Amid government impasse, state prepares for municipal elections

Amid government impasse, state prepares for municipal elections

JAMMU: Governor N N Vohra on Thursday asked the chief secretary to review all pending issues to enable timely elections to the Urban Local Bodies and Panchayats in the state.
Vohra gave the directions to chief secretary, BR Sharma, and chief electoral officer, J&K, Shantmanu, in a review meeting held at civil secretariat here, an official handout said.
“The chief secretary was advised to draw up an action plan for holding elections to all the Urban Local Bodies in April this year, to ensure provision of requisite funds in the budget for holding the elections, and for timely filling up of the vacancies in the office of chief electoral officer,” it said.
The officers told Vohra that the chief electoral officer has published the updated electoral roll after conclusion of Summary Revision on January 11.
They said the electoral roll pertaining to different wards of Local Bodies are being segregated from the main electoral roll and shall be put to public domain in the second week of February for objections.
The final electoral roll, they said, was envisaged to become available by the end of March, while the process of reservation of wards for women was also being undertaken concurrently.
The review about preparation took place when the state is without an elected government. The PDP-BJP coalition, which came into power after the elections in 2014, has been unable to reclaim its position after the former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed passed away earlier this month.
In absence of the government, the administration is being headed by the governor, even as the parties, such as National Conference, have started to push for a re-election.
In the meeting, the governor noted that holding elections early would ensure “democratic decentralisation” of powers to the institutions at grassroots in urban areas.
It would also enable the state to derive maximum benefit from the 14th Finance Commission Award, he said.
The meeting noted that the 14th Finance Commission Award provides Rs 3,463.73 crore and Rs 1,305.64 crore for rural and urban local bodies, respectively, and Rs 346.73 crore and Rs 261.13 crore as Performance Grants respectively for the rural and urban local bodies.
It was also noted that the state lost Rs 169.29 crore, which were provided under the 13th Finance Commission Award, due to non conduct of the ULB elections.
In absence of duly-constituted municipalities, no grants have been released to the state against the allocation of Rs 125.30 crore during 2015-16, the meeting noted.
The governor also reviewed the status of preparations for Panchayat elections, which are due to be held later this year.
He was informed that the constitution of Panchayats after the elections in 2011 was notified on July 14, 2011, with a term of five years. As such, the new Panchayats will have to be in position on or before July 14, 2016, the meeting observed.
Vohra advised the chief secretary to take urgent action for clearing the decks to enable the chief electoral officer to undertake preparations of electoral rolls and conduct of Panchayat elections.
The governor will be holding discussions with leaders of political parties regarding the schedule for elections to the Urban Local Bodies and Panchayats, the handout said.

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