JK to bend rules for holding civic polls on non-party basis
SRINAGAR, Sep 11: The government is in the process of making amendments in the existing laws for holding the urban local body and panchayat elections on non-party basis. Two main political parties, the National Conference and People’s Democratic Party have announced that they would boycott the upcoming panchayat and municipal elections in the state. 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. As two main parties have decided to pull out from the electoral process, the government has decided to conduct polls on non-party basis. An official at Chief Electoral Officer told The Kashmir Monitor that necessary amendments will be made in the existing panchayat and municipal laws. “The Chief Electoral Officer has also received details from various states how the polls were conducted there and necessary amendments were made in laws,” the official said. Advocate General of Jammu and Kashmir, D C Raina, said that they were in the process of examining the existing laws for the amendments. “Everything will be clear in a day or two,” Raina told The Kashmir Monitor. After examining the existing laws, the government will recommend the Law Department to make necessary amendments. “Once we receive any communiqué from the government, we will examine it and take a decision accordingly,” Special Secretary, Law Department, Achal Sethi, said. However, former advocate general, JK, M I Qadri said that there was no need to make amendments in the existing laws. “There is no bar on independent candidates to contest elections. Similarly, if elections are held on non-party basis there is no need for amendments,” he said. Before the NC and PDP announced poll boycott, the Chief Electoral Office had issued a notification regarding list of national and state parties with their reserved symbols. The notification was issued under ‘Paragraph 12 of the municipal elections symbols/ reservation and allotment order 2003’. However, that notification is likely to be cancelled before the government makes the amendments. On August 31, the state government, headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik, had announced the long-pending panchayat and urban elections in the state beginning October 1 and culminating on December 4. It was decided that the municipal elections would be held in four phases from October 1 to October 5, while panchayat polls would be conducted in eight phases from November 8 to December 4. After which the National Conference President Farooq Abdullah announced to boycott the elections to panchayat and ULB in the state unless the Centre clarifies its position on Article 35A of the Constitution. Taking its cue from its political rival, PDP President Mehbooba Mufti Monday announced it will boycott the upcoming panchayat and municipal elections in the state. “The situation is not conducive (for elections). There is a sense of insecurity and there are apprehensions of bloodshed. The atmosphere was further vitiated by the Additional Solicitor General when he linked these elections with Article 35A,” she said. However, Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam has said these elections will be held as per schedule. 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.