October 2018 News

After ULBs; Process For Crucial, Tough Panchayat Polls To Begin On Oct 23

14 October 2018
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: With just one phase of Municipal elections left, focus of the State Election Commission will now shift to toughest ever exercise of conducting elections to 4490 Panchayats across the State in nine phases for which massive deployment of para-military and police personnel is being planned for ensuring safety and security of the candidates. Process for the Panchayat elections will be set into motion on October 23 with notification for first phase of polling, which will cover all three regions of the State including Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, official sources told the Excelsior. They said the exercise to hold Panchayat elections will be more exhaustive and tough as compared to Urban Local Bodies as there were 4490 Panchayats spread over 316 blocks in 22 districts of the State including 10 each in Jammu and Kashmir regions and two in Ladakh region. Besides 4490 seats of Sarpanchs, election will be held for 35096 segments of Panchs in the State, sources said, adding that 58.12 lakh voters were eligible to exercise their right to franchise in the Panchayat elections. There were 16.97 lakh voters for 1145 Wards of 79 Urban Local Bodies in the Municipal elections, the last phase of which is scheduled to be held on October 16 followed by counting on October 20. 'In the Panchayat elections, the counting of votes will be immediately taken up after voting is over at 2 pm in every phase,' sources said, pointing out that this was being done as the elections are being held on non-party basis. Results of the elections will be declared the same night. Nine-phase Panchayat elections are scheduled to be held on November 17, 20, 24, 27, 29 and December 1, 4, 8 and 11. The process will be completed well before the onset of winter. Admitting that process to hold Panchayat elections is going to be tougher than the Urban Local Bodies in view of involvement of 58.12 lakh electorates of rural areas as against 16.97 lakh in Municipalities in urban and semi-urban areas, sources said a comprehensive strategy is being drafted by the Election Commission with the help of State administration to conduct the elections smoothly and peacefully. The State Government was expecting arrival of more para-military companies from the Union Home Ministry once the process for Panchayat elections is set into motion. The Home Ministry has assured deployment of additional 400 companies of para-military forces for Municipal and Panchayat elections. According to sources, the para-military companies deployed for Municipal elections across the State will also stay put here and will be used for Panchayat elections as the Election Commission as well as the State Government were of the view that massive deployment will be required in rural areas both for area domination as well as sanitizing polling stations and taking care of the contestants. While there were just around 3000 candidates in Municipal elections, authorities were expecting around one lakh candidates for 4490 Sarpanch and 35096 Panch segments and it will be an uphill task to protect them. However, the Government has decided to conduct area domination patrolling in elections-bound areas and polling stations to keep the militants at bay as they were frustrated following successful conduct of three phases of Urban Local Bodies polls and would go all out to target the Panchayat elections once the process reaches rural areas. The Panchayat elections in the State are being held after a gap of over seven years. They were last held in April-May 2011 during National Conference-Congress coalition Government headed by Omar Abdullah and the Panchayats were constituted in June-July 2011. The elected Panchayats had completed their five-year term in July 2016. However, the elections were not held to them for past two years. Grants running into several crores have either lapsed or have been withheld by the Central Government to Jammu and Kashmir Government in the absence of elected Panchayats and Municipalities. There are no elected Municipalities in the State since March 2010.