JAMMU, Feb 17: Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shantmanu, who has been designated as State Election Commission (SEC) by the State Government for conduct of Panchayat elections, today called All Party Meeting to discuss delimitation of Wards and related issues in which the Opposition parties reportedly called for independent delimitation of Wards and not by the Rural Development Depar-tment (RDD).
Shantmanu told the Excelsior that all nine recognized political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, six national and three regional, attended the meeting and expressed their views on delimitation process and other issues pertaining to the Panchayat elections.
“We have taken the view point of all political parties and will consider them,” he said, adding that the political parties were briefed on the conduct of Panchayat elections including preparations being made by the State Election Commission and related issues.
Reports said that major Opposition parties including National Conference, Congress, National Panthers Party etc were opposed to conduct of delimitation of the Panchayat constituencies by the Rural Development Department on the ground that such a process should be conducted independently in free, fair and transparent manner by the State Election Commission.
Some of them pointed out that an amendment had been carried out in the year 2014 by the State Legislature in the Panchayati Raj Act under which the powers for carrying out delimitation of the Panchayat constituencies was vested with the State Election Commission and not the Rural Development Department.
Some of the Opposition parties called for abandoning the delimitation process undertaken by the Rural Development Department and called for constitution of either the Delimitation Commission or an Independent Authority by the State Election Commission to conduct delimitation of Panchayat segments. They were categorically of the view that delimitation of Panchayats by the Rural Development Department was not acceptable.
Congress chief spokesman Ravinder Sharma, who along with former Minister Manjit Singh represented party at the meeting, told the State Election Commission that Congress stand for undertaking fresh exercise of delimitation of Panchayats by an independent authority of the Commission.
Sharma said the CEO assured them that he would convey their opening to the Chief Secretary and the Law Department for appropriate action.
National Conference, which was represented by Sheikh Bashir, reiterated the party’s demand for setting up a Delimitation Commission, to undertake fresh delimitation of the Wards.
National Panthers Party leader and former Minister Harshdev Singh favour free and fair elections of the Panchayats and called for holding delimitation of Panchayats independently by the Election Authority.
BJP was represented by Narinder Singh and Rajinder Sharma and PDP by Captain Vikram Gaur. They put their suggestions to the State Election Commission and endorsed the steps being taken by the State Government and the Commission for early conduct of Panchayat elections in the State.
The Panchayats had completed their five-year tenure in Jammu and Kashmir in June 2016. The elections have now become overdue to them and there were apprehensions that certain grants meant for the Panchayats might not be given by the Central Government in the absence of elected Panchayats.
It may be mentioned here that the Opposition parties had been opposing the move to hold delimitation of Panchayats by the Rural Development Department and a delegation of National Conference had even called on the Governor seeking his intervention for holding free and fair delimitation by setting up the Delimitation Commi-ssion.