SRINAGAR, Sep 18: Amid apprehensions about municipal and panchayat polls due to boycott of main political parties and threats by militants, around 26,000 ballot boxes and thousands of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) have been transported to the state.
Even as the government has announced the dates for urban local bodies and panchayat elections, the polls are still under a cloud of controversy, as two major political parties—the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC)—have announced that they would boycott them.
Both the rival parties have made it clear that they would not contest the elections unless New Delhi clarifies its position on Article 35A of the Constitution, which is facing legal challenge in the Supreme Court.
The Congress has also said that currently, the ground situation in the valley is not conducive for holding these polls.
An official at Chief Electoral Officer told The Kashmir Monitor that government was still apprehensive whether the polls will be held without participation of main political parties.
“There are also threats from militants, and Hurriyat has called for poll boycott. Under these circumstances, the authorities are still considering how to conduct the electoral process peacefully and ensure larger participation of candidates and the electorate,” the official said.
The official said that around 26,000 ballot boxes have been transported from Haryana for panchayat polls.
They have also been sent to all district headquarters, the official said. “However, in municipal elections, EVMs will be used. We don’t know their exact number, as more are being brought from various states,” he said.
In 2017, the authorities had transported EVMs for south Kashmir by-poll Parliamentary seat from various states. However, the polls could not take place after Srinagar parliamentary by-poll witnessed less than 7 per cent voter turnout and eight people were killed.
“The EVMs were not used then authorities had to pay the charges. Now even if polls are not held still the authorities have to pay the charges for ballot boxes and EVMs,” the official added.
However, the Chief Electoral Officer, Shaleen Kabra, said that polls would be held on time.
He said that municipal elections would be held from October 8, in four-phases while panchayat polls will begin from November 17 in nine-phases.
The ULB polls were held in J&K after a span of 23-years in January 2005. However, the civic polls could not be held since 2011 despite the successive governments set up several deadlines about holding the elections.
The panchayats completed their term in July 2016. Elections to panchayats were last held in April-May 2011 during Omar Abdullah led National Conference-Congress regime after a gap of 37 years.
The government postponed these polls for several times in the last three years.