Despite regular threats by militant outfits to disrupt the poll process, the 9-phase Panchayat polls in the state of Jammu and Kashmir are all set to begin from 17 November.
The polling will be held across state on November 17, 20, 24, 27, 29 and then December 1, 4, 8, and 11 in all 22 districts.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra said, “Ballot papers will be used in the polls to elect 4,483 sarpanches and 3,508 panches. Voting will commence at 8 am and close at 2 pm.”
Earlier, the Centre and state had mobilised 60,000 paramilitary forces and 15,000 police personnel for the municipal polls that ended on October 16. Same troops would be deployed for the security of panchayat polls across the state, mostly in Kashmir where militants have warned of action against those contesting the elections. The Army is also kept on standby.
In both south Kashmir and North Kashmir, many Panchayat Ghars and offices have been attacked and burnt by miscreants in the past few months.
Security agencies here do believe that these elections (Panchayat polls) are a major challenge for state administration, security agencies and intelligence agencies here as guarding the candidates is a daunting task as not enough personnel are available to guard each of them also this time participation of candidates is much more than what was witnessed in Urban Local Bodies (ULB) polls that were held in Oct-Nov.
Earlier this month, Governor of the state, Satya Pal Malik had said that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader 52-year-old Anil Parihar and his brother Ajit Parihar, 55, were killed in Kishtwar to disrupt the Panchayat elections.
However, top cops of J&K say just like the ULB polls, the Panchayat elections will also be conducted peacefully and assured good security cover for the polling. “We will ensure good security cover for Panchayat elections and we are hopeful that these elections too will be held peacefully and violence-free as ULB polls."
While Hurriyat leadership that includes Syed Ali Geelani, Miwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik have urged people to observe shutdown against “yet another election drama” being enacted by the “oppressive regime” of New Delhi on November 17, the militants have threatened to blind panchayat poll candidates with acid.
It is pertinent to mention that during the last panchayat election held in 2011 after a gap of nearly 37 years, there were 4,098 sarpanch and 29,402 Panch constituencies. The division-wise constituencies included 2,145 (sarpanch) in Kashmir (including Ladakh) and 1,953 in Jammu, while there were 15,767 Panch segments in Kashmir (including Ladakh) and 13,635 in Jammu.
Due to delay in panchayat polls, the Centre has stopped certain funds to Jammu and Kashmir especially the amount that has to be spent only through the elected panchayats.