Sanjeev K. Sharma
Jammu, Jan 19: In a high voltage drama involving boycott of entire opposition, BJP today won unopposed all the three positions of Chairmen of Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) Standing Committees.
The winners in the election involving open ballot system, which was held for the first time in the history of J&K, were Kuldeep Singh, who will head the Standing Committees of Social Justice while Narinder Singh Jamwal (Bunty) has been elected as Chairman of Public Health and Sanitation Committee and Yashpal Sharma (Mantoo) has been elected as Chairman of Swachch Bharat Standing Committee.
While the jubilant BJP rejoiced victory, opposition members claimed they were kept in dark about open ballot election process.
The eligible Councillors for voting gathered at the venue at 11:00 am and the election process started at 11:15 am with an announcement by Tina Mahajan, JMC Secretary.
All opposition voters started protest and staged a walkout from the JMC hall which was turned into a polling station, as the Secretary said that elections will be held in an open ballot process.
While the JMC Mayor claimed amendment paving way for open ballot was done in October last year, the protesting opposition maintained that they were kept in dark about the development.
“It is only yesterday at 4:40 pm when an official from JMC handed over a document to me mentioning about the new rule of October 26, 2020 in an order of Union Home Ministry about tenure of Mayor and Deputy Mayor but it had no mention about open ballot,” Dwarka Nath Chowdhary, opposition leader in JMC house of 75 Councillors told this reporter.
“Even on January 14 which was last date of filing nominations, we were not informed about open ballot,” he maintained adding that last elections were held in secret ballot wherein some members had clicked pictures after which “we had written to the JMC Commissioner to not allow phone during voting this time and she had assured that is will be a secret ballot.”
He also said that today at start of election the Secretary informed them about open ballot and agents of parties to check the votes before it would be casted but “we objected.”
“I remained Councillor since 2005 and also Chairman of a Standing Committee but have never seen open ballot elections,” Chowdhary claimed.
Contrary to this, the JMC Mayor, Chander Mohan Gupta said the election process was as per norms.
On opposition claiming that they were not informed well in time about the development he said, on several occasions he had told them “verbally” about the development.
“They should have also kept themselves updated on new developments,” he maintained adding: “It is like an unprepared student crying out of syllabus paper in examination hall.”
Gupta also said that Srinagar Municipal Corporation too did these elections in same way.
It is pertinent to mention here that there are nine members each in of the three Standing Committees of JMC including the Chairman and three of these members are from opposition in each committee barring the Swachch Bharat Committee which has four opposition members.
With this opposition members make a total of 10 votes.
“They feared cross voting as even many BJP members were not satisfied with the working of Mayor and his team as there was developmental crisis in almost all the Wards of JMC,” Sobat Ali, a Congress Councillor who boycotted the election process claimed.
Sources informed that in the election process today the voter had to show vote paper to his/her party agent before putting it in a tray to avoid cross voting and the independent Councillors were not supposed to do so as there was no agent for them as they were independents.
Sanjeev K. Sharma