February 2020 News

Govt To Take All Security Measures To Ensure Free, Fair By-elections For Vacant Panchayat Seats'

14 February 2020
Kashmir News Service

Jammu: The LG led administration Friday said that it will ensure adequate security measures for free and fair polls to vacant Panchayat seats in the newly-formed Union territory of J&K. 'We will make adequate arrangements for security for these polls. Additional forces will be deployed in the poll bound areas' a top official in the UT administration said . The official added that the conduct of these by- elections will make a large amount of funds available to the state that will be used directly by the panchayats in their respective areas. The election authority J&K Thursday announced that the polls would be held from March 5 this year. This is the first political exercise in J&K since the withdrawal of special status and the carving out of two Union territories of J&K and Ladakh. Panchayat elections were conducted in November-December 2018 for 4483 Panchayat halqas. There are 4483 Sarpanch and 35029 Panch seats in Jammu and Kashmir. However, elections in 60 percent Panchayat seats could not take place due to varied reasons. In Kashmir out of 20093 Panch and Sarpanch seats, only 6162 Panches and 1366 Sarpanches were elected while 12565 constituencies are lying vacant. In Jammu, 15800 Panches and 2289 Sarpanches were elected where 166 seats are lying vacant. In Ladakh, 45 seats are lying vacant while as 1414 Panches and 192 Sarpanches were elected. However Ladakh has been excluded from this exercise as no request has come from the UT administration. In 2018 panchayat elections, 83.5% turnout was recorded in Jammu division while Kashmir Valley, which also included Ladakh then, recorded 44.4%. Unlike the previous panchayat polls, which were held in October-November in 2018, these by-elections will be contested on party basis, and ballot papers will be used instead of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). For Kashmiri migrants, postal ballot will be available, officials said. 'Keeping in view snowfall and the winter season in Kashmir, we have decided to hold elections as the weather conditions are improving in the Valley too,' Shailendra Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer told reporters in a press conference on Thursday. The polls will be held in 128 blocks in the Kashmir Valley, involving 887 panchayat halqas (an area comprising a village or some contiguous villages), where a total number of 11,457 panch constituencies are vacant. In the Jammu division, by-elections will be held in 182 vacant panch seats in 146 blocks, involving 124 panchayats halqas. 'Almost all blocks have vacancies, and the most vacancies are in the Kashmir division. Every block has one vacancy after the Block Development Council (BDC) polls,' he said. It is to be mention here that the elections are being held even as the top leadership of the main regional parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remain behind bars, including Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. Both the NC and PDP stayed away from the polls in 2018. It remains to be seen if these parties will participate in the upcoming polls or not.