Govt orders Municipal polls on party basis, Panchayats non-party basis

‘Security main criteria in decision’

Election Authority begins preparations

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Aug 23: In a major decision to give boost to political activity in the urban areas of the State, the Government has ordered that Municipal elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held on party basis. However, the same yardstick will not be applied for Panchayat polls, which will take place on non-party basis.
“A direction has gone to the Election Authority to start process for the elections to Urban Local Bodies on party basis and Panchayats on non-party basis,” official sources told the Excelsior.
Security considerations, according to sources, might have influenced the Government decision to keep Panchayat elections away from political glare and confine political activities only to the cities and towns by holding Municipal elections only on party basis. All 79 Municipal bodies are located in cities and towns i.e. the urban and semi-urban areas, where threat perception is not so strong as compared to rural areas, which will vote for the Panchayats.
The Election Authority, sources said, has started preparations for Municipal and Panchayat elections on the basis of the Government direction. The Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), which have to be used for the Municipal polls, will be configurated in such a way that they carry symbols of all recognized political parties in the State, apart from the Independent candidates, who would join the fray.
However, the ballot papers for the Panchayat elections wouldn’t carry symbol of any political party but only names of Independent candidates and the symbols that will be allotted to them after filing of the nomination papers.
“Security agencies have apprehensions that since there will be nearly one lakh candidates for the elections to the Panchayats, it would be impossible to provide security to them in remote and rural areas and their affiliations with particular political parties will become known if elections are held on party basis,” sources said, adding that the candidates of some selected parties could become potential target of the militants.
It was in this context that the Government has decided to keep the Panchayat elections on non-party basis. However, since threat perception was very less in cities and towns, it has been decided that the Municipal elections will be held on party basis.
However, sources said, since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh have called for holding Panchayat and Municipal elections in Jammu and Kashmir, which were pending since long, the Government was confident that security will not be a problems for conducting the polls. The State Government has already been assured that some of the additional companies of para-military forces deployed for annual pilgrimage of Shri Amarnath Ji shrine, will not be called back and allowed to be utilized for the Panchayat and Municipal polls. Amarnath Ji yatra is concluding on August 26 coinciding with Shravan Purnima and Raksha Bandhan.
As per the schedule drawn for the elections by the Government, Municipal elections were likely to be held between September-October followed by Panchayat polls from October-December. Prepar-ations by the Election Authority were in full swing taking into account the scheduled time of elections.
The Government has decided that for the first time they would establish 3-tier system of Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir by holding elections to Block Development Councils (BDCs) and District Planning and Development Boards after the Panchayat polls. The BDC and DPDB elections have never been held in the State depriving the people of full benefits of the Panchayati Raj system.
Municipal elections were last held in the State in January 2005 and elected Municipal bodies had completed their five-year term in 2010. Elections to Municipalities haven’t been held for the last about eight and a half years. Similarly, Panchayat elections were last held in April-May 2011 and the elected Panchayats had completed their tem in July 2016. Elections to Panchayats have also not been held since then.
It was after the exit of PDP-BJP coalition Government that former Governor NN Vohra took the initiative to hold elections to both Panchayats and Municipalities in the State.