First-ever election to 280 BDCs in J&K today

Polling parties leave for booths in Ramban district for BDC elections on Wednesday.
Polling parties leave for booths in Ramban district for BDC elections on Wednesday.

Govt to hold fresh poll for 12963 vacancies

* All results to be out by tonight

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Oct 23: First-ever elections in the history of Jammu and Kashmir to the Block Development Councils (BDCs), the second tier of Panchayats, will be held tomorrow for 280 BDCs across the State amid tight security arrangements with authorities ordering deployment of para-military forces at all polling stations set up for Sarpanchs and Panchs to exercise their right to franchise.

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In another significant decision, the Government today decided to conduct elections to the vacancies in Panchayats which couldn’t be filled-up at the time of polling held in November-December last year due to non-availability of candidates.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar told the Excelsior that election will be held tomorrow for 280 BDCs spread across three divisions of the State-Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
“We have total of 316 BDCs. Of them, 27 Chairpersons of the BDCs have been elected unopposed while there will be no election for nine BDCs,” Kumar said.
He said they have deployed 164 Observers, 280 Returning Officers, an equal number of Assistant Returning Officers, 860 polling staff and an equal number of counting staff for smooth polling.
Voting through ballot papers will be held at 280 polling stations from 9 am to 1 pm followed by counting from 3 pm. Majority of results are likely to be declared till late tomorrow night.
Of nine BDCs where elections are not being held, four were reserved for women but there were no women Panchayat members there while in two BDCs, there were no Sarpanchs and Panchs.
Twenty-seven Chairpersons of the BDCs have already been elected unopposed and, therefore, elections will be held tomorrow to elect Chairpersons of 280 BDCs.
The Electoral College included 26629 Sarpanchs and Panchs. Worthwhile to mention here that only Sarpanchs and Panchs are eligible to contest election for Chairpersons of the BDCs.
A total of 1065 candidates, majority of them Independents, are in the fray for elections as most of the political parties including Congress, National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, CPM and some other smaller groups have stayed away from the polls. Only BJP and NPP are the major parties, which have fielded their candidates.
Sources said authorities have made tight security arrangements for the elections with deployment of additional companies of para-military forces and Jammu and Kashmir Police at all 280 polling stations. All polling stations have been sanitized and covered by the security personnel well ahead of the elections.
This will be the last election in undivided Jammu and Kashmir as on October 31, the State will split into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.
Meanwhile, the Government today decided to fill up all vacancies of Panchayats including Sarpanchs and Panchs where elections couldn’t be held in November-December last year because of non-availability of the candidates who were not ready to come forward because of terror threats.
Majority of vacancies pertained to the Kashmir valley.
Number of vacancies was stated to be 12963.
Out of a total of 39592 posts of Sarpanchs and Panchs, only 26629 were in place, leaving 12963 vacancies, sources said.
Majority of vacancies were in Kashmir amounting to nearly 64 percent.
There were total 19578 posts of Sarpanchs and Panchs in Kashmir valley and, of them, only 7029 were filled up in the last year’s election while rest were vacant.
Vacancy rate was very low in Jammu region at just 1.4 percent. Out of 18,384 posts of Sarpanchs and Panchs in J&K, 18015 were filled. In Ladakh district, there were 1630 posts of Sarpanchs and Panchs and 1585 were in place, leaving just 2.8 percent vacancies.
Apart from 218 candidates of BJP, only two other political parties, which have fielded their nominees for the BDC elections were Jammu Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) with 18 candidates-14 in Udhampur, three in Samba and one in Jammu and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has fielded just one candidate in Budgam district. BSP, however, maintained that they haven’t fielded any candidate for the elections.
However, quite significant was the presence of 853 Independent candidates in the fray, the highest being 102 in Kupwara district followed by 94 in Baramulla, 82 in Jammu, 76 in Rajouri and 61 in Poonch.