Srinagar: The Election Authority on Sunday announced the poll schedule for the election of chairpersons of Block Development Councils (BDC) in the 310 blocks of Jammu and Kashmir. This has come at the time when many mainstream leaders are under detention.
According to Indian Express, 250 leaders under the J&K Public Safety Act and hundreds under various sections of the Ranbir Penal Code have been kept under detention after the abrogation of Article 370. The BJP-led government says it is to avoid any violence ahead of the abolition of Article 370 that slashed the autonomy of the erstwhile state Jammu and Kashmir and made it two Union Territories.
Amid all this, the polling will be held on October 24. The notification for the election will be issued on October 1 while October 9 will be the last date for filing of nominations, chief electoral officer Jammu and Kashmir Shailendra Kumar told reporters here.
"The scrutiny of nominations will be done on October 10, the last date for withdrawal is October 11 while the polling for these posts will be held on October 24," Kumar said. He said the polling will be held from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm while the counting of votes will begin at 3.00 pm the same day. The process of the elections for the second tier of the Panchayati Raj system will be completed by November 5, he added.
Kumar said the elections will be held on party basis and 26,629 panchs and sarpanchs are eligible to vote and contest for the post of BDC chairpersons.
Asked if the detained mainstream political leaders will be released for campaigning for these polls, he said the present process had a limited electoral college. "As and when a political party approaches us for ensuring level playing field, we will respond to it. We will be responsive," he added.
He said the elections will be held through ballot boxes, which have already been despatched to respective headquarters. Giving details, he said nearly 24 per cent (12,766) of the posts of panchs and sarpanchs are vacant due to various reasons, including resignations, deaths and non-conduct of the polls during the exercise held last winter.
Over 18,000 panchs and sarpanchs are eligible to take part in the elections in Jammu division but Kashmir division has only 7528 elected panchs and sarpanchs. As many as 69 BDC chairperson posts have been reserved for Scheduled Tribe candidates including 21 women, 25 posts for Scheduled Castes (seven women) and 78 posts for women from General Category.
"Elections will be held for 310 of the 316 blocks in the state. Elections could not be held in two blocks while there are no women in four blocks reserved for women candidates," Kumar said. Asked if the situation was conducive for holding elections in Kashmir, Kumar said the security evaluation was being done by the Home Department of the state and they have assured the election authority that adequate security will be provided for smooth conduct of the process.
According to Indian Express, Kumar said it was important to go ahead with BDC elections. “At the block level, many development works have stopped and are not moving ahead,” he said.
(Inputs from PTI)