Stage set for Panchayat elections in Jammu & Kashmir

Srinagar: With the state government proposing to hold Panchayat pollsearly next year, All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC)demanded implementation of the 73rd Amendment of Constitution regarding Panchayati Raj in Jammu and Kashmir before conducting panchayat elections in the state. The organization further demanded allocation of special funds exclusively for each panchayat ward to ensure development and end the voices of discrimination.

Anil Sharma, president AJKPC addressing media in Jammu (December 26), threatened that they will protest against state government for its denial to extend the 73rd Amendment to the state. “Such elections are just a drama of the state government to get the central funds released but it will not serve any purpose to the people of the state,” said Sharma.

He urged Centre, particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitleyand the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, to allocate special funds of Rs 10 lakh each exclusively to be used by each panchayat ward to meet the local demands and ensure involvement of all stakeholders in various development activities of the ward. These funds, he said, should be directly transferred to the accounts of the respective panchayats so that no room was left for corruption at different levels.

The Chief Minister had earlier expressed hope that peoplewould prefer ballot over bullet in the forthcoming panchayat elections scheduled to be held in mid-February. “I am very pleased to announce that the long overdue panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held from February 15, 2018. People in the state have always chosen ballots over bullets and will continue to do so,” tweeted the Chief Minister, December 26.

Responding with a positive note, the main opposition party, National Conference (December 26), said that the party was ready for the polls. The party president and Member Parliament Dr. Farooq Abdullah said that his party was ready for the contest and urged people to get ready for the same.

Governor NN Vohra on November 4 had promulgated an ordinance to designate the state’s chief electoral officer as state election commissioner for conducting the panchayat elections. The panchayat elections were scheduled to be held in the state last year when the five-year term of these bodies ended in July 2016. However, the polls could not be held due to the unrest that followed the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani along with two associates in south Kashmir on July 8, 2016. The elections could not be held this year as well after violence broke out during the by-poll in Srinagar Parliamentary constituency on April 08 that left around eight people dead and scores injured. It also resulted in the cancellation of by-elections of the Anantnag Parliamentary constituency in south Kashmir. The previous panchayat elections were held in the state in 2011 after a gap of nearly three decades.

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