Elections to block councils: State sets ball rolling

After holding polls to Urban Local Bodies and Panchayats, the J & K government has set the ball rolling for conducting elections to block development councils (BDCs), which will be second-tier of the Panchayati Raj System in the state.

To begin with, the state’s Rural Development and Panchayati Raj department has written to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) for setting up of polling stations and appointment of electoral registration officers and assistant electoral registration officers for the exercise.

“We have started preparations for holding elections to 316 BDCs,” Sheetal Nanda, Secretary Rural Development and Panchayati Raj department, told Greater Kashmir.

In its proposal to the CEO, the department has recommended setting up of 316 polling stations and appointment of 632 EROs and AROs for the exercise whose electoral college comprises of Sarpnachs and Panchs.

The department has also asked directors of Rural Development department to reserve BDCs for women and schedule castes and scheduled tribes.

In March this year, the state administrative council had approved holding of elections for constitution of BDCs in the state.

Chairperson of the BDC would be elected by the electoral college comprising panchs and sarpanchs of halqa panchayats falling within the block.

This will be the first time in J&K that elections would be held for BDCs.

In 2012, Omar Abdullah-led government’s decision to hold BDC elections was put off at the eleventh hour after differences with Congress over the issue of reservation for schedules castes, schedule tribes and women.

A top official in state administration said the central government as well as Governor’s administration were keen to strengthen democracy at grassroots level in the state. “The Centre is committed that the newly established Panchayati Raj and urban local body system takes deep roots and establishes itself as strong unit of local self-government,” he said.

In his visit to the state on June 27-28, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had also directed the government to strengthen Panchayati Raj system in the state.

After imposition of Governor’s rule, the state government conducted municipal and panchayat elections between October to December last year despite boycott by main political parties National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, CPI(M), Awami Ittehad Party and Democratic Party Nationalist (DPN).