New Delhi: The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) poll panel on Wednesday announced an eight-phase election to 20 district development councils (DDCs) in the Union Territory beginning November 28, which will conclude on December 22. This will be the first major electoral exercise in J&K since the reading down of Article 370 in August last year.
The government had in October amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act to provide for setting up of DDCs in each district which will have directly elected members, marking the implementation of the entire 73rd constitutional amendment in the Union Territory.
State election commissioner K.K. Sharma told a press conference in Jammu that by-elections to vacant panchayat and municipal seats will be held simultaneously.
The notification for the first phase polling on November 28 is expected to be issued on Thursday, Sharma said. The last phase of polling will take place on December 19 and the counting of votes will take place on December 22.
After taking into consideration all relevant factors and inputs from various stakeholders, it was decided to hold the election to 20 DDCs – 10 each in Jammu and Kashmir – in eight phases, Sharma said. There will be 14 constituencies in each DDC, he added.
While the election to DDCs and panchayat by-polls will be held through ballot, by-election to municipal seats will be conducted through electronic voting machine (EVM).
This will be for the first time that West Pakistani refugees, Valmikies and Gurkhas will be exercising their franchise in these elections.
Bone of contention
However, political parties reportedly said that the creation of DDCs will further “disempower” the J&K assembly, while the central government termed it as a “path-breaking” initiative.
The Congress has expressed unhappiness over the announcement of DDC elections “without prior consultations” with the recognised parties. It said it will take a decision on its participation in the polls in a couple of days.
“Congress would take a decision, in a couple of days, with regard to the participation in the just-announced elections to DDC and BDCs but regretted the unilateral decisions of the government and the election commission to announce the elections,” Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) president Gulam Ahmed Mir said.
While DDC polls will be held on party basis, panchayat by-polls will be held on a non-party basis, chief electoral officer Hardesh Kumar said. By-elections will be held in 12,153 panchayat seats and 234 urban local wards.
The Centre has fully applied the 73rd constitutional amendment to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, which was pending for 28 years. With this, all three tiers of panchayati raj institutions will be formed in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time.