Govt to go for first-ever election to 20 DDCs in J&K in Nov-Dec

Panchayat, ULB by-polls being clubbed
Non-party basis polls may be spread over 6-7 phases

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Oct 21: Within few days after their constitution, the Government has decided to hold first-ever election to 20 District Development Councils (DDCs) comprising 280 Territorial constituencies in November-December to complete third tier of Panchayats which will involve nearly 70 percent electorates in Jammu and Kashmir and will be the first biggest electoral exercise after J&K was converted into the Union Territory from the State.
By-elections to vacancies of Panchayats including Sarpanchs and Panchs will also be held along with elections to the DDCs.
Official sources told the Excelsior that soon after Union Ministry of Home Affairs carried out an amendment in the Panchayati Raj Act and announced constitution of 20 DDCs in Jammu and Kashmir, equal to number of districts in the Union Territory, the Government gave go ahead to conduct of elections to them, which will complete third tier of Panchayats for the first time in the history of Jammu and Kashmir as never in the past the erstwhile State had elected District Development Boards, which used to be headed by the Chief Minister and Cabinet Ministers.
“Exercise to conduct elections to 20 newly announced DDCs having 14 Territorial constituencies each, totaling 280—140 each in Jammu and Kashmir divisions, has been set into motion. A formal announcement of the elections is likely to be made by the end of this month or start of next month,” sources said, adding the elections are likely to commence from the end of November and last about a month.
Polls were likely to spread over 6-7 phases, they said, adding that schedule including dates and phases of the elections will be announced by Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Jammu and Kashmir Hirdesh Kumar, who happens to be the Election Authority for conduct of Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) polls.
Though the Government is yet to take final call, sources said the DDC elections are likely to be held on non-party basis. The non-party basis election will neutralize any impact from likely boycott call from Peoples Alliance including National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, CPM and other such parties. While Panchayat elections were held on non-party basis, the Municipal polls were conducted on party-basis in 2018. Later, the Block Development Council (BDC) polls, which formed second-tier of Panchayats, were also held on party-basis.
“The elections will be conducted in such a way that they are held in initial phases in hilly areas of Jammu and Kashmir which receive snowfall by early December followed by the plains where weather keeps behaving till middle of December,” sources said and cited that Assembly elections in J&K were also held in November-December in 2009 and 2014 and there were no disturbances caused by weather.
Pointing out that nearly 70 percent electorates will be involved in the elections being held to the District Development Councils, sources said the Government has geared up entire administrative machinery for successful conduct of the first-ever polls to third tier of Panchayats and hoped that they will be peaceful like 2018 Panchayat and Municipal polls, which were also held after a long gap.
According to sources, the Deputy Commissioners of all 20 districts are likely to notify Territorial constituencies in their districts on October 27. They have invited objections to the constituencies till October 23. Once the constituencies are formally notified by the Deputy Commissioners and electoral rolls are in place, the decks would be cleared for formal announcement of elections.
While the people will elect 14 representatives in Territorial Constituencies in every district, the elected persons will elect Chairman of the District Development Councils.
It may be mentioned that anyone having his name in Panchayat Halqa of that district can contest the election for Territorial segment. Besides Territorial constituency members, the BDC chairpersons and MLAs of the district will also be members of the DDCs. However, the chairperson and vice chairpersons of the DDCs will be elected by the Territorial constituency members only.
As far as security issues are concerned, sources said, it will not be a problem as large number of companies of para-military forces are still camping in Jammu and Kashmir which had been deployed in the Union Territory before August 5, 2019 decisions.
Sources said the by-polls to Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies including vacancies of Sarpanchs, Panchs, Councilors and ULB members etc will also be held along with the District Development Council elections.
As per the sources, the maximum vacancies of Sarpanchs for which elections will be held were 157 in Budgam district of Kashmir and minimum six in Samba district of Jammu region.
Posts of Sarpanchs in other districts on which elections will be held include Pulwama (152), Anantnag (137), Baramulla (149), Kulgam (132), Bandipora (50), Ganderbal (42), Kupwara (32), Shopian (75) and Srinagar (9), all in the Kashmir valley.
Vacancies of Sarpanchs in Jammu region include Udhampur (17), Reasi (10), Ramban (13), Doda (18), Jammu (17), Kathua (22), Kishtwar (23), Poonch (11) and Rajouri (16).