March 2018 News

Governor Again Asks CM To Take Call On Panchayat, Municipal Polls

9 March 2018
The Daily Excelsior

Jammu: Governor N N Vohra has once again called upon Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to take call on holding Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir, which were now overdue but the PDP-BJP coalition Government seems to be in no mood to hold early elections to the two grass-root level civic bodies citing security considerations, law and order problem and tourist season. Sources told the Excelsior that the Governor, who had been for the past quite some time now calling upon the State Government to hold Panchayat and Municipal elections in the State, again conveyed his concern to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti when she called on him at the Raj Bhawan here last evening. 'The Governor wanted elections to both urban and rural civic bodies to be held in the State for restoration of democracy at grass-root level, which would also lead to more development and release of funds, which have been blocked by the Central Government in the absence of elected civic bodies,' sources said. Earlier also, the Governor, on a number of times, had conveyed his concern to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and stressed on holding early elections to both Panchayats and Municipalities, sources said, adding that the Chief Minister had, in one such meeting with Vohra in December 2017, conveyed to him that process of Panchayat elections in the State would start on February 15, which would be followed by the polls to the Urban Local Bodies. However, the Government made no efforts to hold the elections either to Panchayats or Municipalities. Sources said the State Government had conveyed to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was keen on holding elections to Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir, that upcoming tourist season in summer could be affected if there was violence during the Panchayat elections. The Government had also cited that majority view at an All Party Meeting, convened by the Chief Minister on Panchayat elections, had opposed the polls at this stage. Meanwhile, sources said, the State Government hasn't conveyed any decision to the State Election Commission (SEC) on holding or deferring of the Panchayat elections. In January this year, the Government had asked the SEC to make preparations for holding Panchayat elections but a formal order by the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Ministry, on the basis of which, the SEC had to announce the election schedule, was never issued. The Government had already designated the office of Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) as the State Election Commission for holding the Panchayat elections as no separate SEC has been set up so far for the purpose. 'The SEC has neither been asked to halt preparations for the Panchayat elections, which had been initiated in the month of January, nor directed to keep going,' sources said. However, they added, the State Government had reportedly conveyed to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs not to send additional companies of para-military forces for holding Panchayat elections as it was not in a position to hold the elections at this juncture. The MHA, it may be mentioned, had agreed to provide about 100 additional companies of para-military Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) for conduct of smooth Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Sources said the companies were not dispatched to J&K as the State Government decided against holding the elections. Panchayat elections have been pending in the State for past more than one and a half years. Last elections to the Panchayats were held in 2011 and the elected bodies had completed their term in July 2016. The Municipal elections were last held in January 2005 and the elected ULBs had completed their term in March 2010. Even after the lapse of eight years, the elections to the ULBs hadn't been held. The State Election Commission during January this year had finalized electoral rolls for the Panchayat elections, which were around 58 lakh. Other preparation for the Panchayat elections like arrangement of ballot boxes etc had also been made. Sources said with tourist season about to set-in during the next few days, which will be followed by two month long pilgrimage to holy cave shrine of Shri Amarnath Ji in South Kashmir Himalayas beginning June 28, the elections could be pushed several months ahead now.