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ECI announces J&K panchayat bypolls from March 5

Shailendra Kumar. File.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Despite likely wet weather, cold temperatures and snow covering many parts of Jammu & Kashmir, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Thursday announced by-elections for 11,639 vacant panchayat seats, to be held in eight phases from March 5 to 20.

It will be the first democratic exercise to be held in the newly-carved Union Territory of J&K, after its special status was revoked on August 5, 2019.

“By-elections in snowbound areas of Marwah and Wadwan of Kishtwar district and Gurez of Bandipora will be conducted later on,” said Chief Election Officer Shailendra Kumar, in Jammu.

However, no dates have been announced for the Union Territory of Ladakh.

Ballot papers

Unlike the previous panchayat polls, which were held in October-November in 2018, these by-elections will be contested on party basis, and ballot papers will be used instead of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). For Kashmiri migrants, postal ballot will be available, officials said.

“Keeping in view snowfall and the winter season in Kashmir, we have decided to hold elections as the weather conditions are improving in the Valley too,” said Mr. Shailendra.

The polls will be held in 128 blocks in the Kashmir Valley, involving 887 panchayat halqas (an area comprising a village or some contiguous villages), where a total number of 11,457 panch constituencies are vacant. In the Jammu division, by-elections will be held in 182 vacant panch seats in 146 blocks, involving 124 panchayats halqas.

Many vacancies

“Almost all blocks have vacancies, and the most vacancies are in the Kashmir division. Every block has one vacancy after the Block Development Council (BDC) polls,” he added.

At least 307 seats of panchs and sarpanchs fell vacant after the BDC elections were conducted last year.

The 2018 panchayat elections saw voting for 22,214 panchs and 3,459 sarpanches.

The elections are being held even as the top leadership of the main regional parties, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remain behind bars, including Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. Both the NC and PDP stayed away from the polls in 2018 on the issue of Article 370, impacting the turnout of voters. It remains to be seen if these parties will participate in the upcoming polls or not.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2021 2:09:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/eci-announces-jk-panchayat-bypolls-from-march-5/article30812211.ece

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