Govt may go for by-polls to vacancies in ULBs, Panchayats, DDCs

Several posts lying vacant mainly in Kashmir
*SEC to take final call shortly

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, July 21: The Jammu and Kashmir Government proposed to fill vacancies in Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), District Development Councils (DDCs) and Panchayats by conducting by-elections before end of this year. The vacancies have been identified by the concerned Departments.
Elections to the Urban Local Bodies and Panchayats are due in November-December 2023 after completion of five years term while the DDCs have their term till January 2026.
Principal Secretary to Government, Housing and Urban Development Department, Dheeraj Gupta, who met State Election Commissioner (SEC) KK Sharma today, later told the Excelsior that his Department proposed to hold by-elections for the vacancies in Municipal Bodies.
“Vacancies have been identified,” Gupta said.
Official sources said the Government proposed to fill vacancies in Municipal Bodies as well as DDCs and Panchayats by holding by-elections. Though the vacancies in both Urban and Rural bodies have been identified, the Government has to take security situation into consideration before going in for the by-polls.
There were indications that by-elections, if approved by the Jammu and Kashmir Government, can be held after completion of Special Summary Revision (SSR) of Electoral Rolls on October 31.
“If the Election Commission of India decides to hold Assembly elections in the Union Territory in November-December, the by-elections to Municipal bodies, DDCs and Panchayats can be held simultaneously. Even if the Assembly polls are deferred, the by-polls can be conducted,” sources said.
There have been many vacancies in the Urban Local Bodies and Panchayats. However, number of vacancies is comparatively less in the District Development Councils and Block Development Councils.
Some of the vacancies in the ULBs and Panchayats existed since conduct of elections in November-December 2018 due to non availability of candidates, mainly in the Kashmir valley. More vacancies were caused following resignations or other reasons including death of the elected persons.
As per the provisions, vacancies have to be filled up through by-elections.
As per an official statement, State Election Commissioner (SEC) KK Sharma today met Principal Secretary Housing and Urban Development Department Dheeraj Gupta.
“Threadbare discussions were held on constitution of Municipal bodies and modalities were also discussed with regard to arrangements by H&UDD for making transition for conduct of elections/by-elections to the Urban Local Bodies as and when due through the SEC,” the statement said.
Sources said number of vacancies was much higher at the level of Sarpanchs, Panchs and Councillors in the Union Territory especially in Kashmir as candidates were not ready to come forward to contest the seats in the Valley because of militant threats in 2018.
However, the Government feels that situation has now changed and political leaders/workers will definitely come forward to contest by-polls.
“Because of the vacancies especially at the level of Sarpanchs, Panchs, Councillors etc, development works have been suffering in both urban and rural areas as certain funds are released by the Government specifically for the Panchayats,” sources said.
It may be mentioned here that elections to Panchayats and Municipalities were held in November-December 2018. Panchayat elections were held after several decades while Municipal polls were conducted after 13 years. The DDC elections were held for first time in Jammu and Kashmir in 2020 resulting into completion of three-tier Panchayati Raj System.
“All three tiers of PRIs are now fully functional in Jammu and Kashmir,” sources said.