And New Delhi Goes Ahead With BDC Elections!

5 mins read

Rezwan Sultan

The state government has announced the block development council election just after two months when the BJP led NDA government in Delhi abrogated the special status of Jammu & Kashmir and bifurcate it into two union territories. These are the first elections in the J&K after the abrogation of Special status. On September 29, chief Electoral officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar announced that the BDC elections will be conducted on October 24. During press conference Kumar said that after taking into all relevant aspects, the election would be conducted in one phase across the state. The announcement for the second tier polls came after the government issued a notification on September 20, in which panchs and sarpanchs have been told to elect their chairpersons for BDC. Kumar said that “for the conduct of BDC election one block has been taken as one constituency and all the panchs and sarpanchs of the halqa panchayat falling within the block constitute the Electoral College for the block”.

There are total 316 blocks in the state among them two blocks have no elected panchs and sarpanchs and four blocks have been reserved for women but there are no elected women candidates . So, election will be on 310 blocks.

On the other hand there are 24per cent vacant panchayat posts in the three divisions. This detail was also revealed by the CEO Shailendra Kumar during presser. Kashmir has 135 blocks with 7528 elected candidates including 6162 panchs and 1326 sarpanchs and there are 12565 vacancies among them 500 persons have resigned and 11 died. It means there are (61.5%) vacant panchahyat seats are in Valley only. In Jammu Division with 148 blocks there are 18,089 elected candidates including 15,800 panchs and 2289 sarpanchs. Elections couldn’t be conducted on 103 seats and among 166 vacant posts 43 persons resigned and 20 died. Similarly with 31 blocks in Ladakh division has 1606 elected candidates including 1414 panchs and 192 sarpanchs. It has total 45 vacant posts as 19 persons resigned and two died. In all blocks J&K has total 26,629 electors including 18,316 men and 8313 women. The misery of vacant panchayat seats in valley is another concern for the government as CEO has said that the decision on these vacant panchayat seats will be taken only after the completion of BDC polls.

The elections will be fought on the party lines and the election scenario for BDC polls is also clear. As the last date of filing the forms was October 9, but all the local parties have boycotted the BDC polls as a “mark of protest” against the decision taken by the centre of abrogation and bifurcation of the state. After announcing the BDC polls the authorities on next day lifted the restrictions on the non BJP political leaders in Jammu to let them participate in BDC polls. After releasing a delegation of NC leaders headed by Devindra Singh Rana from Jammu division went to Srinagar and met their Party President Dr. Farooq Abdullah and Party Vice President Omar Abdullah to discuss current Situation and to know the party’s stand on BDC polls.

After meeting Rana said that the “for any political process to start J&K government should first release all mainstream political leaders, otherwise BDC elections would  be meaningless”. Even a statement was given by MP’s from NC Justice Retired Husnaian Masoodi and Mohd Akber Lone that NC will not participate in any election until and unless special status is restored. Another local party Peoples Democratic Party has also decided not to participate in the elections, even a delegation of 10 members of Jammu division cancelled the meeting with Mehbooba  Mufti feared that it would be projected as “return of normalcy” by GoI.

As far as elections are concerned party sources has said that ‘there is no question of participating in any polls, be it BDC or other. The priority of the party is to get free its detained leaders”. As far as Congress is concerned party was uncertain on these elections to participate or not, first J&K congress chief  G A Mir announced that their party will not leave  ground for the BJP and will give a tough fight but at the last day of filing nominations the party follows the footsteps of NC and PDP. Congress senior leader and opposition leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has lashed out at centre that “they are worried about elections but not about the people, so that they could govern over them, however people of valley have no fondness towards BJP.

Along with these parties national Panthers party, Peoples democratic front and others have also boycotted the elections. The only party besides BJP is JDU (Janata Dal United) which has fielded their candidates in the elections, The Party has filed 41 nominations form Jammu and 20 from Kashmir division.

After the boycott by these parties the Panchayat body announced to fight the elections independently, apex body of panchs and sarpanchs All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat association (AJKPA) decided not to align with any political party alleging that this institution is being politicized. Chairman of the association Shafiq Ahmad Mir has said that “how it is viable to fight the second tier of panchayat polls on party basis when the first tier was contested on Non – party lines?” There is a political move behind the decision so that a particular political party reaps benefits, he added. As then in panchayat elections PDP and NC boycotted the polls.

Last date of filing nominations and withdrawal of names was 9 and 11 October. The elections will be conducted on 24 October and the counting will begin on the same day. 1382 candidates had filed their notations in three divisions among those 515 were filed from Kashmir, 751 from Jammu and 116 from Ladakh division. After the scrutiny and withdrawal process now 1092 candidates have been found eligible, out of those 27 candidates have been unopposed elected chairpersons. As far as division and district wise is concerned in Kashmir 101 candidates are from Kupwara, 90 from Baramulla,26 from Bandipora, 28 from Ganderbal, 05 in Srinagar, 58 in Budgam, 11 from Pulwama, 04 from Shopian,  Kulgam 18 and from Annantnag 55. In Jammu Division Doda 74, Kishtwar 44, Ramban 43,Reasi 39,Udhampur 58,Kathua72, Sambha 36, Jammu 82, Rajouri 76, and in Poonch 61 with  candidates will try their luck. Similarly in Ladakh division Leh has 36 candidates and Kargil has 38 candidates in Fray. There are 853 independent candidates and 239 are from BJP and JDU.

There is now doubt that these elections will be conducted without the mainstream parties of valley. In Kashmir valley there is no party ready to participate in the elections even in Jammu NPP has boycotted the elections. Analysts are saying that the hurry to conduct the elections by the government is putting few questions here. Firstly, is that if the all main party heads in valley are behind the bars how they can conduct these elections as these elections are conducted on party basis, the second is that behind the hurry to conduct these election is BJP trying to get the advantage and making ground for next assembly elections, it would be good for the party but not for the democracy as these parties have called these elections a “mockery”.

Analysts  are   predicting  that as the centre has few parties there in valley but  with these  harsh decisions and  decisions taken on August 5 as people are already far away from the reach of centre now these pro Indian leaders also feel betrayed and even they can change their ways. As Shehla Rashid has already announced to quit politics and his party’s president Shah Faesal is also mulling to quit it and will fly to America after getting released next week according to sources. Bringing new faces and making old faces irrelevant seems a tough battle for Delhi.

As far as the Panchayat Raj is concerned, government is working hard to transfer powers to them and make them relevant. Last year under the then Governor N.N Vohra administration amended the amendment  in panchayat Raj act (1989) in which the then BJP-PDP government allowed the parties to directly select their panchs and sarpanchs rather than voting. After in December government conducted the panchayat elections after seven years under militant threats but election went peacefully and even centre complimented the J&K government for successful polls.

Now, the second tier of these elections (BDC) will be conducted on October 24 , as there is no election rally nobody knows the faces and names of these candidates, But only the time will tell how these elections will go and what will  be the future perspective of mainstream parties in valley.

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