Polling in S Kashmir staggered to 8 phases, Srinagar just 3

9-phase Panchayat polls for 35096 segments from Nov 17
Secure environment, no individual security: CEO

Sanjeev Pargal/
Fayaz Bukhari
JAMMU/SRINAGAR, Sept 16: The State Election Commission today announced nine-phase schedule for Panchayat elections in the State beginning November 17 and ending December 11. Like Municipal polls, the SEC staggered election process in most militancy-infested South Kashmir to eight phases but confined Srinagar district in just three phases. Polling will be over in Ladakh region in first five phases and in Jammu province in first eight phases. The ninth and last phase will have voting only in the Valley districts.
The election schedule was announced by Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shaleen Kabra at a press conference in Srinagar today.
He said the counting of votes will be taken up on the day of poll unless notified otherwise, followed by announcement of the results. Polling hours will be from 8 am to 2 pm. Entire election process will be completed by December 17.
In Phase-I on November 17, parts of Doda, Kathua, Kishtwar, Poonch Rajouri, Ramban and Udhampur districts of Jammu region, Leh and Kargil districts of Ladakh region and Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kupwara and Srinagar districts will go the polls.

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“The Panchayats of the districts which will go to polls in Phase-I and next phases will be announced by the State Election Commission at the time of notification,” official sources said.
Phase 2 polling will be held on November 20 and Panchayats of Doda, Kathua, Kishtwar, Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban and Udhampur in Jammu region, Leh and Kargil in Ladakh region and Anantnag, Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Ganderbal and Kupwara districts of Kashmir will go to the polls.
In third phase on November 24, polling will be held in parts of Doda, Kathua, Kishtwar, Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban and Udhampur districts of Jammu region, Leh and Kargil districts of Ladakh, Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Kupwara and Shopian districts of the Valley.
Polling in Jammu district will start in fourth phase on November 27. Apart from Jammu; Doda, Kathua, Kishtwar, Rajouri, Ramban and Udhampur districts in Jammu region, Leh and Kargil districts of Ladakh, Anantnag, Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Kulgam, Kupwara, Pulwama and Shopian districts of Kashmir will vote in Phase-IV.
Fifth phase voting will be held on November 29 and will cover Doda, Jammu, Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban, Reasi and Udhampur districts of Jammu, Leh and Kargil districts of Ladakh, Anantnag, Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Kupwara, Pulwama and Shopian districts of Kashmir.
With the completion of fifth phase, polling will be over in Leh and Kargil districts of Ladakh region.
Voting of sixth phase is scheduled for December 1 and it will cover Doda, Jammu, Kathua, Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban, Reasi, Samba and Udhampur districts of Jammu and Anantnag, Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Kupwara, Pulwama, Shopian and Srinagar districts of Kashmir.
In 7th phase polling on December 4, Jammu, Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban, Reasi and Samba districts of Jammu region, Anantnag, Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Kupwara, Pulwama and Shopian districts of Kashmir will have voting.
With seventh phase, voting will be complete in Doda, Ramban, Kishtwar, Udhampur and Poonch districts of Jammu region.
In eighth phase on December 8, Jammu, Kathua, Rajouri, Reasi and Samba districts of Jammu region and Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Kulgam, Kupwara, Pulwama, Shopian and Srinagar districts will have polling. With eighth phase, the polling will be over in entire Jammu region.
In ninth and final phase, Anantnag, Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Kupwara, Pulwama and Shopian districts of the Valley will go to polls.
The CEO said that individual notifications for each phase of the elections will be issued on October, 23, 26, 29, November 1, 3, 6, 9, 12 and 14 respectively. He said the last date for filing nominations for the nine phases will be October 30, November 2, 5, 8, 10, 13, 16, 19 and 22 respectively. The date of scrutiny of nominations will be October 31, November 3, 6, 9, 12, 14, 17, 20 and 24 respectively.
The CEO said the last dates of withdrawal of candidature will be November 2, 5, 8, 12, 14, 16, 19, 22 and 26 respectively. The polling will be held on November 17, 20, 24, 27, 29, December 1, 4, 8, and 11 respectively for 316 Blocks in 4490 Panchayat Halqas comprising of 35096 Panch Constituencies.
He said the last Panchayat elections in the State were held in 2011 after a gap of 10 years and the Panchayats completed their term in July 2016.
The CEO said with today’s announcement of the poll schedule, the Model Code of Conduct will come into force with immediate effect and it apply in all Panch constituencies going to polls as also for the candidates, the political parties and the Government.
“The ongoing works will continue. New announcements cannot take place and new sanctions cannot be issued. But, wherever works are underway, they will continue. Also, if there is a foundation stone going to be laid that is not permitted. Inaugurating something or dedicating some scheme for the contesting candidates is not allowed. If the same is done by any Government officer it is allowed under the model Code of Conduct”, he said.
Kabra said the elections will be held through ballot from 8 am to 2 pm. He said in view of the recent amendments making direct election to Sarpanch, the electors shall cast their votes for Panch as well as Sarpanch for which two separate colours of ballot papers will be used.
The CEO said suitable number of Polling Stations have been notified for each Panch constituency of a Panchayat Halqa as determined by the District Panchayat Election Officer.
He said voter slips will be distributed to 5812429 voters in Urdu and English language to make the voters aware about their respective polling stations. The voter identity cards will be compulsory for casting votes.
He said General Observers shall be deployed to ensure free and fair elections. The Observers will be asked to keep a close watch on every stage of the electoral process.
He said a scheme has been devised to enable migrant Kashmiri Pandits to vote in Panchayat elections through postal ballot.
The CEO said comprehensive instructions for effective monitoring of the election expenditure of the candidates have already been issued. He said for greater transparency and for ease of monitoring of Election expenses, candidates will be provided with ‘Expenditure Register’ on the day of nomination. He said Expenditure Observers are being appointed to keep close watch on election expenditure of the candidates. The CEO said that expenditure limits have been fixed at Rs 20000 for Sarpanch and Rs 5000 for Panch.
“All candidates have to ensure that they maintain day-to-day expenditure record in the prescribed register, which will be supplied to the contesting candidate in the form of ‘Expenditure Register’ from the date of nomination to the date of declaration of result,” he said.
Kabra said all critical events will be videographed and concerned Deputy Commissioners will arrange sufficient number of video and digital cameras and camera teams for the purpose.
The CEO said that the security environment will be provided but no individual security will be provided. “One doesn’t provide security to each person per say. It’s the security environment which is to be provided and we have looked into the aspect and I am reasonably sure free and fair elections will be possible to be held peacefully”, he said.
Kabra said that there would be good participation of people in these elections. “The Election authority as well as the security apparatus have gone into detail, looked at various aspects and are reasonably sure that there will be very good participation in the election. These elections are essentially meant to provide a way of governance wherein local issues are addressed by means of resources made available to the people to locally decide their priorities and utilize them in such a way that all matters are addressed. And that is the reason we expect a very good participation of the people in this entire process”, he added.
“We expect good participation of the people”, he said.