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Government to Now Hold Civic Polls in Troubled J&K

After the coalition government of PDP–BJP in Jammu and Kashmir fell and the partnership went for a toss in June, the government at the Center had preferred to leave the state under Governor N.N. Vohra’s rule.

Now the Central NDA government is planning to hold urban local body and panchayat polls while the state is still under governor’s rule, according to people familiar with the plan.

The elections, which had been scheduled to be held in January this year, were deferred once the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)–Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government led by Mehbooba Mufti told the Center that the situation was not conducive for polls to happen.

The previous panchayat polls within J&K were took place in 2011; urban local body elections haven’t been held for the past eight years.

During his visit to Srinagar to review security and governance within the state, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had hinted at the same when he spoke about strengthening the grassroot institutions. A notification on the polls could also be issued shortly when the Amarnath Yatra ends.

“It seems the Centre is now serious in holding these elections and these polls are the first priority over the formation of a new government in the state,” a top official privy to the plan said. “The Centre wants to hold these polls under the governor’s rule.”

In the previous panchayat polls in 2011, more than 4,145 sarpanches and 29,000 panches were elected and the voter turnout was around 80%. People who participated in the elections described it as a vote to seek an end to their
day-to-day problems.

“We have been asked to be ready for panchayat and local body elections in the J&K,’’ a BJP legislator had quoted to Hindustan Times. “We are ready for these polls and will participate in these elections with all our strength. I think these polls could be held within the next two or three months.”

After chairing many review conferences in Srinagar on the 5th of June, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh declared that the answer to all the issues lies in empowering the individuals and strengthening the institutions of local
self-governance. “With renewed focus on good governance and development; the Centre is looking forward to kindle new aspirations and hopes among the people. Development and good governance had remained elusive for the common people of J&K,” Singh said.

Shafiq Mir, president, All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference, said, “The elections should not be turned into a political issue. These are community government intuitions meant to help the common masses; it has nothing to do with the politics.”