Dates for panchayat and municipal elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be announced on November 3 or 4, said Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha on Monday.
In an exclusive interview to News18, Sinha, who took oath as the second LG of the Union Territory of J&K on August 7 this year, said the upcoming local body and panchayat polls were part of the government’s efforts to bolster the three-tier panchayat system of governance in the country.
These elections will be the first in Jammu & Kashmir after August 5, 2019, when the special status of J&K was abrogated and the state was split into two UTs, and will be seen as an attempt to restart the political process in the region.
“We have strengthened the three-tier system. It was decided in the 73rd amendment, when it was enacted in Parliament in 1992, that there will be a three-tier system of panchayats in the country. Now on November 3 or 4, elections are to be announced (in this regard)," Sinha said.
The upcoming polling process would see election of panch, sarpanch, Block Development Council (BDC) members and chairpersons, and District Development Council (DDC) members and their chiefs, all of whom are going to play more important roles together in the future, he added.
According to official data, around 11,500 panch and 890 sarpanch seats are vacant in Kashmir, while 185 panch and 124 sarpanch seats are vacant in Jammu division. In 2018, regional parties, including the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, had boycotted the panchayat elections, when 83.5% turnout was recorded in Jammu division, while Kashmir Valley, which also included Ladakh then, saw 44.4% turnout.
On October 17 this year, the Centre amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, to facilitate the setting up of DDCs, which will be directly voted by the people in the UT. Political parties in the UT have called it an attempt to undermine and “disempower” the J&K Assembly.
While panchayat elections in 2018 were held on a non-party basis, the municipal polls were held on party-basis. Later, the Block Development Council (BDC) polls, which form the second-tier of panchayats, were also held on party-basis.
Holding of BDC polls will complete the third tier of panchayats that used to be headed by the chief minister and cabinet ministers. The term of the DDC will be five years, and the electoral process will allow for reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.