Kashmir: Eight phased polls to vacant Panchayat seats in March

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Shailender Kumar announced on Thursday schedule of elections to over 10,000 vacant Panchayat seats in the Kashmir Valley.

The elections shall be held in March in eight phases, through ballot boxes, Kumar said.

Aiming to restore democracy fully at the grass-roots level, over 12,500 vacant Panchayat Halqas will elect Sarpanches and Panches in the Union Territory as the Government has decided to hold elections.

Secretary Jammu and Kashmir Rural Development Department, Sheetal Nanda on Tuesday issued notification that the Government in consultation with Election Authority under Rule 7 of J&K Panchayati Raj Rule 1996 has called upon the vacant Panchayat Halqas to elect Sarpanches and Panches on the dates to be appointed by the Election Authority.

With the announcement of number of vacant seats by the Secretary RDD, the election process has set in motion.

”We have identified a total of 12,653 vacancies in Panchayats including 1,014 Sarpanchs and 11,639 Panchs in all 20 districts of the Union Territory-10 each in Jammu and Kashmir divisions. Majority of vacancies were in Kashmir division,” official sources here said on Wednesday.

They said that the elections to the over 12,500 vacant posts of Panch and Sarpanch in Gram Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir will be held on the dates to be appointed by the Election Authority.

The schedule for holding the elections is being worked out and dates shall be announced by the Chief Electoral Officer soon, they added and said, ”The Election Authority might begin the poll process from plain areas and hold elections in higher reaches in last couple of phases in March taking into account the winter weather conditions.”

The notification revealed that in Kashmir division, maximum number of vacancies were in Baramulla district (2311) followed by South Kashmir’s Anantnag district (2130), Budgam (2098), Pulwama (1588) and Kulgam (1071).

Vacancies in other Valley districts included 648 in Bandipora, 726 in Ganderbal, 796 in Kupwara, 815 in Shopian and 164 in Srinagar.

However, the vacancies were negligible in Jammu division with highest 42 in Rajouri district followed by 40 in Jammu, 38 in Kathua, 33 in Doda, 31 in Udhampur, 29 in Ramban district, 26 in Poonch, 25 in Samba, 23 in Reasi and 19 in Kishtwar.

On January 21, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar had called on Lt Governor G C Murmu and informed him about the preparations for the elections to vacant seats of Panchayats in the Union Territory.

Mr Kumar had briefed the Lt Governor about the various activities undertaken by the Election Commission in Jammu and Kashmir for generating awareness of the electoral process and sensitising the voters especially newly eligible young voters towards their voting rights.