CM for talks with all stakeholders
JAMMU, Dec 30: A week after announcing much-awaited Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today declared that Municipal elections will follow the rural civic bodies polls in the State and that both these institutions will not only have democratic powers but financial resources as well to undertake developmental works at the grass root level.
The Chief Minister today also stressed the need for dialogue with all stakeholders in the State saying this is the only way ahead to ensure lasting peace, tranquility and equitable development of all three regions-Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
Mehbooba announ-ced that the State’s Election Authority, which happens to be the Chief Electoral Officer, J&K’s office, would formally set the process for holding Panchayat elections into motion shortly after the Rural Development Department issues requisite notification in accordance with the provisions of Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act.
There are a total of 78 Urban Local Bodies in Jammu and Kashmir including two Corporations (Jammu and Srinagar), six Councils (Kathua, Udhampur, Poonch, Anantnag, Baramulla and Sopore) and 70 Municipal Commi-ttees on which elections haven’t been held for the past about eight years now. Last Municipal elections in the State were held in January 2005 during the tenure of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed led PDP-Congress Government and the elected Municipalities had completed their five year tenure in March 2010.
“The State Government is committed to empowerment of grass root level institutions and the proposed elections to Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies is a major step in this direction,” Mehbooba said
Seeking large participation of people in the Panchayat elections, which would start from February 15, she said it would be followed by elections to the Urban Local Bodies.
“Elections to Panchayats and ULBs will empower these institutions to not only have the democratic powers but the financial resources as well to undertake developmental activities at grass-root levels.
“These democratic institutions play a vital role in taking forward the all-round developmental agenda of the Government for every section of the population,” Mehbooba said.
The Chief Minister said the State’s Election Authority would formally set the process for holding Panchayat polls into motion after the Rural Development Department issues the requisite notification in this regard in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act.
She said her Government had made a commitment on the floor of the House in June 2016 that the elections to the Rural and Urban Local Bodies would be held at the earliest to ensure full empowerment of these institutions.
While elected Municipalities had completed their five-year tenure in March 2010, the Panchayats had ceased to exist in June 2016. In the absence of elected Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies, the Central Government has blocked grants running into hundreds of crores to Jammu and Kashmir as they are released only to elect rural and urban civic bodies.
Sources said the elections to Urban Local Bodies could be held with the start of summer when Panchayat elections will be completed.
According to them, if the Panchayat elections have to start from February 15, the State Election Commission might announce the election schedule between January 15 to 20 after which the Model Code of Conduct could be enforced.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister said she had been maintaining, consistently, on the need for dialogue with all stakeholders in the State. This, she believed, is the only way ahead to ensure lasting peace, tranquility and equitable development of all regions of the State.
An yearend bulletin issued by the Government said: “the Chief Minister has impressed upon the Central Government time and again for talks with the stakeholders”.
As a sequel to Mehbooba’s efforts, the bulletin said, the Central Government has appointed a Special Representative (Dineshwar Sharma) for Jammu and Kashmir with the status of Cabinet Secretary and he has so far conducted three visits to the State and met hundreds of groups and delegations for the consultative process.
“For now, the decisions taken by the Chief Minister have been able to bring smile and hope back on the faces of the people,” the bulletin said.