The Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to hold village council (panchayat) polls on non-party basis next year for the first time since 2001.
Elections to the state’s 2,700 panchayats will be held in March-April, minister for rural development and panchayats Ali Mohammad Sagar said after a meeting on Monday evening.
“It was a unanimous decision and has been conveyed to the cabinet,” he said. “All necessary amendments are being made in the constitution to strengthen the democracy at grassroots level.”
The National Conference (NC) government had recently called a meeting of all recognised parties in the state to propose holding the polls on a non-party basis.
The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) boycotted the meeting, describing it as a “futile exercise”.
“The government has failed on all fronts and the move to hold panchayat polls on a non-party basis is just another attempt to hide its inadequacies and mis-governance,” a senior PDP leader said, requesting anonymity.
The BJP alleged the decision was taken to hide the government’s “inadequacies and failures”.
“The basic purpose of the elections should be bringing democracy at the doorsteps of the people. People need to be fully empowered and it is possible only when the government introduces 73rd and 74th amendments in the state constitution,” said Chaman Lal Gupta, BJP’s legislature party leader.
These two amendments aim to strengthen panchayats and other local bodies. “We believe that the present government will again hijack the entire process as they are power hungry,” Gupta said.
The 2001 elections had taken place after more than 20 years under the chief ministership Farooq Abdullah, the father of incumbent CM Omar Abdullah.