Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot on Tuesday accused Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government of "exploiting" sarpanchs and hollowing out Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) during its tenure in the state.
Mr Pilot alleged that the ordinance fixing a minimum educational qualification for contesting elections to the PRIs in Rajasthan has shut the doors for women, poor and other weaker sections of the society.
In December 2014, the state government had issued an ordinance amending the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act, which makes class 8 pass mandatory for the post of sarpanch and class 10 for panchayat samiti election.
"The BJP government exploited sarpanchs and threatened them of dire consequences during the recent bypolls in the state. The government has hollowed out PRIs in the last over four years," Mr Pilot said addressing a gathering of sarpanchs and PRIs representatives.
He said the Congress will strengthen the institutions if it is voted to power in the upcoming Assembly election due later this year.
"Educational qualification criteria should first be implemented in contesting parliamentary elections. It is surprising that uneducated people can reach Parliament but cannot contest election to become sarpanchs," Mr Pilot said.
Congress national general secretary Avinash Pande said it was difficult to understand whether the chief minister has "insulted or honoured" sarpanchs by increasing their pay by Rs 500 each.
He claimed that people are fed up of the "misgovernance" of the ruling BJP in Rajasthan.