SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer has said the State Election Commission is ready to hold panchayat polls and is awaiting the State government's nod for holding election to the vital component of grass root democracy.
"The general preparations for holding the panchayat polls in the State are OK. We are ready," J&K Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra told New Indian Express.
He said they have been preparing for the Panchayat polls since December last year as earlier the panchayat polls were slated to be held in February 2018. The then PDP-BP coalition government headed by Mehbooba Mufti had announced in December last year that the panchayat polls would be held from February 15, 2018 on non-party basis.
However, the polls could not be held and were deferred as situation was not conducive in the Valley for holding electoral process. The last panchayat polls in the strife-torn J&K were held in 2011 after a gap of about 37 years. The polls, which were held for 4,098 sarpanch and 29,402 panch constituencies, witnessed a record 80 per cent polling. The elected Panchayats completed their term in June 2016 and since the panchayat elections could not be held immediately as the Valley witnessed over five-month long unrest that year following the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016.
In view of turmoil-like situation in the Valley, the panchayat polls were deferred last year also and have not been held so far. Now the Governor administration has shown keenness in holding the polls and in a major decision nullified a major legislature amendment of the previous PDP-BJP government to hold election of sarpanchs by panchs.
It has ordered that previous position will be restored under which direct election of the sarpanchs would be held by the people. Amidst speculation that the panchayat polls may be held in September-October, J&K CEO said, "As as when decision is taken by the government, we will implement it. It is not a matter of guesswork. Once we get intimation from the government, we will take various actions for holding the polls."
"All necessary security arrangements will be put in place. The decision (regarding arrangements) is not up to the CEO but various agencies and authorities are involved. When the decision on polls is taken, all aspects of security, etc will be taken care of," he said. Except for the BJP and Jammu-based parties, most political parties in the State are against the immediate holding of panchayat and urban body polls in view of prevailing security and political situation in the Valley. Kabra said the Election Commission of India has no role in holding of the panchayat polls in the State.