Governor fixes March 31 deadline for EC to complete all preparations

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Feb 22: Governor N N Vohra is reported to have fixed March 31 as deadline for the Election Commission of Jammu and Kashmir to complete preparations in all respects to hold elections to the Urban Local Bodies even as the Commission has received report from all 22 Deputy Commissioners of the State favouring status-quo on rotation of Municipal Wards reserved for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.
Official sources told the Excelsior that Governor N N Vohra has asked Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shantmanu to complete all formalities required for issuance of notification to hold elections to the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) on or before March 31. All formalities included publication of final electoral rolls for 78 ULBs in the State, appointment of Returning Officers, Assistant Returning Officers etc and mentioning lists of Wards including specifically the Wards reserved for women, SCs and STs.
Sources said the Election Commission has conveyed to the Governor that it will abide by the deadline and complete all requisite formalities well before March 31 so that the notification for holding the elections, if asked for by the then Government, can be issued on April 1.
“If the notification is issued on April 1, first phase of elections can start by May 15 as the Election Commission had to keep time of 45 days between announcement of elections and the Phase-I, unless relaxed,” sources said.
When approached for comments, CEO J&K Shantmanu confirmed that they have started preparations to meet the deadline of March 31 set by the Governor and hopefully everything will be in place by that time.
“On our part, we have taken all measures to meet the deadline. Our arrangements required for issuing notification to hold the elections to the ULBs will be complete in all respects by March 31,” he said.
According to official sources, the Election Commission has received reports from all 22 Deputy Commissioners of the State on rotation of reserved Wards of the ULBs. The DCs were understood to have favoured maintaining status-quo on the Wards that existed in 2005 elections, which means that the Wards reserved for women, SCs and STs previously will continue without any change.
Continuation of previously reserved Wards means that the Election Commission didn’t have to undertake any fresh exercise on reservation of Wards for women, SCs and STs in all 78 ULBs including two Corporations (Jammu and Srinagar), six Councils (Kathua, Udhampur and Poonch in Jammu region and Sopore, Baramulla and Anantnag in Kashmir region). Rest 70 were the Municipal Committees.
According to sources, the Election Commission was likely to notify in next few days the draft rolls of the Municipal bodies for the people after segregating them from Panchayats from the latest summary revision of the rolls published on January 8 this year. The people will be given 15 days for addition, deletion and correction of the names in the rolls before their final publication.
The Election Commission has nearly completed the process for segregation of electoral rolls of the ULBs from Panchayats and would be publishing the draft electoral rolls of the ULBs only, anytime giving 15 days time to the electorates falling within the Municipal limits for objections.
“During the 15 days period, the voters can opt for addition and deletion of names within the Municipalities,” sources said, adding the final rolls would be published after 15 days notice.
As far as dates of the elections were concerned, sources said, a decision on them would vest with the Government at the helm of affairs when final rolls for Municipalities are published.
The elections to the ULBs were last held in January-February 2005 and the elected Municipalities had completed their term in March 2010. Since then, the elections were not held to them.
Former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had also given go ahead for Municipal elections in March-April. However, after imposition of Governor’s Rule, Governor N N Vohra had held special review meeting for the elections with Chief Secretary BR Sharma and CEO Shantmanu and directed for holding the elections in April.
It may be mentioned here that the State was about to lose Rs 165 crores worth grant for the Municipalities this financial year in the absence of elected ULBs but the Central Government had assured the State that it would release the grant for current financial year of 2015-16 as a special case as this was first year of the new Government.
At the same time, the Centre had made it clear that the ULB grants wouldn’t be released from the next financial year if the elected Municipalities were not in place.

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