ULB and Panchayat Polls: Development or Delusion?

Srinagar 30 September: The nomination process for the first phase of Urban Local Body (ULB) elections starting October 8 has ended. Post scrutiny by the state election commission and some withdrawals, the total number of contestants that are now in the fray for Phase I in 422 wards across the state is 1283.

In a press conference at his office yesterday, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shaleen Kabra expressed his satisfaction over the number of nominations being filed for the ULB polls in the state.

The ULB and Panchayat elections, which are going to be contested without seeing any candidate from some mainstream political parties such as People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference, are said to be for the development and betterment of Jammu and Kashmir.

According to a report, Government of India will release Rs 1000 crore annually for local bodies for developmental activities. The report also said that the funds could be higher with each Panchayat and Urban Local Body receiving additional performance grants apart from the basic grants when the corporators and Sarpanchs are elected. Quoting an official, the report further said that Jammu and Kashmir could lose over Rs 4000 crore between 2015-2020 if these elections are not conducted.

Kashmir News Bureau spoke to several politicians and political activists to know their say vis-à-vis the ULB and Panchayat elections and the development projected through them.

“We have been waiting for development for the last 50 years, pinning our hopes sometimes on Panch-s, MLAs, ministers and sometimes on Chief Minister. When their tenure expires, we are left with the same questions and having same answers, said Dr. Nawab Nasir Aman, a political/social activist in Srinagar.

“Even the funds allocated to an MLA or a minister do not satisfy you, yet we hope because we have needs. We are lagging behind in every field, be it education or health. We still lack basic services in health sector. It is our needs that make us expect from everything, even from Panch-s, he added”

Dr. Nawab also asked National Conference and People’s Democratic Party whether they will also stay out of the assembly elections if announced, as there has been no clarification from the centre on Article 35A.

“Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have said that they are not participating in the upcoming elections because there have not been any clarification on Article 35A. When the assembly elections come, all of us as Kashmiris will remind them of this and then, either clarification should come or they should not fight in those elections,” he demanded.

Not going the NC or PDP way, Congress in Jammu and Kashmir, however, has decided to contest the upcoming ULB and Panchayat polls, saying it cannot allow a field day to the communal forces.

Speaking to Kashmir News Bureau, President J & K Pradesh Congress Committee Ghulam Ahmad Mir said, “We decided to participate in the elections because we are aware of the ground situation. We did not want to leave an open ground for the communal forces”.

However, G A Mir had earlier said that the party might review its decision if concerns related to security were not addressed.

Pertinently, concerning the security during the conduct of ULB and Panchayat elections, a joint security review meeting was held earlier at PCR Kashmir by DGP CRPF R. R. Bhatnagar and DGP J&K Dilbag Singh. The officers in the meeting were directed to ensure the appropriate security arrangements are in place. (KNB)

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