Govt likely to hold polls for vacant Panchayat seats by March

Mudassir Kuloo

SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir government is likely to hold Panchayat elections for 60 percent vacant seats by March next year.

Panchayat elections were conducted in November-December 2018 for 4483 Panchayat halqas. There are 4483 Sarpanch and 35029 Panch seats in Jammu and Kashmir. However, elections in 60 percent Panchayat seats could not take place due to varied reasons.

An official at Election Office said Centre has told Jammu and Kashmir government to initiate process for holding elections in vacant Panchayat seats.

“Chief Electoral Officer Shailandra Kumar also discussed with Lieutenant Governor GC Murmu about holding elections for vacant Panchayat seats. Polls are likely to be conducted in March next year,” he said.

The official said issue is also being discussed with agencies to ensure adequate security arrangements for the polls. “Majority of seats remained vacant as no candidates were fielded in those constituencies. Most of these constituencies fall in south Kashmir,” the official said.

He said that final electoral rolls will be completed in two weeks. “After which the final decision will be taken keeping weather factors into consideration,” he said.

On Tuesday, Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar also held a meeting with divisional commissioners and IGPs of Jammu and Kashmir to discuss poll preparations.

In Kashmir out of 20093 Panch and Sarpanch seats, only 6162 Panches and 1366 Sarpanches were elected while 12565 constituencies are lying vacant.

In Jammu, 15800 Panches and 2289 Sarpanches were elected where 166 seats are lying vacant. In Ladakh, 45 seats are lying vacant while as 1414 Panches and 192 Sarpanches were elected.

National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party had boycotted the polls.

Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar said Centre has given an indication to hold the process. “The process will be initiated when notification is issued,” he said.

A top official of Rural Development Department said that Centre has also directed Jammu and Kashmir administration to empower Panchayats at maximum level.

There are 21 departments including Rural Development, Social Welfare, Health, Education, Power, Horticulture, Fisheries and Agriculture, which come under the administrative control of Panchayat members, the official said.

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