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CIVIC POLLS: Govt counts rewards, says ready for risks ; elected Bodies to get Rs 4335 cr for development

One month addt’l salary for employees on poll duty; 400 paramilitary companies heading to Kashmir; Hundreds of hotel rooms booked for candidates’ security

Mudassir Kuloo

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Srinagar, Sep 25: Amid poll-boycott, the government on Tuesday claimed that people are “enthusiastic” for participating in the civic elections in the state.

“People are enthusiastically waiting for urban local bodies and panchayat elections in the state. Over 700 nomination forms have already been issued for municipal polls. People want to participate in polls for strengthening of the grassroots level,” Chief Secretary, B V R Subrahmanyam, told a press conference here.

The government has announced holding of 4-phase urban local bodies and 9-phase panchayat elections in the state. The Urban Local Bodies (ULB) polls would be held on October 8, 10, 13 and 16 while panchayat polls would be held on November 17, 20, 24, 27, 29 and December 1, 04, 08 and 11.

 

Two main regional parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have decided to boycott the elections as they have asked the Government of India to clear its stand on the issue of Article 35A. The Hurriyat has also called for poll-boycott.

Over threats by militants, the Chief Secretary said that government would make adequate security arrangements for the polls.

“Around 400 security companies are being brought from outside for the polls.  There are security issues in few areas of south Kashmir but government will take care,” he said.

Subrahmanyam said that state would face a huge loss of centre’s grant; if the polls are not held. “Under 14th Finance Commission, the panchayats will lose Rs 3,029 crore and urban local bodies Rs 1,306 between 2015 and 2020, if the elections are not held in the state,” he said.

Similarly, he said that there are 79 urban local bodies and 1200 wards.

“Each panchayat has to get around Rs 22 lakh, smaller ones Rs 15 lakh and bigger ones Rs 30 lakh. Under 14th Finance Commission, each panchayat will get Rs 50 lakh to one crore each.  Similarly, each municipality will get Rs 2 crore and even larger municipalities like Srinagar and Jammu will get Rs 15 crore. They will be more powerful bodies,” he said.

The Chief Secretary also announced one month additional salary to all the government employees who will be on poll duty.

Over safety of candidates, he said that government has booked 300 hotel rooms in Srinagar and similar arrangements would be made in other districts too. “We will provide them all facilities like vehicles and security,” he said.

He said each Panchayat will have an accountant for keeping books while an Ombudsman will be appointed for transparency and accountability.

Chief Secretary said there are 4,490 Panchayats in the state and as many Sarpanches are to be elected. The total number of Panchs in the state will be 35,000. There will be around 39,500 elected representatives in these Panchayats, he said.

Subrahmanyam also said that there are 79 urban local bodies and about 1200 wards — 600 each in Kashmir and Jammu region.

On the poll-boycott by NC and PDP, he said, “Governor Rule cannot decide the Article 35A. It is a complex issue and has to be discussed after government is elected in JK. The hearing is in January and the elections will be over then.”

“As far as Article 35-A is concerned, the Governor (Satya Pal Malik) has gone on record multiple times and he has clearly said that this is not an elected government and it would be right if an elected government within the state actually fights the case in the Supreme Court,” he said.

He said there was no link between the timing of holding panchayat elections in the state and deferment of hearing of the PIL challenging Article 35-A before the Supreme Court.

“There have been multiple postponements of the hearings of Article 35-A in the Supreme court before and after the panchayat elections were announced. It is just accidental that the case is listed in January and the panchayat elections are to be completed before that,” he said.

The Chief Secretary said the Governor’s administration is going to be consistent in its stand before the apex court that an elected state government should fight the case.

Asked when the assembly polls will be held in the state, the Chief Secretary said let higher authorities decide it.

The Urban Local Body (ULB) polls will be conducted in four phases starting October 8, whereas the Panchayat polls will be held in 9-phases from November 17. He said the notifications for all the eight Phases of Municipal Polls have already been issued by the Chief Electoral Officer, J&K which would be now followed with notifications for Panchayat Polls.

 

Another Panchayat ghar set on fire; 8th such incident in valley

Srinagar, Sep 25: A panchayat ghar was set on fire in Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir, taking the number of such government buildings being torched since the announcement of the local bodies polls in the state to eight, police said Tuesday.

“Unknown miscreants tried to set ablaze a panchayat ghar at Matrigam Tikri in the Pehthkote area of Banipora district in north Kashmir Monday,” a police official said.

He said the fire resulted in partial damage to the building.

Fire tenders were rushed to the spot as soon as the news of the incident was received, the official said.

He said this was the eighth such incident in which a panchayat ghar has been set on fire since the polls for municipal bodies and panhcayats were announced in the state.

Most of these buildings were set on fire in south Kashmir, the official said, adding that the police have registered cases in all the incidents and investigations were on.

Separatists and militants have asked people to stay away from the polls, which have also been boycotted by the state’s two main political parties – the National Conference and the PDP – and also by the CPI(M).

The violence has also cast a shadow on the polls, scheduled to be held in October and November, respectively.

Three cops were abducted and later killed by militants in Shopian district of south Kashmir, following which several special police officers (SPOs) of Jammu and Kashmir announced their resignation on social media.

Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh and the valley’s top army official Lt Gen A K Bhatt Monday reviewed the security situation ahead of the polls at a meeting at Handwara in Kupwara district of the state.

The senior security officials emphasised that the existing cooperation and synergy between different forces is to be further strengthened to combat militancy and also to ensure smooth conduct of the local governance elections. (PTI)

 


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LOK SABHA ELECTIONS: 13.6% turnout in Anantnag district

Segment-wise %age: Bijbehara 2.04, Anantnag 3.47, Dooru 17.28, Kokernag 19.50, Shangus 15.10, Pahalgam 20.37

Syed Nashir Ali Gillani

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Srinagar, Apr 23: The Anantnag district Tuesday witnessed a low voter turnout of 13.6 per cent in the third phase of the parliamentary elections.

Tuesday witnessed the first phase of the 3-phased polls for Anantnag Parliamentary seat, which also comprises of Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama districts.

Once considered PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s bastion, the Bijbehara segment recorded the lowest poll percentage of 2.04%. Pahalgam recorded the highest turnout at 20.37%.

 

Addressing media persons, Chief Electoral Officer, J&K Shailendra Kumar said that polling took place “without any untoward incident”.

Divulging segment wise details of the district, the CEO informed that the percentage of the total votes polled in Anantnag segment  was 3.47 per cent, Dooru 17.28, Kokernag 19.50, Shangus 15.10, Bijbehara 2.04 and Pahalgam 20.37 %.

Kumar said that out of 5.27 lakh voters (2.69 lakh males) and (2.57 females), 71777 voters cast their vote.

He said that 54,663 voters were to cast their vote for the first time, adding that 44,536 voters were in the age group of 18 -21 years.

In Kokernag as per Kumar, 18312 votes were polled with a polling percentage of 19.36% and in Shangus 13354 votes were polled with a poll percentage of 15.09%.

In Bijbehara, 1905 votes were polled with a polling percentage of 2.04% and in Pahalgam 17649 votes  were polled with a polling percentage of 20.37%.  

Kumar said that “total poll percentage of three phases held so far stands at 48.87%.”

He said that for the smooth polling, the ECI had setup 714 polling stations in the district. The ECI had also established 21 model polling stations, 12 all women model polling stations.

He complemented all those involved in the poll process including political parties and election staff.

The polling took place in 714 polling stations including 21 migrant polling stations and 71 model polling stations.

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Bleak turnout may hit PDP

‘My father’s workers will ensure my victory’

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Srinagar, Apr 23: With the overall voter turnout in the first of the three-phase polling in Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency settling below 10 per cent till 1 p.m. on Tuesday, the fate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti hangs precariously in the balance in what was till recently her party’s bastion.

The bad news for Mufti is that voters in her ancestral town Bijbehara and the neighbouring Anantnag showed very little interest to come out and join the poll process.

Mufti won this Lok Sabha seat in 2014 and resigned in 2016 to become the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir following the death of her father, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed.

 

She later won the 2016 bypoll for the Anantnag Assembly seat to get elected to the 87-member state legislative Assembly. Anantnag Assembly seat fell vacant due to Mufti Senior’s death in 2016.

In contrast to the less than 3 per cent voter turnout in Bijbehara and Anantnag segments that have traditionally been PDP strongholds, the turnout was better in Dooru, Kokernag and Shangus segments where her Congress rival, Ghulam Ahmad Mir has strong voter support.

The voter turnout has also been good in the Pahalgam segment, but it is believed that the PDP and the National Conference (NC) would cut almost equally here, again giving an edge to the Congress candidate.

Voting will be held in Kulgam district of the constituency on April 29 and in Shopian and Pulwama districts on May 6 and the voter turnout in these remaining districts may make or mar the electoral prospects of the PDP President.

Meanwhile, Mehbooba Mufti Tuesday said that the workers of her father Mufti Sayeed will ensure her victory in the Lok Sabha polls.

After casting her vote in Bijbehara area of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district, Mehbooba said that “this time my father Late Mufti Muhammad Sayeed is not with me but his workers who have worked for him are still there.”

“I hope the workers of my father will ensure my victory in this election,” Mehbooba told reporters.

Asked about low voter turnout in her hometown Bijbehara, Mehbooba said, “I am hopeful of good results.”

Mehbooba is among the 18 candidates who are in fray for South Kashmir Lok Sabha constituency.

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‘Mehbooba disowned her birth place; we just returned the favour today’

Firdous Hassan

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Bijbehara, Apr 23: Barely 100 meters away from the ancestral home of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) founder Late Mufti Sayeed, in Baba Mohalla Bijbehara, a group of seven elderly men were Tuesday drawing comparison between the ongoing and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Sitting on a pavement close to late Mufti’s ancestral house, they lamented the party’s downfall in the town particularly after the death of the PDP founder, which was followed by her daughter Mehbooba Mufti taking over the party in 2015.

As their arguments grew louder, a number of youth, who were sitting near the shrine of Baba Naseem-ud-din Gazi (RA), too joined in. They all justified the town’s “total boycott” of the Lok Sabha elections this year.

 

By noon, only 78 votes had been polled in the town which has 6,756 electorates.

Only 27 votes were polled in three polling booths closest to Mehbooba’s ancestral home.

All these men and youth were seemingly unhappy with the PDP chief for “disowning” her home town soon after taking over as the Member of Parliament (MP) and later Chief Minister of the state.

A man in his 60s said that Mehbooba during her speech soon after being elected as MP in 2014 claimed that she belonged to the nearby Akhran village.

“Her father Mufti Sayeed sahab lived here and she too managed to garner people’s support from here in 2014. How could she later claim that she never belonged to the town? The same day we started losing our hopes in her,” he said.

Abdul Salam, another elderly person, said that Muftis “have now even changed their graveyard from Baba Mohalla to Dara Shikoh Park.”

“People are very angry with them. Mufti Sahab could have been buried in his ancestral graveyard, which the family didn’t prefer. In 2014, we saw a large number of voters coming out of their homes to support the party, which is not happening now,” he said.

Regretting the loss the area faced with the death of Mufti Sayeed, the locals claimed Mehbooba “ignored the people of her town. That was the reason why people were showing their backs to PDP”.

“Mufti Sahab would visit to the town every now and then. But we haven’t seen Mehbooba ji after she won her elections in 2014. So people this time preferred to boycott the election,” said a youth supported by others.

One of the locals questioned the PDP’s approach towards the town by pointing towards a street, which was littered with garbage.

“Do you expect streets in a chief minister’s town looking like this?” he questioned, while pointing towards the street.

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