EC approves schedule for election to 4 seats of MLCs

Territorial jurisdiction fixed, 286 polling stns notified
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Apr 30: The Election Commission of India (ECI) today approved the proposal for holding election to four seats of MLCs reserved for Panchayats after 38 years and would be issuing a notification any time this month. The elections would be held either by the end of May or the start of June.
Official sources told the Excelsior that the ECI has sent the approved proposal to Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), B R Sharma, who was also Home Secretary of the State. The proposal had to be revised as the ECI had sought clarifications from the CEO office of J&K on delimitation of the constituencies for holding the elections.
The CEO office of J&K sent a revised proposal to the ECI, which was finally approved today.
“With the approval of proposal, decks have been cleared for holding elections to four seats of MLCs, which were vacant in the Upper House since 1974”, sources said, adding that the election would take strength of Legislative Council to 34 leaving only two vacancies of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). The Council has a total strength of 36 but presently there were six vacancies.
As per the revised proposal approved by the ECI, Jammu and Kashmir provinces have been earmarked as territorial jurisdiction of two seats each. This means that Sarpanches and Panches of Jammu and Kashmir provinces would elect two MLCs each. The Panchayat members of Ladakh region would vote in Kashmir province.
“Every Sarpanch and Panch would be eligible to cast two votes each within their province i.e. Jammu and Kashmir. Two candidates securing highest number of votes would be elected MLCs from each province”, sources said.
A total of 286 polling stations would be set up for the election in 143 blocks of the State i.e. each block would have two polling stations each. The polling stations would be located in a single building with separate Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Every Sarpanch and Panch would cast his vote twice in separate EVMs-one each for two candidates.
The elections would be held under the Representation of People’s Act (RPA). Therefore, any person eligible for contesting the election of MLA can join the fray for the post of four MLCs. The Sarpanches and Panches, who would form electoral college for the election, could also contest the election.
The elections would be held on party basis. The Independent candidates can also join the fray in addition to political parties. The four seats would be referred as MLC (J-1) and MLC (J-II) and MLC (K-1) and MLC (K-II) with the word J referring to Jammu province and the word K referring to Kashmir province including Leh and Kargil districts.
In Jammu province 1966 Sarpanches and 13,760 Panches would elect two MLCs while in Kashmir province 2164 Sarpanches and 15,959 Panches would elect an equal number of MLCs.
Divisional Commissioner, Jammu province and Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir province would be appointed as the Returning Officer for both the seats falling in Jammu and Kashmir provinces respectively. Each District Election Officer will be appointed as Assistant Returning Officers for the polling stations/CD blocks falling with the territorial limits of his district. However, in case a CD block falls in more than one district, the District Election Officer having administrative control of more than 50 per cent of Panchayat Halqas falling within that CD block will function as Assistant Returning Officer for that CD block.
There will be two polling stations i.e. one for each MLA constituency for all Panchayat Halqas within that CD block. The polling stations will be set up at the CD block headquarters. As there were 143 CD blocks, 286 polling stations will be set up for the election. All Sarpanches and Panches of one particular block will be required to cast their vote at block headquarters. The maximum number of electorates for one polling station will be 611 at Keller in Kulgam.
The proposal approved by the ECI said: “since territorial constituencies of MLCs, who are to be elected by the members of Panchayats (Sub Section 5 of Section 50 of the State Constitution) can’t be delimited. Therefore, all Sarpanches/Panches of Jammu province and Kashmir province will constitute the electoral college for the two seats earmarked for Jammu province and Kashmir province respectively.”
“Two separate notifications would be issued for the purpose of filling up the four seats. Each notification would cover election to two seats i.e. one seat each from Jammu province and Kashmir province respectively. Separate EVMs will be used. A separate marked copy of the electoral will be prepared for each election. Each elected Sarpanch/Panch would take part in both the elections and cast his/her votes twice”.
The provisions of Sub-Section (4) of Section 21 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1957, dealing with the preparation of electoral rolls for the Council constituencies would apply in the election.
“The electorates shall consist of members of Panchayat and such other bodies, if any, within the limits of constituency as the Governor may by order specify under sub-section (5) of Section 50 of the Constitution. Every member of the Panchayat and of such local body, if any, within a Panchayat’s constituency as referred to in clause (a) shall be entitled to be registered in the electoral roll for that constituency. The Electoral Registration Officer for each Panchayat’s constituency shall maintain in his office in the prescribed manner and form the electoral roll for that constituency corrected up to date”, the sources said.
There are a total of 36 seats in the Upper House. However, present strength of the House was 30 as six seats, four reserved for Panchayats and two for ULBs were vacant.
It was in 1974 that four seats reserved for Panchayats in the Upper House were filled after the elections. After that the seats remained vacant as complete elections to Panchayats were not held. It was in September 2011 that election process for Panchayats was completed after being set into motion in April last year.
Strength of the House prior to 2005 remained confined to 30 as four seats reserved for Panchayats and two for Municipalities (Urban Local Bodies) couldn’t be filled in the absence of elections to both Urban and Rural Local Bodies.
However, two seats of Urban Local bodies were filled in October 2005 as ULB elections were held in January 2005 after a gap of 26 years. PDP’s Nizam-ud-Din Bhat was elected from a seat reserved for Kashmir from the ULBs while Deputy Chairman of Legislative Council and senior Congress leader, Arvinder Singh Micky was elected from Jammu region.
Both these seats have also fallen vacant as Mr Bhat quit membership of the Upper House in 2009 after his election to the Legislative Assembly while Micky’s term expired on September 15.
Elections to the Municipal Corporations and Committees were not held despite being due in January-February 2010.
With the filling up of four seats in the Upper House from the quota of Panchayats shortly, the number of seats in the Upper House would rise to 34 as two seats of ULBs only would remain vacant.