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Schedule for J&K Block Development Councils polls to be announced in a day or two

Security forces maintain vigil outside a polling station during the first phase of urban local body elections in Budgam district, central Kashmir on Monday.

Security forces maintain vigil outside a polling station during the first phase of urban local body elections in Budgam district, central Kashmir on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

The government has been keen to get the panchayat polls “completed”, including taking the next step to BDCs and the zilla panchayat polls.

The schedule for elections to 316 Block Development Councils (BDCs) in Jammu and Kashmir will be announced in a day or two, with the polls to be completed before the State is formally declared a Union Territory on October 31.

Senior sources in the Union Home Ministry confirmed this development to The Hindu. The polls will take forward the process towards full devolution of rural and urban local bodies. After the December 2018 panchayat polls in the State, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had announced their intention to hold these polls. 

All ready 

The sources said everything is ready for the conduct of the polls, including the preparation of electoral rolls, as the exercise was expected to follow the panchayat polls. But it was held up because of the Lok Sabha polls. 

“The BDC polls were expected to follow in March, but it was decided that the conduct of Lok Sabha polls would take up much of the resources and were, therefore, postponed,” said an official.

The government has been keen to get the panchayat polls “completed”, including taking the next step to BDCs and the Zilla Panchayat polls. According to senior government sources, the top leadership of the government has been keen to complete the devolution of power to panchayats considering it an important move towards “grass roots democracy” and creating new political leadership in the State.

The panchayat polls also unlocked the ₹2,700 crore funds earmarked for Jammu and Kashmir under the 14th Finance Commission.

Mr. Shah has promised more funds under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS). With leaders of most political parties under detention, it isn’t clear to what extent the traditional political parties will be able to participate in the polls. 

“The two regional parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had boycotted the panchayat polls too, but it went ahead and was a success. Our assessment is that there are many who wish to participate in the political process and would gladly do so in the absence of the old lot of MLAs,” said a source in the government.

Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu, meanwhile, during a meeting with sarpanches from Jammu and Kashmir in New Delhi on Tuesday said that “holding elections to local bodies every five years should be made mandatory” and that there “should be no discretion or scope for the States to either postpone or advance them.”

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Printable version | Apr 4, 2020 7:16:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/jk-block-development-councils-polls-by-month-end/article29383885.ece

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