Panchayat Elections In J&K Postponed

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JAMMU – The bypolls to panchayats scheduled from March 5 in Jammu and Kashmir has been postponed due to security reasons, J&K Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar said on Tuesday.

By-election to over 12,500 panchayat seats in Jammu and Kashmir was scheduled to be held in eight phases from 5 March.

“The bypolls to panchayats has been postponed for three weeks due to security reasons,” Kumar told PTI tonight.

He said this step was taken after inputs given to him by the home department over security issues.

The eight-phase poll was earlier scheduled to be held from March 5 to March 20 on a party basis. The polling was slated for March 5, March 7, March 9, March 12, March 14, March 16, March 18 and March 20.

The Model Code of Conduct came into force with the announcement of the bypolls on Thursday. The CEO has already issued two notifications for the first and the second phase of eight-phase by-election.

Panchayat elections were last held in 2018 and were boycotted by the PDP and the NC.

CEO Kumar earlier on Tuesday held a meeting with all parties on the bypolls, amid criticism by the mainstream political parties about the continuous detention of their leaders and failure to allow them to conduct political activities.

Three former J&K chief ministers — NC’s Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti– are under detention since last year when the Centre had abrogated Article 370 provisions of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and split it into union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

“We held a meeting of all the parties of Jammu and Kashmir to hear their concerns. They raised some grievances in the meeting,” Kumar had told PTI.

He had said that “we will try to address the issues suitably”.

During the meeting, J&K Congress vice president G N Monga said despite issuance of the notifications by the election department, the party’s chief in the union territory G A Mir was not allowed to visit Srinagar to hold meetings in connection with the bypolls.

PDP leaders did not take part in the meeting because it believes that the polling cannot take place if the leadership remains under detention, one of its leader said.

The CPI(M) criticised the CEO for failing to invite their party for the meeting and expressed concern over it.

“We were not invited for the meeting. We are a national party. It is a matter of concern for us,” CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami told PTI.

National Conference leader Ratan Lal Gupta said the party is of the view that the situation is not conducive for holding elections.

Mir Not Allowed To Visit Srinagar: Cong to CEO

The Jammu and Kashmir Congress on Tuesday claimed that despite issuance of notification for the panchayat by-election in the union territory, its chief GA Mir was not allowed to visit Srinagar to hold poll-related meetings.

The Congress leadership raised the issue at a pre-poll meeting with J&K Chief Election Officer (CEO) Shalinder Kumar.

By-election to over 12,500 panchayat seats in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in eight phases beginning March 5.

The party said Mir was not allowed to visit Srinagar to hold a poll-related meeting on Monday and described it as an insult of the Election Commission.

After the meeting with the CEO, Monga told reporters that the party would wait for the response of the Election Authority before announcing its final view with regard to the bypolls.

The Congress leaders said that due to the withdrawal of security of opposition leaders, they are not able to reach out to their cadres and people at grassroots level in the Kashmir Valley, where the vacancies constitute 95 per cent of the total seats to be filled.

He said that party participated in the panchayat and urban local body polls in December 2018 despite strong reservations and apprehensions about the conduciveness of overall scenario at that time.

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