Elections to the Panchayati Raj Institutions in most of the areas of Himachal Pradesh are slated in three stages on 17th, 19th & 21th of January. Like elections to the Loksabha and the State Assembly, the Panchayati Raj elections too are a quinquennial exercise. The rural people down to the village level become very enhusiastic about these elections as they have the right to vote for and elect their representatives to address local issues at Ward and Panchayat level in the shape of Ward members, Pradhans and Uppradhan . Up the ladder under the three tier systems are the Panchayat Samiti or the BDC at the Block level and the Zila Parishad at the District level. The members of the BDC and the Zila Parishad are fewer in number and represent a larger area.
As is generally observed that in terms of seriousness and sensitivity, the PRI Elections take precedence over Assembly and Loksabha Elections , in which the Party of affiliation rather than the candidate himself/ herself become more important. The Panchayati Raj Elections are not held on Party symbols, rather symbols are allotted in the alphabetical order of the name of the candidate. No candidate has the choice of a symbol.
To an observer, it is amusing to see the maximum zeal and fervour of voters during the PRI elections though the stakes are not the that high. Ironically the Loksabha Elections where the stakes are the highest ,engage the voters the least in terms of zeal and enthusiasm as the M.P. they vote for has a larger Constituency to cater to , often consisting of 3,4 districts .
Even though PRI Elections are not contested on Party symbols, the presence of political Parties on the sly is all too evident and some statements from the Party persons make this more confirmed, when they mention the name of candidates supported by them. In this scenario, the all appeals to the voters to vote for a competent, capable, knowledgeable candidate are given a go by. The ruling party in the State has an obvious advantage, as it is believed and rightly so that the ruling party supported candidate would be better able to push matters and get work done.
In essence and if taken in the right earnest, the PRI elections train the people to participate in the democratic process of decision making.
The aftermath of the Election is worth watching when the rival Political parties lay their claim to successful candidates.
The social Media has become a useful and effective tool for the candidates to reach out to the voter, apart from personal appeals made by visiting the homes.