Srinagar, Sep 29:For the first time ever, Jammu and Kashmir government has set the ball rolling for Block Development Council (BDC) polls in a bid to strengthen grassroots democracy in the restive state.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar said election to BDCs will be held on October 24 while as October 9 will be the last date for filing nominations.
“Issuance of gazette notification and scrutiny of nominations will be held on October 1 and 10respectively. The last date for withdrawal of nomination will be on October 11. Voting and counting shall be conducted on October 24. Election exercise will be completed on November 5,” he said.
Kumar informed that the BDC elections shall be held on party lines and one block would be taken as one constituency and all the elected Panches and Sarpanches of Halqa Panchayats falling within the block would constitute the Electoral College for that block.
The multi-phase Panchayat elections were held on non-party basis in November-December last year. National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party had boycotted the polls in protest against Centre’s move to abrogate article 35 A.
Post abrogation of special status and division of state into two union territories, the government has gone into an overdrive to complete the three tier process for Panchayats.
Kumar said as many as 26629 electorates -18316 male and 8313 elected women Panchayat members–will elect the chairpersons of Block Development Councils in 316 blocks across the 22 districts of J&K.“There are reservations for women in ST and SC categories also with 21 reservations in ST and 7 in SC quota”, he said.
Polling hours shall be from 9 am to 1 pm while the counting of votes shall be taken up on the same day from 3 pm onwards unless notified otherwise, followed by announcements of results the same day, he said.
“Out of 316 blocks, there are two blocks that lie vacant in Srinagar and Kulgam. Four blocks reserved for women too have no candidates, which mean the election will be held in 310 blocks only. Around 33 Panchayat members have died in normal circumstances while 562 have resigned,” Kumar said.
Chief Electoral Officer said 172 constituencies have been declared reserved by the Rural Development Department under the acts and rules governing Panchayat elections.
Kumar noted that 310 polling station have been set up in the state, which will be monitored by the General Observers.“The polls will be held through secret ballot and video-graphed. Each candidate can spent Rs two lakh on electioneering,” he said.
Asked about detained politicians and Sarpanches, Kumar said the election commission will respond to their request.“We will respond if any political party approaches us. We have responded to every complaint in the previous elections as well. Two Panches have been arrested under section 107 and they will take part in the process like any detained person does,” he said.
Kumar said the Department of Home has assured them of adequate security for holding “successful” election.“We met the Home Department and sought them detailed security apparatus. Though the Electoral College is too big, we might require security for candidates, returning officers and assistant returning officers,” he said.
Asked about vacant Panchayat seats in the state, Kumar said the election needs to be held because many development works at block level are stalled.
“Electoral roll was prepared in January this year. Block Development Council elections are taking place after a long time and we want polls to be completed for all the three tiers,” he said.
On being asked about Assembly election since members of state legislature are also part of electing chairperson, Kumar said it will be decided by the authorities.