In a first major test to the prevailing security situation in Jammu-Kashmir, the state’s Chief Electoral Officer announced that elections for the chairpersons of Block Development Councils will be held on October 24.
Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar said, “Block Development Council elections will be conducted on October 24 from 9 am till 1 pm, across J&K and counting of votes will start at 3 pm on the same day. The elections will be held on 310 of 316 blocks in the state.”
Asked if the detained mainstream political leaders will be released for campaigning for these polls, he said the present process had a limited electoral college.
“As and when a political party approaches us for ensuring level playing field, we will respond to it. We will be responsive,” he said. He added the elections will be held through ballot boxes, which have already been despatched to respective headquarters.
The Block Development Council forms the second tier of the Panchayat Raj system. All the 23,629 panches and 3,652 sarpanches of the Panchayats will vote to elect the chairperson of the Block Development Council. There are a total of 316 blocks.
On the question whether the situation was conducive for holding elections in Kashmir, Kumar said the security evaluation was being done by the Home Department of the state and they have assured the election authority that adequate security will be provided for smooth conduct of the process.
In 2018, Panchayat elections were held in nine phases — from November 17 to December 11 — in J&K. Kashmir’s mainstream political parties, including the PDP and NC, had boycotted the elections. The top leadership of PDP and NC are currently under detention.
Today’s announcement came close on the heels of Home Minister Amit Shah stating that there were no restrictions imposed in Kashmir and misinformation was being spread by the Opposition.
“Where are the restrictions? It is only in your mind. There are no restrictions. Only misinformation about restrictions is being spread,” Amit Shah said while addressing a seminar on national security in the national capital.
He said curfew has been lifted from all 196 police stations in Kashmir, and only in eight police stations areas CrPC 144 was imposed where five or more persons cannot gather.
“People are free to move around anywhere in Kashmir. Many journalists from the rest of India are also visiting Kashmir regularly,” he said.
Shah also said 10,000 new landline connections were given in Jammu and Kashmir while 6,000 PCOs have also come up in the last two months. “The decision on Article 370 will strengthen the unity and integrity of India,” he said, adding the situation in Jammu and Kashmir will be completely normal soon.
The Valley has been under a security clampdown since August 5 when the Centre modified the provisions of Article 370 to revoke the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian Constitution. J&K was also bifurcated and reduced to a Union Territory.
with PTI inputs
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