Fresh schedule likely in 2-3 weeks: CEO
STATE TIMES NEWS JAMMU: The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer on Tuesday deferred Panchayat by-polls, which were scheduled to held in eight phases from March 5 to March 20. “The poll was deferred as the political parties except BJP, were unwilling to participate,” an official said. Earlier, Jammu and Kashmir Election Commission (EC) held a meeting with political parties in Jammu to hear their concerns. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar said that the concerns of the political parties were heard in the meeting. Later, in the evening, the CEO said in a notification, “After addressing all the concerns suitably at the earliest, possibly in two to three weeks, fresh schedule shall be notified”. Giving the sequence of events, the detailed notification by the CEO reads, “Whereas, recommendations of the Apex Level Committee constituted vide Government Order No. 10-JK(GAD) of 2020 dated January 3, 2020, regarding preparatory work for conducting elections to vacant Panchayat seats along with the security clearance was received from the General Administration Department, UT of J&K vide its No. GAD(Adm) 01/2020-1 dated January 23, 2020: and whereas under Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Rule, 1996, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir, vide S.O. 53 dated February 10, 2020, issued notification calling upon the Panchayat Halqas, to elect Sarpanchs and Panchs for the vacant seats in the UT; and whereas the Election Authority, accordingly has announced the schedule of the by-elections to the vacant seats of Sarpanches and Panches in the Panchayat Halqas as mentioned in the S.O. 53 dated February 10, 2020 read along with errata dated February 13, 2020 and whereas in exercise of the powers conferred under section 36 of Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act 1989, read with Rule 8 and Rule 40 of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Rules, 1996, the Election Authority, J&K (Chief Electoral Officer, J&K) has issued notifications appointing various dates for the conduct of Phase – I and Phase – 11 of the by-elections vide its notifications dated 15-02-2020 and 17-02-2020: and Whereas, Home Department Government of Jammu and Kashmir vide its letter No: Home/ISA/237/2019 dated 18-02-2020 has advised the Election Authority to consider deferring of the conduct of polls based on credible inputs from the law enforcement agencies; Now therefore, in exercise of powers under section 36 of Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, read with Rule 8 and Rule 40 of the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Rules, 1996, the Notifications dated 15-02-2020 and 17-02-2020 issued for Phase 1 and Phase II respectively, and the schedule issued on 13”’ February. 2020 for other phases of the Panchayat Bi-Elections 2020 are hereby withdrawn. After addressing all the concerns suitably at the earliest, possibly in two to three weeks, fresh schedule shall be notified”. During the All Party Meet, the parties raised the issue of the detention of their leadership, asking how elections can be held in their absence. National Conference leader Rattan Lal Gupta said the party is of the view that the situation is not conducive for holding elections. He sought deferment of the elections, saying the way these were held earlier or are being conducted now is hilarious. He said elections should not be held for the sake of elections, especially as these relate to the basic level decision making bodies in the rural areas. “The meeting should have been called much earlier to know the view of political parties about holding the by-polls,” Gupta said. “However, for a genuine political exercise to happen, it is important that the mainstream political thought, which is a unifying force, is allowed to freely propagate and demonstrate its ideology,” he said and added that a political ecosystem needs to be ensured so that the democratic institutions become genuine and credible reflectors of the people’s aspirations. Panthers Party leader and former minister Harshdev Singh asked how elections could be conducted on a party basis when most leaders are in detention. “The BJP wants to do a one sided election,” Singh said while dwelling in detail about various other issues related to the by-election. PDP leader Surinder Choudhary said the party boycotted the meeting because it believes the polling can’t take place if the leadership remains under detention. “We have said elections are possible only when all the detained leaders of all the political parties are released,” Choudhary said. “Party president has to sign the nomination papers of the candidates, how can that happen when he or she has been detained,” he added.
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