Govt asked to issue Electoral College, name ROs
2nd tier of Panchayats to come up for first time
JAMMU, May 18: The State Election Authority has set the process in motion for conduct of elections to six vacancies in the Legislative Council–four from the quota of Panchayats and two from the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs)–and constituting second tier of Panchayats, for the first time in the State, by conducting election for the Block Development Councils (BDCs).
Two seats in the Upper House from the quota of Municipalities were vacant for about a decade while from Panchayats quota, four posts had fallen vacant in December last year.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Shailendra Kumar told the Excelsior that he has written to the State Government to submit Electoral College and designate Returning, Assistant Returning and Nodal Officers for conduct of elections to six vacancies of MLCs and holding polls to the BDCs, the second tier of Panchayats.
“As soon as the Government completes the process of Electoral College and appointment of Returning, Assistant Returning and other Officers and submit it to us, we will come up with formal schedule for conduct of elections to six posts of MLCs and constituting BDCs,” Kumar said.
In the absence of State Election Commission, the Government has designated powers of the SEC to the office of CEO J&K.
Reliable sources said the dates of elections for MLCs and BDCs won’t clash with the Assembly elections.
Panchayat members i.e. Sarpanchs and Panchs comprised the Electoral College for election to four seats of MLCs from Panchayat quota while the elected members of Municipal Corporations/Councils/Committees formed the Electoral College for elections to the posts of two MLCs from the quota of ULBs.
Of four Panchayat seats, two each are reserved for Jammu and Kashmir divisions (Ladakh was earlier part of Kashmir division) while out of two seats of Municipal quota, one each is reserved for Jammu and Kashmir divisions. Though Ladakh has been designated as separate division recently, sources said, the elected members of Municipalities and Panchayats from Leh and Kargil districts could vote along with Kashmir division.
Governor Satya Pal Malik-headed State Administrative Council (SAC) had recommended conduct of election for six vacancies in the Legislative Council from Panchayat and Municipal quota on February 21 and holding first-ever election to the BDCs on March 9. However, with Lok Sabha elections held in the State in five phases, the Election Authority couldn’t hold these elections earlier.
Vacancies from Panchayat quota in the Upper House had arisen only in the month of December 2018 as all four members had completed their six years term. They were Dr Shehnaz Ganaie and Ali Mohammad Dar of National Conference and Sham Lal Bhagat and Ghulam Nabi Monga from Congress. Dar and Monga were elected from Kashmir while Dr Ganaie and Bhagat represented Jammu division.
The ULB vacancies in the Upper House were filled up in November 2005 after elections were held to the Municipalities in January-February 2005 after a gap of 26 years. One of the members from the ULB quota, Nizam-ud-Din Bhat of PDP had given up his Legislative Council membership in 2008 after being elected to the Legislative Assembly while Congress MLC Arvinder Singh Micky had completed his six year term in November 2011.
Both seats from the ULB quota were lying vacant in the Legislative Council since then.
Sources were of the view that since only Sarpanchs, Panchs and Municipal Members would have to cast votes for the six vacancies of Panchayats and ULBs in the Legislative Council, the Government doesn’t feel that there will be any security related problem, disruption of tourist season or holy annual pilgrimage of Shri Amarnath Ji shrine as local security forces will be able to conduct these polls. Similar is the case of conducting elections to the BDCs, where too the Panchayat members will cast their votes. However, if the Government feels that there could be any security related problem, it can adjust schedule of the elections accordingly.
Sources said elections for the posts of MLCs were necessitated as there were 14 vacancies in the Legislative Council in the House of 36, leaving its strength to just 22. Eight MLCs had retired in March and elections for these posts couldn’t be held in the absence of Legislative Assembly. In view of this, the Government is of the view that filling up of six vacancies would atleast take strength of the Council to 28.
Meanwhile, this will be for the first time in history of the State that second tier of Panchayats will come up in the form of BDCs. Prior to this, Panchayat elections were held in April-May 2011 and process to hold elections to the BDCs was set in motion in October 2012. Even the then State Election Commission had issued schedule for the BDC elections. However, then Union Minister and former J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had raked up the issue of reservations in the BDC elections. The elections were then postponed and were never held again.
This time, the Governor’s administration has promised installation of three-tier system of Panchayats in the State.
According to sources, after second tier of BDCs are in place, the Government would go for elections to District Planning and Development Boards, which will be third tier of Panchayats.