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Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Bypolls Postponed for Three Weeks over Security Issues

Image for representation. (Reuters)

Image for representation. (Reuters)

The by-election to more than 12,500 panchayat seats was scheduled to be held in eight phases from March 5 to March 20.

New Delhi: Bypolls to panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir, scheduled from March 5, have been postponed due to security reasons, J&K Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar said on Tuesday.

The by-election to more than 12,500 panchayat seats was scheduled to be held in eight phases from March 5.

"The bypolls to panchayats has been postponed for three weeks due to security reasons," said Kumar, adding this step was taken after inputs given to him by the home department over security issues.

The polls were scheduled to be held from March 5-20 on a party basis. The voting was slated for March 5, March 7, March 9, March 12, March 14, March 16, March 18 and March 20.

The Model Code of Conduct came into force with the announcement of the bypolls on Thursday. Kumar has already issued two notifications for the first and the second phase.

Panchayat elections, last held in 2018, were boycotted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC).

Kumar earlier on Tuesday held a meeting with all parties amid criticism by the mainstream political outfits about the continuous detention of their leaders and failure to allow them to conduct political activities.

Three former chief ministers — NC's Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah, and PDP's Mehbooba Mufti — have been in detention since last year when the Centre abrogated Article 370 and revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status, splitting it into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

"We held a meeting of all the parties of Jammu and Kashmir to hear their concerns. They raised some grievances in the meeting," Kumar said, adding they "we will try to address the issues suitably".

During the meeting, J&K Congress vice-president GN Monga said despite the election department issuing the notifications, the party's chief in the Union Territory, GA Mir, was not allowed to visit Srinagar to hold meetings in connection with the bypolls.

PDP leaders did not take part in the meeting because the party believes polling cannot take place if the leadership remains under detention, said one of its leader.

The CPI(M) criticised the CEO for failing to invite their party for the meeting.

"We were not invited for the meeting. We are a national party. It is a matter of concern for us," said party leader MY Tarigami.

NC's Ratan Lal Gupta said the party is of the view that the situation is not conducive for holding elections.

(With inputs from PTI)

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