JAMMU, July 21: After getting formal letters from the State Government for conduct of Municipal and Panchayat elections, the State Election Commission (SEC), responsible for holding polls in the absence of the State Election Commission, has set the process in motion for Municipal elections first followed by Panchayats and the revision of electoral rolls would be undertaken from the first week of August.
Official sources told the Excelsior that Housing and Urban Development Department and Rural Development Department have formally written separate letters to the State Election Commission for holding elections to Urban Local Bodies and Panchayats respectively in Jammu and Kashmir, which have been pending since long.
The letters were written following decision taken by the State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor NN Vohra for holding elections to the Municipalities and Panchayats in the State. The Municipal elections were pending in the State for last over eight years and Panchayat polls by about two years.
After receiving the letters, the State Election Commission has set the process in motion for conducting the elections, sources said, adding that the Municipal elections would be held first followed by the Panchayats.
“The State Election Commission has to revise electoral rolls for conducting the elections to include all those youth as voters, who have attained the age of 18 since the last revision was conducted. The revision was likely to start in the first week of August and would take a month time,” sources said, adding that some more time would be required for adjusting the Wards of 78 Urban Local Bodies in the State including two Corporations, six Councils and 76 Committees.
Jammu and Srinagar, the twin rotational capital cities of the State have Corporations while Udhampur, Poonch, Kathua, Baramulla, Sopore and Anantnag have Councils. Rest of the towns have Committees.
Sources said the publication of final electoral rolls would take at least one month and only then a notification for conduct of the elections can be issued provided that all other formalities like reservation of Wards etc are complete. And if everything goes well, the Municipal elections can be conducted in the month of October.
According to sources, the Government would test the waters by holding Municipal elections as the Municipalities are confined to cities and towns and if everything goes well, it would go ahead with Panchayat elections in November-December.
However, they were of the view that many things would depend on continuation of Governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir. If an elected Government is formed after conclusion of Shri Amarnath Ji yatra, as is being debated in the political circles, the fate of Urban Local Bodies and Municipal elections would depend on the new Government.
Earlier also it was observed in 2016 that Governor N N Vohra during Governor’s rule from January 7 to April 3 had ordered holding of Municipal elections and all arrangements were made by the State Election Commission. However, with PDP-BJP again forming Government on April 4, 2016, the elections were cancelled.
Similarly in January this year, then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on being asked by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Governor N N Vohra had announced holding of Panchayat elections in February followed by Municipal polls in March. However, after holding an All Party Meeting (APM) in February this year, the Government cancelled the process of elections.
A day before, the Governor had set up a State Level Committee and two divisional level committees for Jammu and Kashmir to draft strategy for holding Municipal and Panchayat elections. The Committees have been asked to submit their report by August 10.
The SAC had recently carried out an amendment in the Panchayati Raj Act rescinding the decision of previous PDP-BJP Government to facilitate election of Sarpanch by the Panchs of the Panchayat. It had revived the previous practice of direct elections of Sarpanchs.
There were 4490 Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir presently as compared to 4130 in 2011, when last elections to Panchayats were held. The elected Panchayats had completed their term in June 2016. Presently, there were no elected Panchayats.
Number of the electorates for Panchayat elections has come out at around 57 lakh after extensive exercise undertaken by the State Election Commission for updating electoral rolls in January this year. However, fresh revision of electoral rolls will be carried out now before holding the Panchayat elections.
The Municipal elections were last held in January-February 2005 and the elected Municipalities had completed their term in March 2010. For the past eight years, there were no elected Municipalities in the State.