Kashmir Indepth
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Preparation underway for conduct of bypolls on vacant panchayat seats, BDC polls
‘Elections likely in next two months’, say officials


Sofi Sajad
Srinagar, Sep 16 (KNS): After taking into consideration all relevant factors and inputs from various stakeholders, the Election authority will prepare the schedule for the Panchayat elections on vacant seats and elections on Block Development Councils in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
If the polls take place, it will be the first elections in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state into union territories in August last year.
One of the top governement officals told news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service (KINS) that the elections to about 13,000 vacant posts of panch and sarpanch in gram panchayats and the BDC elections are likely to be held in the next two months. “If all goes well the entire election process is expected to be over by the end of this year,” the offical said wishing not to be named.
Sources said that the central as well as the Union territory government is very keen to hold these elections.  
The posts were lying vacant since November 2018 when the elections to the local bodies were held.
Out of Kashmir’s 20,093 panch and sarpanch seats, more than 12,500 seats have remained vacant since then.
The 2018 polls to the local bodies had witnessed poor participation with two major regional political parties — the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — boycotting it.
The by-election to more than 12,500 panchayat seats was scheduled to be held in eight phases from March 5 this year, however the elections were postponed due to security reasons.
Recently senior BJP leader and former Deputy chief minister Dr Nirmal Singh had told KINS that as far as the BJP is concerned, they are ready for the polls any time.
The BJP is the only party in the state that backs elections at this time. The other major parties, the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party had opposed holding the polls in the New Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
Nirmal Singh had said that BJP is always ready for any democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir. “We will support any process that strengthens the democratic process at the grassroots level. As far as our cadre is concerned, we are always ready to help people and pave the way towards development and normalcy,” he had said.
The BJP leader however had said that as far as the timing of the assembly elections is concerned, the decision and discretion of that is absolutely with the Election Commission of India.
The Election Commission on several occasions had said it would announce elections in the state after it received a green signal from both the Centre and the state government on the law and order situation.
Jammu and Kashmir has not had an elected government since the PDP-BJP coalition government fell apart in June 2018.
Meanwhile the Government has constituted an Apex Level and two Divisional Level committees to conduct preparatory work for bye-elections for Panchayats and Block Development Councils (BDC) in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Apex Level Committee will draw a roadmap and detailed schedule for conduct of elections to vacant panchayats and BDCs across the Union Territory.
The Apex level Committee would do its exercise on the basis of inputs provided by the Divisional Level Committees and upon assessment of the ground level situation taking into consideration security, logistics, personnel, equipment.  The Apex Committee will be headed by the Principal Secretary to the Government, Home Department.
On the basis of assessment of manpower, security, logistics, transport, equipment and all other requirements, the Divisional Level Committees will submit an outline of the possibilities and constraints to the Apex Level Committee for holding Panchayat and BDC elections. The Divisional Level Committees in Kashmir and Jammu will be headed by the respective Divisional Commissioners.
The Divisional Level Committee will submit its report to the Apex Level Committee by September 21, 2020 while the Apex Level Committee shall submit its report to the Government by September 28, 2020.
Both the Apex and Divisional Level Committees will be served by the Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj.
The General Administration Department has issued an order to this effect.(KINS)

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