Pardeep Singh Bali
Already delayed by more than 11 long years, the much anticipated and waited elections to the Urban Local Bodies across Jammu and Kashmir are likely to face more delays, probably by the year end.
Within last two years, since the formation of new government in the state, ULB elections have been deferred more than three times.
According to senior officer at J&K CEO, owing to prevailing unrest in the Kashmir Valley, the ULB elections are likely to face more delays, probably upto next year.
“Looking at the situation in Kashmir, we are expecting that the ULB elections would linger on for next year. JK CEO has done all the preparations in this regard, following the announcement by the government to conduct the polls in first week of May this year,” said official, wishing anonymity.
He said that last time when the government made announcement regarding conduct of polls in the state, JK CEO expedited its pace to arrange facilities needed for the elections,” adding, “It costs us several crores for the arrangements, but that money is drained because prevailing unrest has lapsed the preparations, which will be restarted once government announces fresh dates.”
He said that they are prepared for the elections, but final call is to be taken by the government.
Official, however, said “The government has to inform JK CEO three months before the polls, so that proper arrangements are put in place.”
“If things in Kashmir are settled within this month, there are chances that elections must be conducted by the end of December this year, but this is not happening,” he said.
Meanwhile, highly placed sources said that the government is keenly mulling to conduct elections by the end of this year and it has already notified the JK CEO to keep the preparations ready.
“The government is hopeful that Urban Local Bodies elections will be held in the month of November or December this year,” sources said.
The Urban Local Bodies elections were last held in January 2005 after a gap of 23 years. The elections were due in 2010, however, the government failed to conduct the poll in time, resulting in lapsing of Central government funds.
There are 82 urban local bodies in the state which include the Jammu and Srinagar Municipal Corporations, 74 Municipal Committees and six Municipal Councils.
Meanwhile, during his visit to Billawar, the Deputy Chief Minister sanctioned Rs 50 lakh for the development of the Billawar town.
He also sanctioned Rs 25 lakh for critical care ambulance for Billawar hospital from his Constituency Development Fund.
Singh, while responding to the demands of the locals, said he would take up the matter with Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Department to open 60 new ration depots in the Billawar assembly segment.
It is pertinent to mention here that the state had lost over Rs 169 crore for not conducting ULB polls; and an allocation of over Rs125 crore was lost in 2015-16 for want of duly constituted municipalities.
Sources said that EVMs may be used for the first time during the municipal elections. There are two Municipal Corporations (one each in Srinagar and Jammu), besides six Municipal Councils and 72 Municipal Committees in the state. Similarly, the state has over 3,200 panchayats headed by an equal number of sarpanches and nearly 30,000 panches.