J&K DDC, Panchayat Polls 2020: The last general elections to panchayat were held in 2018. In that election, 33,592 panch constituencies and 4290 sarpanch constituencies had gone to polls.
The Jammu and Kashmir Election Commission is conducting polls for the District Development Councils (DDCs), vacant seats in panchayat and municipal corporations. The elections are being conducted in eight phases — November 28, December 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16 and 19. Polling for seven phases has been concluded and the last phase of polling will take place on Saturday (December 19). This is the first election in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. The polling will conclude on December 19 and the counting of votes is underway.
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Panchayat By-Elections 2020
The last general elections to panchayat were held in 2018. In that election, 33,592 panch constituencies and 4290 sarpanch constituencies had gone to polls. Of these, 22214 panches and 2459 sarpanchs were elected. The state commission says that vacancies accrued on account of death, resignation, etc of the elected sarpanches and panches. Another 307 seats of panches and sarpanches fell vacant on account of elections of chairpersons of BDCs in October 2019.
DDCs, Panchayat seats break-up
In Kashmir Division, total number of blocks are 137 and panchayat halqas 2182. And the number of District Development Councils (DDCs) where elections are being held are 140, panchayat halqas 935, vacant panch constituencies 11814. In Jammu Division, number of blocks are 148 and panchayat halqas 2109. The number of DDCs where polls are being held are 140, panchayat halqas 135, vacant panch constituencies 339.
In total, the number of blocks are 285 and panchayat halqas 4291. The number of places where polling is being conducted – DDCs 280, panchayat halqas 1088 and panch constituencies 12153. Among the districts where elections are being held are Kupwara, Baramulla, Bandipora, Ganderbal, Srinagar, Budgam, Pulawama, Shopian, Kulgam, Anantnag in Kashmir Division. And Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Udhampur, Reasi, Kathua, Samba Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch are in Jammu Division.
The Commission is also conducting elections for 234 municipal seats that fell vacant on account of deaths and resignations. Polling in these constituencies had taken place in 2018 through EVMs. Of the 234 constituencies, 228 seats are in Kashmir Division and 6 are in Jammu. Here also, the elections are being conducted in eight phases. The last phase of voting will take place on Saturday (December 19).
The fight in J&K is among the BJP, Congress and the Gupkar Alliance — formed by all regional parties such as Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP and Farooq Abdulla’s National Conference (NC). The alliance was formed to jointly fight for the restoration of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir. The NC and PDP had boycotted the previous local body polls held in 2018. But this time, both the parties entered the fray, saying they don’t want to give the saffron party a free run in J&K. The BJP has deployed a barrage of leaders including ministers for campaigning in Jammu and Kashmir. The Congress too is contesting the polls but main contest is expected to be the BJP and Abdulla-led Gupkar Alliance.
No EVM this time, polling through ballot boxes
The election is being conducted using ‘Ballot Papers’. In its notification, the state commission said that it has made available sufficient numbers of ballot boxes for the smooth conduct of elections. In 2018, the elections to local bodies had been held using EVMs.
Videography during counting of ballots
The commission is video graphing all critical events, including collection and counting of ballot papers. It has, in its notification, directed district panchayat election officers to arrange sufficient number of video and digital cameras and camera teams for the purpose. The events for videography will include storage and distribution of ballot boxes, important public meetings, process of dispatching of postal papers, polling process and counting of votes on December 22.
Documents for identification purpose
Electoral Photo Identity Cards
Service identity card by state/central governments, public limited companies
Bank, Post office passbooks with photographs
Income Tax Identity, PAN card with photographs
MNREGA job cards issued in J&K Union Territory with photographs
Health Insurance Smart Card issued by Ministry of Labour
Photo voter slip issued by Election Authority
Who is banking on what
The BJP has been targeting the Gupkar Alliance by raking up Roshni Act (now referred to as scam). The Roshni Act was introduced by then Congress chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. The idea was that the state land that had been illegally encroached upon by people can be regularised by charging market rate. The cut-off date was 1990, but it was extended twice in 2005 and 2007. In the meantime, people kept encroaching the state land.
It is alleged that the mainstream political parties and their leaders allegedly built their houses and office premises on encroached land. Even former Chief Ministers Farooq and Omar Abdullah have been named by the state authorities as illegal encroachers of land under (now unconstitutional) Roshni Act. Farooq Abdullah’s sister Suraiya Matto has also been named as an alleged illegal beneficiary. The BJP has been raising corruption charges against Abdullahs.
The Gupkar Alliance, on the other hand, fighting the BJP over special status, and statehood issues. The Alliance has been raising democracy, human rights, restriction on political leaders, and “unconstitutional abrogation of Article 370” issues to corner the BJP. In a tweet, Mufti recently said that for the BJP, J&K is not a political but a religious problem that can only be solved by changing the religious composition, by ensuring Muslims become a minority in the only Muslim-majority state.