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Home / India News / Panchayat polls to be held in Jammu and Kashmir in March, Ladakh excluded for now

Panchayat polls to be held in Jammu and Kashmir in March, Ladakh excluded for now

Roughly 60 per cent of the total panchayat seats in the union territory remained vacant even after the last edition in November-December 2018 due to lack of participation.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2020 17:49 IST
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Hindustan Times, Jammu
Jammu & Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar.
Jammu & Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar.(ANI Photo)

The Jammu and Kashmir administration announced on Thursday that the panchayat by-elections will be held in the union territory in eight phases the month of March.

The by-elections for over 12,500 panchayat seats will be the first major political exercise after the BJP government scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in August last year, turned it into a union territory and carved out the union territory of Ladakh from the erstwhile state.

“Polling would be held from March 5 to March 20 and ballots would be used for casting votes. The polling hours will be from 9 am to 1 pm. Votes will be counted and results will be declared on the same day,” he added.

The first phase of the bypolls will be held on March 5, followed by second on March 7, third on March 9, fourth on March 12, fifth on March 14, sixth on March 16, seventh on March 18 and last on March 20, he said.

“Out of 137 blocks in Kashmir, 128 having 887 Panchayat Halqas will go to polls for 11,457 vacant panch constituencies. Similarly, out of 148 blocks in Jammu, 146 having 124 Panchayat Halqas will go to polls for 182 vacant panch constituencies,” said Shailendra Kumar, chief electoral officer of Jammu and Kashmir.

Roughly 60 per cent of the total panchayat seats in the union territory remained vacant even after the last edition in November-December 2018 due to lack of participation in the electoral process. Two major parties of Jammu and Kashmir - National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party - had boycotted these polls.

“The model code conduct comes into force from today itself (Thursday) in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Kumar.

The CEO informed that polls in snowbound areas like Marwah and Dachhan in Kishtwar and Gurez in Kupwara will be held at a later stage. He also said that ballot boxes will be used for the exercise.

In the last panchyat elections, a total of 22,214 panch and 3,459 sarpanch were elected out of a total of 33,592 panch and 4,290 sarpanch constituencies.

Kumar also said that the union territory of Ladakh has not made any request for panchayat polls.

“It is still snow bound and there. It is not feasible to hold polls at this point in time in Ladakh,” he said.

When asked why this edition being conducted on party basis unlike in 2018, Kumar said, “Polls are never non-political... they are always political. Everyone knows that during panchayat polls in 2018 all the candidates were affiliated to certain political groups or ideology. Since they were held on non-party basis they were elected as independents but today if they join political parties they won’t be disqualified. But as per PR Act and rules an independent can officially be with a party. However, a candidate, who won on a ticket of a political party ticket and now wants to leave or join another party, will be disqualified.”

To another query on recent terror attacks in Nagrota and in Srinagar, he said that the security arrangements will be tight.

“We will ensure that polls are held peacefully and whatever is required will be done. As far as security to contesting candidates is concerned, it will be provided as per threat perception to candidates. Once the candidates were announced, IGP and SSPs will be reviewing this aspect,” he said.

To keep a check on expenditure by contesting candidates, the CEO has put a rider of Rs 1 lakh for those contesting for the post of sarpanch and Rs 30,000 for the post of panch.