J&K Block Development Council Polls Likely to be Held Next Month in First Test of 'Normalcy'
The schedule of the polls to 316 Block Development Councils in Jammu and Kashmir will be announced in a day or two. These elections will be seen as the first test of the government’s claim of normalcy in Kashmir.
File photo of elections in Jammu and Kashmir. (Reuters)
New Delhi: Block Development Council (BDC) elections will likely be conducted in Jammu and Kashmir next month. The polls will be completed before the state is formally declared a Union Territory on October 31.
The schedule of the polls will be announced in a day or two, according to a report by The Hindu. Several other reports have, however, said that the elections are likely to be held within this month. These elections will be seen as the first test of the government’s claim of normalcy in Kashmir. It will also test the popularity of Modi government’s decision to scrap J&K’s special status.
However, given that the leader and ground-level workers of the region's major political parties, including the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party, are being held in detention participation in the polls remains to be seen.
The report in The Hindu quoted senior government officials as saying that preparations have been made for the polls “including the preparation of electoral rolls” as it was expected to follow the panchayat polls.
“But it was held up because of the Lok Sabha polls,” government officials were quoted as saying.
The BDC elections are the next step in the process towards the full devolution of rural and urban local bodies. After the panchayat polls in December last year, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had announced their intention to hold elections in 316 of the state's block councils.
A large delegation of sarpanches elected in the polls held in last year, recently met Modi, Shah and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu. The elections last year had been held amid strong protests by regional parties, who had boycotted the polls. The central government has for some time now been advocating for the strengthening of grassroots democracy in the valley.
Amit Shah had also met the sarpanches in his last visit to Kashmir in July this year when he said that the elected heads will take the governments mission forward. He had also promised a Rs 3700 crore package to provide, what has been called, doorstep governance.
To streamline the process, the government had also launched a ‘back to the villages’ program for the class I officers of the state so that they could, in coordination with the panch, work on a massive redevelopment of the rural areas of J&K.
The Block Development Councils are the second tier of local government under the Panchayati Raj system. The Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act of 1989 prescribes panchayat elections every five years at three tiers—to the halqas, to the BDCs, and to the district development and planning boards.
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