SRINAGAR: Two days after the municipal election results were out, J&K chief electoral officer (CEO) Shaleen Kabra on Monday rolled out the process for panchayat elections that will be held in nine phases beginning November 17. The nomination for the first phase of the elections will start from October 23, he said.
Addressing a presser, the CEO said that an eligible 58,54,208 strong electorate including 29,91,128 in Kashmir and 28,63,080 in Jammu would elect a total of 4,483 sarpanchs and 35,029 panchs in 316 rural blocks across the state. The elections, which would be contested on non-party basis, would conclude on December 11.
“After due enquiries, voters have been included in the new electoral rolls. Every possible court direction is being acted upon and decisions were taken accordingly to ensure that no panchayat halqas or panch constituencies are missed out in the elections,” Kabra said.
Being held after a gap of 10 years, the polls are pending since July 2016 when the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani led to a months-long public agitation. Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had announced to hold the elections in January this year but later postponed them.
According to Kabra, the elections will be held through ballot boxes instead of Electronic Voting Machines, and the poll timing would be 8am to 2pm.
Asked about the reduction in polling time as compared to the municipal elections, he said that there would be less number of voters in panchayat polls than in urban local bodies’ elections.
On apprehensions of security of the candidates, he said, “Appropriate security arrangements are being put in place to ensure peaceful elections.”
“In view of the recent amendments making direct election to Sarpanch, the electors shall cast their votes for Panch as well as Sarpanch for which two separate colours of ballot paper would be used – pink for sarpanch and white for panchs,” he said. “Voter slips will be distributed to voters in Urdu and English language to make electorate aware about their respective polling stations.”
Kabra said a scheme has been devised to enable migrant Kashmiri Pandits to vote in panchayat elections through postal ballot.
Giving the phase-wise break up, he said the notifications for calling nominations for each phase of the polls will be issued on October 23, Oct 26, Oct 29, Nov 1, Nov 3, Nov 6, Nov 9, Nov 12, and Nov 14, respectively. The late date of filing nominations will be Oct 30, Nov 2, Nov 5, Nov 8, Nov 10, Nov 13, Nov 16, Nov 19 and Nov 22, respectively, for the nine phases.
The scrutiny of nominations will be held on Oct 31, Nov 3, Nov 6, Nov 9, Nov 12, Nov 14, Nov 17, Nov 20 and Nov 24, respectively, and the last date for withdrawal of nominations will be Nov 2, Nov 5, Nov 8, Nov 12, Nov 14, Nov 16, Nov 19, Nov 22 and Nov 26.
The polling will be held on November 17, Nov 20, Nov 24, Nov 27, Nov 29, December 1, Dec 4, Dec 8 and Dec 11.
The CEO said the candidates do not require proposers to file their nomination and a candidate can file nomination through an authorised agent.
According to Kabra, the counting of votes will be taken up on the same day unless notified otherwise followed by announcement of results.
The CEO said that the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) shall come into force with immediate effect and the same shall apply in all panch constituencies going to polls as also for the candidates, political parties, and the government.
Kabra said general observers would be deployed to ensure free and fair elections. The observers will be asked to keep close watch on every stage of the electoral process, he said.
The CEO said comprehensive instructions for effective monitoring of the election expenditure of the candidates have already been issued. “For greater transparency and for ease of monitoring of Election Expenses, candidates will be provided with ‘Expenditure Register’ on the day of nomination,” he said, adding, “Expenditure Observers are being appointed to keep close watch on election expenditure of the candidates. Expenditure limits have been fixed at Rs 20,000 for Sarpanch and Rs 5,000 for Panch.”
“All candidates have to ensure that they maintain day-to-day expenditure record in the prescribed register, which will be supplied to the contesting candidate in the form of ‘Expenditure Register’ from the date of nomination to the date of declaration of result,” he said.
Kabra said all critical events will be video-graphed and deputy commissioners concerned will arrange sufficient number of video and digital cameras and camera teams for the purpose.
In view of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) coming into force, the General Administration Department (GAD) issued a set of circular instructions for compliance by all Administrative Secretaries, Heads of Departments, District Development Commissioners, and District Superintendents of Police.
According to these instructions, there shall be ban on the transfer of officers/employees who are connected with the conduct of Panchayat Elections till the completion of the electoral process. “However, in cases where the transfer of an officer/ official is considered absolutely necessary in public interest, the concerned Administrative Secretary may approach the Chief Electoral Officer, J&K with full justification and obtain prior clearance before issuance of any such order,” the circular said.
It said all officers/ officials involved in the conduct of Panchayat Elections including Designated Police Officers shall be under the administrative control of the Chief Electoral Officer, J&K, for superintendence and discipline.