Strengthening democracy at grassroots: J&K to hold polls to fill vacant Sarpanch seats

New Delhi: The Modi government is firmly committed to strengthening democracy at grassroots and implement its Manta – Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Viswas in true spirit.

The BJP leadership both in Jammu and Kashmir and in the centre have always held firm conviction that empowering the local administrative bodies was crucial to improving the situation in newly created union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Administrative Council of Jammu and Kashmir under the chairmanship of
Lt. Governor, Manoj Sinha, on Wednesday decided to conduct elections to vacant Sarpanch and Panch constituencies.

An official spokesperson said as many as 1,089 Sarpanch and 12,168 Panch positions would be filled and all ‘non- functional’ Panchayats would be made functional.

The Administrative Council formally approved the proposal of the Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj to issue a notification for conducting elections to vacant Sarpanch and Panch constituencies.

“The detailed schedule will be finalised by the election authority,” the spokesperson said.

Empowering the local panchayat bodies would go a long way in bringing about necessary socio-political changes in Jammu and Kashmir and the village-level leaders will be empowered and will have ‘freedom’ to work on developmental works as per local requirements.

Political observers say the move would end the “monopoly” of a section of leaders who have enjoyed power in the past.

Filling of the vacant constitutional posts will ensure devolution of powers and proper grass-root planning in the 3rd-tier of the Local Self Government.

It will ensure that the non-functional Panchayats become functional.

Officials said earlier, general elections to 39,521 Sarpanch and Panch constituencies in 4,483 Halqa Panchayats were conducted in 2018 of which 13,257 positions are vacant due to resignation, removal, election of Sarpanch as BDC Chairpersons, deaths, and non-availability of candidates at the time of election.

The elections to the vacancies notified earlier were postponed due to security concerns and the onset of COVID-19.

Notably, the 73rd constitution amendment that gave immense functional autonomy and financial powers to the panchayats in other parts of the country could not automatically become applicable in Jammu and Kashmir
because Jammu and Kashmir previously had its “own Constitution”.

However, the controversial Article 370 was abrogated on August 5, 2019 and J&K was also bifurcated creating the centrally-administered Union Territory of Ladakh.

It is generally argued at the political and bureaucratic level that the local people in Jammu and Kashmir expect the panchayats to work on drainage, village roads and other rural infrastructures.

About the Author:

Nirendra Dev is senior Journalist. He is a longtime northeast watcher and author of books including ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and ‘Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth’.