Delay in Panchayat, ULB polls to reduce LC’s strength to 30

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, July 30: Delay in holding of Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) elections has not only been depriving Jammu and Kashmir of huge Central funding, it would also reduce strength of the Legislative Council, the Upper House of the State, to 30 as against prescribed 36, as four MLCs elected from the Panchayat quota, would complete their term in the month of December. Two posts of MLCs in the Upper House were already lying vacant as elections to the ULBs haven’t been held since 2010.
This was after nearly three decades in 2012 that vacancies of Panchayat quota MLCs were filled up in the Legislative Council, a year after Panchayat polls were held in the State. All four MLCs from the Panchayat quota including two each from National Conference and Congress are completing their term in December this year. They included Ali Mohammad Dar and Dr Shehnaz Ganai from National Conference and Ghulam Nabi Monga and Sham Bhagat from Congress.
Official sources told the Excelsior that even if Panchayat elections are held as early as October-November this year, it would take more than six months or even a year to conduct elections for four vacancies arising out of Panchayat quota in the Legislative Council as lot of formalities are required for the purpose. In 2011, Panchayat elections were completed in November but the elections for MLCs from Panchayat quota were held in November 2012 i.e. after a gap of over one year.
With Panchayat and Municipal elections are held very rarely in Jammu and Kashmir due to variety of reasons, the casualty has been the Legislative Council, whose strength kept fluctuating.
The Council has total strength of 36 of which 22 members are elected by the Legislative Assembly members-11 each from Jammu and Kashmir regions with one seat each reserved for Poonch, Doda, Leh and Kargil, eight members are nominated by the Governor on recommendations of the elected Government, four seats are reserved, which are elected by the members of Panchayats and two seats by the members of Urban Local Bodies.
It was in the year 2005 that ULB members elected Nizam-ud-Din Bhat of PDP and Arvinder Singh Micky of Congress from Kashmir and Jammu regions respectively for a term of six years after elections to the ULBs were held in January-February 2005 after a gap of nearly 26 years. Nizam-ud-Din Bhat, however, quit his membership of the Council in 2009 as he was elected member of the Assembly. Micky retired in 2011 after completion of his six year term.
As Municipal elections were not held in 2010 and thereafter for the last eight years now, the ULB seats in the Legislative Council remained vacant.
Similarly, four members from Panchayat quota, two each from Kashmir and Jammu divisions, were elected in December 2012 and they are completing their six year term in December this year. Their seats will also fall vacant in the Legislative Council in the absence of fresh Panchayat elections.
Panchayat elections were held in the State in 2011 after more than three and half decades and the elected Panchayats had completed their term in 2016. Since then elections were not held to them.
Few days back after imposition of Governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir, Governor NN Vohra had ordered conduct of both Municipal and Panchayat elections in the State and directed the concerned Departments to start preparations for them. However, sources said even if the elections to both the bodies are conducted this year, it wouldn’t be possible for the Government to fill Legislative Council vacancies from ULB and Panchayat quota for at least next six months and till then strength of the Upper House would be reduced to 30.
The retirement of four MLCs from the Panchayat quota will also bring down strength of National Conference and Congress in the Legislative Council.
National Conference presently has six MLCs and two of them-Ali Mohammad Dar and Dr Shehnaz Ganai will retire in December bringing down party’s strength in the Council to just four. Similarly, the Congress has also six MLCs at present and with the retirement of Sham Bhagat and Ghulam Nabi Monga, the party’s strength would also be reduce to four.
PDP and BJP have 11 members each in the Legislative Council. Strength of the Upper House will come down to 30 in December this year with six vacancies-four from Panchayat and two from Municipal quota.