Govt to hold Panchayat by-polls for 12,650 seats on party basis

8-phase elections from March 5-20

Counting of votes after polling, results same day

* MCC comes into force
* Elected Reps to get remaining term
* Reservation as per 2018 elections
* Ballot boxes to be used
* Expenditure limit fixed
* Entire UT to be covered in elections
* No polls in Ladakh due to weather

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Feb 13: In first major political exercise post abrogation of special Constitutional provisions of J&K on August 5 and its bifurcation into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Shailendra Kumar today announced by-elections for 12650 vacant seats of Panchayats spread over all 20 districts in the Union Territory of J&K on party basis, unlike the Panchayat polls in November-December 2018 which were held on non-party basis.
“The by-elections will be held in eight phases beginning March 5 and concluding March 20. In Jammu division, the polls process will be over in first four phases while it will go on in all eight phases in Kashmir,” Kumar said.

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The CEO told the Excelsior that by-elections to the Panchayats will be held on party-basis. There is a provision in the Act for holding elections on party basis though previously the elections in November-December 2018 were held on non-party basis.
“The Urban Local Bodies (ULB) followed by the Block Development Council (BDC) elections were held on party basis. So, there is no purpose of reverting to the previous practice of holding elections on non-party basis,” Kumar said, adding the registered national and regional political parties will retain their symbols.
The decision to hold elections on party basis assumed significance as three former Chief Ministers including presidents of two major political parties in Jammu and Kashmir-Dr Farooq Abdullah (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti (PDP) have been booked under the PSA along with NC vice president Omar Abdullah besides some other leaders of these two and other political parties.
In 2018, Panchayat elections were held in nine phases while the by-elections now will be conducted in eight phases.
Kumar said by-elections will be held for 12650 constituencies including 1011 Sarpanchs and 11639 Panchs covering 274 out of 285 blocks in all 20 districts of the Union Territory.
“The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) will come into force with immediate effect,” he said, adding that all provisions of the MCC will apply to all Panchayat Halqas (rural areas) and will be applicable to all candidates, political parties and UT/ Central Government. However, the MCC will cease to apply once the election process is over in a particular block.
Polling will be held from 9 am to 1 pm followed by counting and declaration of results the same day.
Eight-phase elections will be held on March 5, 7, 9, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 20.
The by-elections were necessitated as number of seats were left vacant in 2018 Panchayat elections especially in the Kashmir valley in the absence of candidates followed by election of around 280 Chairpersons of Block Development Councils from amongst the Sarpanchs and Panchs.
However, by-elections will not be held in the Union Territory of Ladakh which was snow bound.
“Reservation of Sarpanch and Panch constituencies will remain the same like the Panchayat elections held in November-December 2018. The Sarpanch and Panch constituencies have been reserved for SCs, STs and women as per provisions of the Panchayati Raj Act and rules governing the elections.
However, the Sarpanchs and Panchs in these elections will not get full five year term but only remaining period of five years of the Panchayats. The elections will be conducted through ballot boxes.
The CEO has fixed Rs 1 lakh maximum expenditure limit for the election of Sarpanch and Rs 30,000 for Panch and will be appointing sufficient numbers of Expenditure, Election and Micro Observers for the elections.
The Kashmiri migrants will vote through ‘Migrant Postal Ballot’ like 2018 Panchayat elections.
Kumar said adequate number of polling stations have been set up for the elections.
He said the electoral rolls for the elections with qualifying date as January 2, 2020 have been published.
Out of total number of 1011 Sarpanch constituencies for which elections will be held, 887 fall in Kashmir division and 124 in Jammu while from amongst 11639 Panch seats, by-polls will be conducted on 11457 seats in Kashmir and 182 in Jammu.
In Kashmir division, by-elections will be held for 25 Sarpanch and 768 Panch constituencies in Kupwara district, 148 Sarpanch and 2163 Panch segments in Baramulla, 45 Sarpanch and 603 Panch seats in Bandipora, 41 Sarpanch and 685 Panch segments in Ganderbal, nine Sarpanch and 155 Panch seats in Srinagar, 157 Sarpanch and 1941 Panch constituencies in Budgam, 73 Sarpanch and 742 Panch seats in Shopian, 103 Sarpanch and 968 Panch seats in Kulgam and 135 Sarpanch and 1995 Panch segments in Anantnag.
In Jammu division, by-polls will be held for 10 Sarpanch and nine Panch seats in Kishtwar district, 16 Sarpanch and 17 Panch constituencies in Doda, 10 Sarpanch and 19 Panch segments in Ramban , 16 Sarpanch and 15 Panch constituencies in Udhampur, nine Sarpanch and 14 Panch seats in Reasi, 19 Sarpanch and an equal number of Panch segments in Kathua, five Sarpanch and 20 Panch seats in Samba, 15 Sarpanch and 25 Panch segments in Jammu, 16 Sarpanch and 26 seats in Rajouri and eight Sarpanch and 18 Panch constituencies in Poonch.