a candidate for the office of Sarpanch of Singayai village, where Singh settled after his surrender, no other candidate came forward to file his nomination. It was only Singh who had filed nomination for the office, thinking that if her nomination papers were not found in order after scrutiny he would become a candidate. He withdrew his nomination, thus paving the way for his wife to become the Sarpanch.
After the Supreme Court on May 18 allowed OBC reservations in elections to local governing bodies in the state, the villagers unanimously decided to make theirs an all-women panchayat by electing them unopposed. It was, in fact, Singh who made it happen, say sources. Through his conduct Singh has all these years earned respect of villagers who call him ‘Dadda’ endearingly. After settling down for a life of a common citizen, Singh has lost none of his charm and charisma, though. Still wearing those trademark handlebar mustachio, a long tilak on his forehead and long hair, Singh though a farmer by profession is active in local politics.
Singh himself has been a Sarpanch of Singayai, which falls under Aaron tehsil, 40 km from district headquarters. The village still lacks electricity, a metalled road, sewerage system and other modern facilities. Elsewhere in Budhni, the constituency of CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, villagers have elected nine-gram panchayats, after the Chief Minister gave a call of ‘Samras Panchayats (Panchayats of Harmony)’.