90% of BDC vot­ers miss­ing in three Kash­mir dis­tricts Many Sarpanch, Panch Seats Va­cant As NC & PDP Skipped 2018 Polls


The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation - TIMES IN­SIGHT THE TIMES OF IN­DIA, NEW DELHI

Block Devel­op­ment Coun­cil chair­per­sons are to be elected in Jammu & Kash­mir on Oc­to­ber 24 by sarpanches and panches of the re­spec­tive blocks, but over 90% of th­ese posts of would-be elec­tors lie va­cant in two dis­tricts in the Val­ley. Pul­wama, for in­stance, should have had 1,710 elec­tors for its 11 blocks, but there are only 132 of them on the elec­toral rolls, the re­main­ing seats (92.3%) be­ing va­cant. Sim­i­larly, in Shopian, va­cancy’s 90.8% with just 82 elec­tors where there should have been 889. Kul­gam isn’t much bet­ter, with 89% va­cancy.

This bizarre sit­u­a­tion is be­cause the 2018 pan­chayat elec­tions in the state were boy­cotted by the two main par­ties in the Val­ley, the Na­tional Con­fer­ence and the PDP. As a re­sult, for most seats there just weren’t any can­di­dates. And deaths and res­ig­na­tions since then have re­duced the num­bers even fur­ther.

Over­all, the Val­ley’s 10 dis­tricts have 19,578 posts of sarpanches and panches. Only 7,029 of th­ese are in place, mean­ing 64% of po­ten­tial elec­tors for the BDC chair­per­sons elec­tions are ab­sent. There are va­can­cies in the Jammu and Ladakh re­gions too, but th­ese are just 1.6% and 2.8% of the to­tal posts of sarpanches and panches in th­ese re­gions (see graphic).

J&K has had a his­tory of low voter turnout, es­pe­cially since 1989. In the Lok Sabha elec­tions in May this year the vot­ing per­cent­age in Anant­nag par­lia­men­tary con­stituency was 8.7% — not vastly dif­fer­ent from the 5.7% voter turnout dur­ing the 1989 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions. In Shopian and Pul­wama dis­tricts of Anant­nag, less than 3% of vot­ers cast their votes in May. Un­til the mid-1980s, over 60% of vot­ers had voted in most con­stituen­cies in the Kash­mir re­gion. How­ever, in the case of BDC polls, it is not that vot­ers may not turn up to vote, it’s that nearly twothirds of vot­ers don’t ex­ist.

The ab­sence of most of the elec­torate is not the only pe­cu­liar thing about the im­pend­ing BDC polls. The boy­cott in 2018 also cre­ated a sit­u­a­tion where some blocks in the Val­ley saw most win­ning can­di­dates be­ing those backed by mi­grant vot­ers vot­ing from spe­cial camps out­side the state. Thus, in blocks like Her­main, Zaina Pora and Kaprin in Shopian dis­trict, most of the elec­tors for the BDC polls are Kash­miri pan­dits.

In some of th­ese cases, they be­long to a sin­gle fam­ily, for in­stance with the hus­band be­ing the sarpanch and the only elected panch be­ing his wife. In such cases, the elec­tion of the BDC chair­per­son will ef­fec­tively get re­duced to a nom­i­na­tion by the con­cerned fam­ily.

The in­for­ma­tion in this re­port is all from the web­site of the chief elec­toral of­fi­cer of J&K and the state’s ru­ral devel­op­ment depart­ment.

The press note is­sued by the CEO on Sep 29 for the BDC chair­per­sons’ elec­tions noted that of the 316 blocks in the state (137 in Kash­mir, 148 in Jammu and 31 in Ladakh), elec­tions couldn’t be held to two since there were no elec­tors avail­able. There were four oth­ers in which seats have been re­served for women, but there are no women sarpanches or panches.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties hav­ing been protest­ing against the hold­ing of elec­tions at a time when most of the elec­torate is not in place, but the state’s elec­toral au­thor­i­ties have ar­gued that hold­ing bye-elec­tions for the va­cant posts would mean hav­ing to re­vise the state’s elec­toral rolls since there would have been some change in it and there is no time to un­der­take such a re­vi­sion.

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