SRINAGAR: After tension in Kashmir following recent civilian killings, the PDP-BJP government on Monday decided to convene an All Party Meeting (APM) to take final call on holding of Panchayat elections in the State.
“The issue of holding Panchayat elections in the State was discussed in the cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti this afternoon,” Minister for Revenue and Parliamentary Affairs, Abdul Rehman Veeri informed the Legislative Assembly in Jammu today.
He said in the meeting it was decided that before making the final announcement regarding the conduct of Panchayat elections in the State, Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj would call an All Party Meeting (APM) and discuss the issue threadbare with the leaders of all the political parties.
On December 25, Mehbooba made an unexpected announcement that Panchayat elections in the State would be held from February 15.
J&K has 4490 panchayats with 35096 panch constituencies.
The government has decided to hold the elections to Panch constituencies only while Sarpanchs would be elected by the respective Panchs of the Halqa Panchayats.
However, there has been no follow up action to Chief Minister’s announcement and State Election Commissioner has not issued any election notification so far.
Governor N N Vohra had on November 4 last year promulgated an ordinance designating J&K Chief Electoral Officer as State Election Commissioner for conducting the panchayat elections.
The ordinance was mooted by Rural Development Department as there had to be an Election Commission in the state for holding the panchayat elections.
The situation in Valley is tense after killing of three civilians in security forces firing in south Kashmir last week.
Sources said the PDP wants deferment of the polls in view of prevailing situation in the Valley. However, its ally BJP favours holding of the panchayat polls.
There is also no enthusiasm among the opposition parties about participating in the polls and they have questioned Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s announcement saying when situation was not conducive for holding bypolls to Anantnag parliamentary seat in south Kashmir last year how was it conducive now for holding panchayat polls, which is an extensive exercise.
Providing security and safe environment to contesting candidate is major headache for the government. In last five years, 16 panchayat members have been killed and 30 others injured in militant attacks in the Valley.
The separatist leaders including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik have called for boycott of the polls.
The militant outfits have also called for boycott of the polls and Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo has warned of blinding the candidates by pouring acid in their eyes.
The panchayat elections were due to be held in July 2016 but were deferred due to turmoil in Valley following killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
The last panchayat elections were held in March-April 2011 after a gap of nearly four decades and record 79 per cent of voters had exercised their franchise.