News Brief

J&K: Assembly, Urban Bodies And Panchayat Polls Likely To Be Held After Lok Sabha Elections

Kuldeep Negi

Jan 10, 2024, 09:30 AM | Updated 09:30 AM IST

An EVM machine 
An EVM machine 

The elections for panchayats, urban local bodies, and the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly are expected to take place following the upcoming general elections later this year.

After towns and cities, the rural regions of Jammu and Kashmir will no longer have their usual local elected officials, as the tenure of 4,892 village panchayats ended on Tuesday (9 January).

Despite this, the District Development Councils, which are directly elected by the people in the 2020 elections, remain active.

"Around two months ago, on 14 November 2023, the terms of various urban local bodies, including two municipal corporations, 19 municipal councils, and 57 municipal committees, concluded.

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These bodies were formed through elections based on party symbols, a process that had not been conducted for 13 years.

The elections for urban local bodies and panchayats may not occur prior to the Lok Sabha elections, Indian Express reported citing government sources.

This comes even as the J&K Administrative Council amended the J&K Panchayati Raj Act on 28 December 2023, to permit reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in both urban and rural local bodies.

The State Election Commission was previously unable to implement OBC reservations in J&K due to the lack of legal provisions, creating a constitutional dilemma for these elections.

However, with the recent passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment Bill), 2023, in the Winter Session of Parliament, it is now possible to apply OBC reservations in J&K elections."

Government sources point out two main challenges in conducting local body and panchayat elections promptly: the need to identify which municipal constituencies should be reserved and the transition of responsibility for overseeing municipal electoral processes from the Chief Electoral Officer to the State Election Commission, as per Constitutional provisions.

Additionally, the sources mentioned that the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections are not required to coincide with the Lok Sabha polls.

This is based on the Supreme Court's deadline of September 2024, set during its ruling on the Constitutional validity of the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019.

The previous Assembly elections in J&K took place in 2014."

Sources indicate that organizing election workers, electronic voting machines (EVMs), and security staff by September, following the Lok Sabha election procedures, will be time-consuming.

The Election Commission is expected to evaluate the logistical and security needs for the elections during its visit to J&K, which is part of its review for the Lok Sabha polls.

This week, the Election Commission began its visits to all states and Union Territories in preparation for the Lok Sabha polls, starting with Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The schedule for its visit to J&K has not yet been announced.

In the meantime, State Election Commissioner B R Sharma announced that a special summary revision of the electoral rolls for Panchayat elections will take place from 15 January to 5 February. This revision is for registering new voters who turned 18 by 1 January 2024, and for updating details of existing voters.

The final electoral rolls for panchayats will be released on 26 February 26.

Additionally, the tenure of the chairpersons of 316 block development councils (BDCs), elected in October 2019, has also concluded, coinciding with the term of the 4,892 village panchayats, as per officials.

In November-December 2018, elections were held for 4,490 panchayats, each consisting of a sarpanch and 35,096 panch, on a non-party basis. The first-ever elections for BDCs took place in October 2019, after a seven-year hiatus.

The elected sarpanches were part of the BDCs in their respective blocks and were responsible for electing the council chairpersons.

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Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.

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