Majority of parties for deferment of panchayat polls in J&K

Jammu: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today chaired an All Party Meeting (APM) here to discuss the upcoming Panchayat elections in the state, with the majority advocating deferment of the proposed polls.

“Though all parties favour holding of panchayat elections for empowering of gross-roots level institutions, majority view was that the situation is not conducive for the elections right now,” Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Abdul Haq Khan told reporters after the meeting here.

On December 25 last year, Mehbooba conveyed her government’s decision to Governor N N Vohra to hold panchayat elections from February 15 but later decided to convene an APM to discuss the proposed polls after opposition parties questioned the decision due to the prevailing law and order situation, especially in the Valley.

The panchayat elections were scheduled in 2016 but could not be held due to unrest following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016, which left 86 people dead.

The government failed to hold the panchayat elections last year after large scale violence erupted during bypolls in the Srinagar parliamentary constituency on April 8 claimed eight lives and forced cancellation of bypolls to the Anantnag parliamentary constituency scheduled on April 11.

Representatives of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the BJP, the National Conference, the Congress, the CPI(M), the Peoples Democratic Front, the National Panthers Party, the Awami Itihaad Party and the Democratic Party Nationalist attended the meeting and put forth their suggestions.

Khan said majority of the participants demanded deferment of the polls for a time being.

The BJP, coalition partner of the PDP, however, said it favoured holding of elections to panchayat and urban local bodies as soon as possible.

“We conveyed our parties view point at the meeting.

Barring some pockets, the situation is overall conducive for the elections,” BJP state president Sat Sharma said.

However, National Conference general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said the party was of the opinion that the situation was not conducive and “we have conveyed our view to the government”.

“The ball is now in the court of the government and it has to take a call,” he said.

Senior vice president of the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee Sham Lal Sharma said the party believes in the democratic exercise but the government needed to fulfil its responsibility to safeguard life and property.

He said the party favoured holding of panchayat elections at the earliest, while urging for full powers to panchayats and restoring the system of direct elections for the post of the sarpanch.

He said it would never shirk from participating in any election exercise, when the government decides to hold taking into account the overall security concerns.

Senior CPI(M) leader and MLA M Y Tarigami said the party believed in empowering gross-root institutions and it was the responsibility of the government to decide whether the situation is conducive for holding polls.

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