Centre may hold civic polls in Jammu and Kashmir under Governor’s rule

Mir Ehsan Updated: Jul 12, 2018

After the fall of the Jammu and Kashmir government in June, the Centre is planning to hold urban local body and panchayat polls with the state still under governor’s rule, people familiar with the plan said on the condition of anonymity.

The elections, scheduled to be held in January, were deferred after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition government led by Mehbooba Mufti told the Centre that the situation was not conducive for the polls.

The previous panchayat polls in the state were held in 2011; urban local body elections have not been held for eight years.

During his visit to Srinagar to review security and governance in the state, Union home minister Rajnath Singh had hinted as much when he spoke about strengthening the grassroots institutions. A notification on the polls may be issued soon after the culmination of the Amarnath yatra, people cited above said.

“It seems the Centre is now serious in holding these elections and these polls are the first priority over the formation of a new government in the state,” a top official privy to the plan said. “The Centre wants to hold these polls under the governor’s rule.”

The state came under governor NN Vohra’s rule after the BJP pulled out the government, prompting Mufti to resign.

In February, Mufti had called a meeting of all political parties, following which it was conveyed to the Centre that there could be serious law and order problems in the Valley, especially in south Kashmir, if elections were held. Since then, there has been no official word about these elections.

In the previous panchayat polls in 2011, more than 4,145 sarpanches and 29,000 panches were elected and the voter turnout was around 80%. People who participated in the elections described it as a vote to seek an end to their day-to-day problems.

“We have been asked to be ready for panchayat and local body elections in the J&K,’’ a BJP legislator told Hindustan Times. “We are ready for these polls and will participate in these elections with all our strength. I think these polls could be held within the next two or three months.”

After chairing several review meetings in Srinagar on June 5, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said the solution to problems lies in empowering the people and strengthening the institutions of local self governance. “With renewed focus on good governance and development; the Centre is looking forward to kindle new aspirations and hopes among the people. Development and good governance had remained elusive for the common people of J&K,” Singh said.

Shafiq Mir, president, All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference, said, “The elections should not be turned into a political issue. These are community government intuitions meant to help the common masses, it has nothing to do with the politics.” ( Hindustan Times )