SEC may cut Municipal, Panchayat election phases to half

Govt wants process completed in minimum time

Final call to be taken after security review

Excelsior Correspondent
JAMMU, Aug 28: The State Election Commission is working on reducing election phases for both Municipal and Panchayat elections to virtually half as compared to previous polls with a view to give minimum time to the poll process to keep violence at bare minimum level in view of the inputs that the militants could try to sabotage the elections.
“The sooner the election process is completed, the better it would be from the security point of view as a lengthy election process would give more time to the militants and their Over Ground Workers to target the candidates,’’ official sources told the Excelsior saying this factor was being taken into consideration while deciding election phases for both Municipal and Panchayat polls.
Sources said the State Election Commission was working on cutting to nearly half the eight-phase election process of Urban Local Bodies to three or four and Panchayats from 16 to eight. However, a final decision on reducing the election phases to nearly half would be taken after high-level security review meeting in which the view point of security agencies, which would be involved in the conduct of polls, would be taken.
In 2005 when the Municipal elections were last held in the State, the poll process was completed in eight phases while Panchayat elections were held in 16 phases in 2011. The Commission was now working on three to four phase Municipal elections and seven to nine phase Panchayat polls.
The State Government, according to sources, has also favoured completion of Municipal and Panchayat election process in the minimum possible time in view of security threats. The Government officials were of the view that the prolonged election process i.e. taking one month to complete Municipal polls and over two months for Panchayat elections would not be in the interest of the candidates as well as polling staff on duty as it would give more time to the militants to identify targets and hit them.
Therefore, sources said, the Government also wants the Municipal elections process to be over in 20 days and Panchayats in about one and a half month. The Commission was also working on the same lines, they added but said security agencies’ view would have major say in deciding phases of the elections as they had to rotate para-military forces and Jammu and Kashmir Police to the election bound districts during the phases.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs headed by Rajnath Singh has already committed to provide additional para-military forces for smooth conduct of Municipal and Panchayat elections. It has assured the State Government that it will not withdraw some of the additional para-military companies given for annual pilgrimage of Shri Amarnath Ji shrine from Jammu and Kashmir to utilize them for the election process.
This will be a rare occasion when the Union Home Ministry will be providing additional para-military forces for holding Panchayat and Municipal elections in the State, which are generally conducted by the State police, sources said, adding the Centre was also of the view that the State needs good security protection for violence-free polls as militants and their Over Ground Workers would do their best to sabotage the process, which has been initiated during the Governor’s rule after several hiccups.
Currently, the State Election Commission has undertaken the exercise of updating electoral rolls for both Municipal and Panchayat elections. Other formalities for holding the elections are also being completed.
Election will be held for 79 Urban Local Bodies and 4490 Panchayats. As per the Government proposal, the Municipal polls are scheduled to be held between September-October followed by Panchayat polls between October-December.
Municipal elections were last held in January-February 2005 and elected Municipalities had completed their five-year term in March 2010. The elections were pending for last eight and half years. Similarly, Panchayat polls were last held in April-May 2011 and elected Panchayats had completed their term in July 2016. The elections to the Panchayats were pending for last two years.