Adverse conditions set to delay BDC elections in J&K

Process slows down as work suffers in Valley

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Aug 22: In view of ongoing security situation in the Kashmir valley where restrictions were still in force in several areas, elections to 316 Block Development Councils (BDCs) are all set to be delayed as lot of work including publication of Electoral College, deployment of staff on duty etc was likely to take more time.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in his Address to the Nation on August 8 called for holding elections to the Block Development Councils in Jammu and Kashmir. Prior to that the State Administrative Council (SAC) headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik had in March approved holding of BDC elections in the State.
Sources told the Excelsior that preparations were in full swing for conduct of the Block Development Council elections in the State earlier but due to recent restrictions imposed across the State on August 5 following withdrawal of special Constitutional provisions of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcation of the State into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, the process has suffered setback.
Though the restrictions have been lifted in Jammu region, they were still in force in some parts of Kashmir while mobile internet services were snapped for several days across the State except Leh district.
“This has slowed down the process of completing formalities for holding the Block Development Council elections in the State,’’ sources confirmed and said unless the restrictions are completely lifted, mobile calling services and Internet are restored, it will not be possible to fully initiate the process for holding the elections to 316 Block Development Councils, the second tier of Panchayati Raj System.
Publication of Electoral College, deployment of Government officials for duty and related requirements are to be completed before announcement of the Block Development Council elections, sources said, adding the Government Departments were on the job but adverse conditions in some parts of the Valley have hampered the process.
However, according to sources, once the normalcy is restored in the Valley, the Government will expedite the process and make efforts for holding the Block Development Council elections as early as possible.
The Government had earlier decided to go for the Block Development Council elections after August 15 i.e. the completion of annual pilgrimage of Shri Amarnath Ji shrine. However, the yatra was abruptly called off on August 1.
There are 316 Block Development Councils in Jammu and Kashmir including 147 in Jammu region, 136 in Kashmir and 31 in Ladakh.
The State Government had recently ordered 33 percent reservation for women in the Block Development Councils besides other categories including the Scheduled Castes.
Never in the past has the second tier of Panchayats been constituted in the State. After Panchayat elections in 2011 during Omar Abdullah regime after about four decades, the Government had ordered conduct of the BDC elections in November 2012 but the process was shelved at the eleventh hour following objections raised by senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on no reservation in the BDCs. The elections were never held again as the Panchayats completed their tenure in 2016.
“The second tier of Panchayats would be set up only in the Panchayats which have been fully constituted. In the areas where Panchayats couldn’t be established due to lack of quorum, the BDC elections can’t be held,” sources said.
They added that about 1057 Panchayats haven’t been constituted in Kashmir region due to lack of quorum.
Out of a total of 4483 Panchayats in the State, there were 2135 in Kashmir. As many as 1057 Panchayats couldn’t be constituted in the Valley due to lack of quorum, they said.
As per the Panchayati Raj Act of Jammu and Kashmir, there should be at least one Sarpanch and one Panch to form quorum for constitution of the Panchayats but in 1057 Panchayats, there was either Sarpanch or Panch and they couldn’t be constituted.
Sources said there will be no elections for second tier of Panchayats, which haven’t been constituted. The BDC elections in these Panchayats will be held only after election for vacant posts of Sarpanchs and Panchs are conducted, they added.
The District Planning and Development Board (DPDBs) can be constituted only after the BDCs are in place. The DPDBs will be elected and form third-tier of Panchayati Raj System like other parts of the State.