On the last day of filing of nomination papers for the first phase of urban local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir, state Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam said on Tuesday that adequate measures had been taken to conduct free and fair polls, and ensure safety and security of candidates, polling staff and voters.
The four-phase election to urban local bodies will be held from October 8. Panchayat elections in the state will be held in nine phases, on a non-party basis, beginning November 17.
A total of 1,431 nominations were filed for 12 districts across J&K. The highest, 835 nominations, were filed in Jammu district, followed by 203 in Rajouri and 100 in Poonch.
The chief secretary said the state government would provide security and accommodation to all candidates who request for it. “Whosoever feels insecure, seeks accommodation, he is going to be provided. We have 300 hotel rooms in Srinagar. Similar arrangements have been made in all of south Kashmir,” the chief secretary said.
“If they want security, we will provide so… We will facilitate the campaigning if they require,” he said, adding that an additional 400 companies of central forces have been deployed in the state for the municipal and panchayat elections.
Announcing sops for government employees engaged in poll duty, Subrahmanyam said, “We will give one month’s extra salary to the government employees engaged in the elections. (There are) adequate arrangements for their safety and security.”
While two mainstream political parties — National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party — have decided to boycott the polls saying that the central government is yet to declare its stand on Article 35A, Subrahmanyam said the elections were not linked to bigger “politics”.
“These elections are not about big things… It is about local issues of Bijli, Pani and Sadak (electricity, water and roads). It is peoples’ money, peoples’ candidates,” he said. Separatist leaders have also called for a boycott of the elections.
Subrahmanyam said the conduct of these elections will make a large amount of funds available to the state that will be used directly by the panchayats and urban local bodies. “The state may lose Rs 4,335 crore in funds (Rs 3,029 crore for panchayats and Rs 1,300 for ULBs) if these polls are not held,” he added.