BJP Eyes ULB Polls To Open Account In Kashmir

6 May 2015
Greater Kashmir

Srinagar: After drawing blank from Kashmir and Ladakh regions in the Assembly polls, the BJP is eyeing the Urban Local Bodies (ULB) elections-a long overdue - in a bid to open its account in Kashmir. The government, especially the Housing and Urban Development Department would approach the Election Commission of India (ECI) soon after the conclusion of Amarnath Yatra on August 29 to explore possibilities of holding ULB polls. 'There is no doubt that we did not win any seat in Kashmir during the Assembly polls. But we have a big challenge ahead-ULB polls and the elections for Municipal Corporations,' Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh told Greater Kashmir. 'Given the nature of enthusiasm among the party workers of Kashmir I am hopeful that BJP would mark its presence in Kashmir to serve the people on ground.' He said ULB polls were a big opportunity for the BJP to share the responsibilities at the grassroots level. 'I am hopeful that these elections would be held in the coming months,' said Dr Singh, who holds the portfolios of Housing and Urban Development. A BJP insider, said that party would field 'Maximum candidates and ensure maximum seats of councilors and Corporators.' 'For this, we have to revive our voter base which is around 50,000 in Srinagar alone,' he said. 'Plus, our membership will also help us to mark a significant presence in the ULB polls.' Minister of State for Housing and Urban Development, Muhammad Ashraf Mir said that due to the long delay in holding ULB polls, the State is losing huge amount, which otherwise is supposed to be spend on the development of Municipal wards. 'Having a Mayor for Srinagar and Jammu cities is a must and for that, you need to hold elections,' he said. 'We are committed to hold elections to the Municipalities. Given the tourism season, and upcoming Amarnath Yatra, we will consult ECI in September and ensure that elections are held.' Reliable sources in the government revealed that the both the coalition partners-PDP and BJP have agreed to conduct ULB polls. However, no time frame has been set. Pertinently, the ULB polls were held in J&K in January 2005 after a gap of 23-years. According to officials, 14.5 lakh voters had exercised their franchise to elect 76 ULBs. At present the number of ULBs has rose up to 82 including two Municipal Corporations of Jammu and Srinagar. As per the provisions of Local Bodies Act, State Cabinet has to finalize the deadline for completion of term within six months, which is to be formally announced by the Housing and Urban Development Department. The previous National Conference and Congress had set up several deadlines about holding the elections. They had set October-November 2011 and later April 2012 and then June 2013 as deadlines for holding the civic polls but failed to hold elections.