Jammu and Kashmir panchayat polls to begin on Nov 17, will be held in 9 phases
The panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in nine phases from November 17 and counting will be held after end of voting or the next day, officials said on Sunday.
The announcement of the schedule for the rural local body polls comes a day after authorities said that municipal polls will start from October 8 and will end by October 20.
Chief electoral officer Shaleen Kabra said that the panchayat elections would be held in nine phases - on November 17, 20, 24, 27, 29, December 1, 4, 8, and 11- and the notification for the first phase will be issued on October 23.
“The government has issued an SRO wherein it has called the electorate to elect sarpanchs and panchs for panchayat halqas,” he told media.
The polls in restive south Kashmir districts, which have witnessed heightened militant activity, will start from third phase on November 24. The polls will take place for multiple days for each district of the state.
Kabra said that the time of polling will be from 8 am to 2 pm and the counting will start immediately after the polls on the same day or the next day.
“An important aspect which has been kept in view is that the number of electorate is each polling station has been kept small,” he said, adding the authorities have also devised the poll timings in such a way so that the annual migratory populations are back to their areas for participation.
“The division administration of Jammu has found out the expected dates for their return from higher reaches which would make it possible that not only the electorate are present when the polling takes place but also people are able to participate by filing nominations particularly in Rajouri, Reasi, Kalakote and Jammu etc area,” he said.
Unlike the municipal polls, the panchayat polls will be held on a non-party basis. “These are not held on party lines. Therefore there is no specific party, which means it is only the free symbols which candidates can select from,” he said.
The tenure of some 4,000 sarpanchs and over 29,000 panchs in the state had ended last year.
The panchayat and municipal polls are happening amid a boycott by the state’s two biggest political parties, the National Conference and the Peoples’ Democratic Party, citing an “atmosphere of fear” due to the “assault on the special constitutional position” of Jammu and Kashmir.
Leaders of both parties had said that the linking of the elections with the case questioning the constitution’s article 35A in the Supreme Court “has created serious apprehensions in the minds of people who genuinely see it as assault on the special constitutional position of the state”.
The Supreme Court last month adjourned hearing to January 2019 on a bunch of petitions against the article 35A after the Centre and the state government argued that it could lead to a law and order situation ahead of the panchayat and local body elections, slated for October-November.
Militants and separatists have asked people to boycott the local body polls, saying people’s participation in the elections are propagated “as a verdict in India’s favour”. Hizbul-Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo has also threatened likely candidates to get shrouds as well when they fill the election forms in a bid to scuttle the elections through fear.