ECI being approached for schedule
JAMMU, Feb 21: The State Administrative Council (SAC) today approved conduct of elections for seats of the Legislative Council including four from Panchayats and two from Municipalities quota, which were vacant due to delay in conduct of Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies elections in the State.
The SAC, which met today under the chairmanship of Governor Satya Pal Malik approved the proposal for conduct of elections to six seats of the Upper House and decided to write to the Election Commission of India, which had to hold the elections.
The SAC decision to fill up the vacancies came after publication of Electoral College for both the elections including from Municipal and Panchayat quotas by the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of the State, who had been designated as the State Election Commissioner for holding the two elections.
“The Electoral College is now available for holding elections to Municipalities and Panchayats,’’ official sources told the Excelsior.
Elected members of Municipal Corporations, Councils and Committees across the State comprised Electoral College for two seats of MLCs from ULB quota while Sarpanchs and Panchs formed the Electoral College for elections to four seats of the MLCs from Panchayat quota.
Of four Panchayat seats, two each are reserved for Jammu and Kashmir divisions (Ladakh was earlier part of Kashmir division) while out of two seats of Municipal quota, one each is reserved for Jammu and Kashmir division. Though Ladakh has been designated as separate division recently, sources said, the elected members of Municipalities and Panchayats from Leh and Kargil district could vote along with Kashmir division.
Excelsior had exclusively reported recently that the Government proposed to fill all six vacancies of the Legislative Council from Panchayat and Municipal quota after successful conduct of elections to Municipalities after 13 years and Panchayats after seven years.
Vacancies from Panchayat quota in the Upper House had arisen only in the month of December 2018 as all four members had completed their six years term. They were Dr Shehnaz Ganaie and Ali Mohammad Dar of National Conference and Sham Lal Bhagat and Ghulam Nabi Monga from Congress.
The ULB vacancies in the Upper House were filled up in November 2005 after elections were held to the Municipalities in January-February 2005 after a gap of 26 years. One of the members from the ULB quota, Nizam-ud-Din Bhat of PDP had given up his Legislative Council membership in 2008 after being elected to the Legislative Assembly while Congress MLC Arvinder Singh Micky had completed his six year term in November 2011.
Both seats from the ULB quota were lying vacant in the Legislative Council since then.
According to sources, since only elected members of Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies had to vote for the elections to six seats of the Legislative Council, the Government didn’t feel that there would be any security related problem in holding this elections.
Apart from six vacancies of Panchayat and ULB quota in the Legislative Council, eight more MLCs would be completing their term on March 16 this year but these vacancies can’t be filled in the absence of Legislative Assembly. MLAs formed Electoral College for these eight seats.
Elections to these eight seats can be held only when the new Legislative Assembly is formed.
Of eight MLCs, who will complete their term in March this year, three each belonged to People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Congress and one each to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and National Conference.
They are Naeem Akhter, former Minister, Yashpal Sharma and Firdous Tak (all from PDP), Rani Gargi Billowria, Naresh Gupta and Mohammad Muzaffar Parrey (all from Congress), Sofi Yusuf (BJP) and Showkat Ahmad Ganai (National Conference). Of them Sofi Yusuf and Firdous Tak have term of four years only while six others will get full six years tenure.
The Legislative Council has total strength of 36, which had come down to 30 in December last year after four representatives from Panchayats completed their term. Two vacancies already existed in the Council since 2008 and 2011 from the quota of Urban Local Bodies.
With retirement of eight more Legislative Council members in the month of March, number of the vacancies in the Upper House will rise to 14 and its strength will come down to just 22 as elections for six seats of Panchayat and ULB quota would take more than a month and half to complete after the process is set into motion. This will be for the first time that strength of the Council will be reduced to just 22 in the past about two decades.
Strength of the Council had come down to naught in 1996 as there was no Legislative Assembly in the State from 1989 to 1996 due to imposition of President’s rule in the State for about six years in view of disturbed conditions. All 22 vacancies in the Council were then filled in 1997. Only 22 members of the Legislative Council are elected by the MLAs—11 each from Jammu and Kashmir divisions with one seat each reserved for Doda, Poonch, Leh and Kargil. Eight MLCs are nominated by the Government while four MLCs are elected by the Panchayat and two by the Urban Local Bodies’ members.
Till the elections are held for six vacancies in the Legislative Council, the BJP will emerge as single largest party in after completion of the term of eight members in March.
Out of 22 members Legislative Council in March, the BJP will have 10 members followed by eight of the PDP, three from National Conference and just one from the Congress. This will also be a rare occasion when the Congress will have lone member in the Council (Thakur Balbir Singh), who has term till 2023, while the BJP will have 10 members. In 1996, BJP had just one member in the Upper House (Daya Krishan Kotwal) and after his retirement, the party had no presence in the Council till it came to power with the PDP in 2015.