Cabinet Calls Off BDC Polls: Govt To Bring Ordinance For Cancellation

Srinagar, Oct 15: In a significant development, the Jammu and Kashmir government Monday decided to call off the block development council elections which were scheduled to be held in the first week of November this year. The decision to the effect was taken at an “emergency” meeting of the state cabinet chaired by the chief minister, Omar Abdullah, soon after he flew back from New Delhi this evening.

“In order to bring these changes (to be incorporated in the J&K Panchayati Raj Act, thereby creating a steel-frame of democracy at the grass root level) in a transparent manner after due diligence and deliberations with all the stakeholders, the cabinet here today decided to bring an ordinance for cancellation of general elections of chairmen of Block Development Councils,” an official handout issued late evening said.

A notification had been issued here last month, according to which the elections were to be held on November 7 this year. The members for the various BDCs were to be elected through paper ballots by sarpanches and panches (village headmen and council members) in each block of the state.

Justifying today’s decision, an official spokesman said, that over the past couple of months, there had been a “latent” demand from various stakeholders and opinion leaders associated with the governance of
Panchayats in different parts of the country, for bringing in certain changes in the state’s Panchayati Raj Act in a bid to further strengthen these and to make reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.

Taking cognizance of the divergent views, he said, the chief minister had constituted a core group of alliance partners -National Conference and Congress – to study and evaluate the views and suggest “a pragmatic and workable roadmap.”

He said the core group held a series of meetings and consultations in the past one week to consider various opinions emanating in the past couple of months. Its recommendations were considered in a high-level meeting presided over by the chief minister yesterday and attended by Pradesh Congress president, Prof Saif-ud-din Soz, alongwith other members from National Conference and Congress wherein it was decided to apprise the state cabinet.

“After due diligence and thoroughly studying the recommendations of the core group and after considering the opinion of different people,” the cabinet decided that “to strengthen the resolve of the government for a robust Panchayati Raj system, certain changes have to be incorporated in the J&K Panchayati Raj Act,” the handout said.

The core group comprised minister, Abdul Rahim Rather, Ali Muhammad Sagar, Mian Altaf Ahmad, Surjeet Singh Slathia and chief minister’s political advisor, Devender Singh Rana, from the National Conference and ministers, Tara Chand, Sham Lal Sharma, MLA, GA Mir, and MLCs Ravinder Sharma and Bashir Ahmad Magrey from Congress.

It may be recalled the Congress, particularly its state unit chief, Prof Soz, had been vociferously pleading for incorporating the provisions of 73rd amendment of Constitution of India in the state’s Panchayati Raj Act.

However, during a press conference he had held in the backdrop of recent killings of Panchayat members and the spate of resignations from the elected village functionaries, the chief minister had ruled out any possibility to incorporate the 73rd and 74th amendment of the Indian constitution in the state.

Meanwhile, senior leader and union health minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, had Sunday strongly advocated for reservations to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women in the BDCs, asserting that the elections to these would be rendered meaningless if these were held without reservations.

“The election would have no relevance if they were held in the present form. We have reservations in every elections, be it parliament, state assemblies or even Urban Local Bodies (ULBs). The very purpose of the elections would be defeated if there was no reservation to SCs, STs and women in the BDC elections,” he had said.

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