Jammu and Kashmir's Block Development Council elections record 98.3% turnout; all major parties except BJP boycott polls

The first democratic exercise in Jammu and Kashmir after the scrapping of its special status in August was held on Thursday.

Press Trust of India October 24, 2019 21:54:51 IST
Jammu and Kashmir's Block Development Council elections record 98.3% turnout; all major parties except BJP boycott polls
  • The first democratic exercise in Jammu and Kashmir after the scrapping of its special status in August was held on Thursday

  • All major political parties, other than the BJP, staying away from the Block Development Council (BDC) elections because of the continued detention of their leaders

  • Out of the 26,629 eligible 'panch' and 'sarpanch', 98.3 percent voted to elect 310 chairpeople for their respective blocks, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar said

Srinagar: The first democratic exercise in Jammu and Kashmir after the scrapping of its special status in August was held on Thursday, with all major political parties, other than the BJP, staying away from the Block Development Council (BDC) elections because of the continued detention of their leaders.

Jammu and Kashmirs Block Development Council elections record 983 turnout all major parties except BJP boycott polls

Female panches and sarpanches show their fingers marked with indelible ink after casting their votes during the first-ever Block Development Council elections, at a polling station in Boniyar area of Baramulla district of North Kashmir. PTI

Out of the 26,629 eligible 'panch' and 'sarpanch', 98.3 percent voted to elect 310 chairpeople for their respective blocks, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar said.

Panch and Sarpanch are elected by people at the village level. These representatives go on to elect chairpersons of Block Development Councils which are a second-tier organisation in the Panchayati Raj system.

The state has 316 blocks but elections were held in 283 blocks on Thursday. In 27 blocks, chairpersons were elected unopposed. Elections couldn't take place in two blocks as they did not have an elected panch and sarpanch, while in four blocks reserved for women, there was no elected woman panch.

The panch and sarpanch in Srinagar were taken in a bus under security cover to facilitate them in polling and the district, which has been witnessing a tense atmosphere since 5 August when the state's special status under Article 370 was abrogated by the Centre, saw 100 percent polling by 11 am.

The similar exercise was followed in all remaining districts in Kashmir, where terrorists have threatened to disrupt the democratic exercise. The poll percentage for the 10 districts in the Kashmir region was 93.65 percent and 99.4 percent for the 10 districts in the Jammu region, Kumar said.

There were 26,629 panch and sarpanch voters - 8,313 women and 18,316 men - for the polls to elect chairpersons of BDCs, officials said.

PRIs have three levels - village, block and district - and election for the first tier were held last year, which was also boycotted by the National Conference (NC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Congress, CPI(M), NC and PDP did not take part in the elections, which are being held on party basis, leaving the field open to the BJP, that had candidates in 280 blocks, and Independents.

The National Conference had made clear that it would be able to decide on participating in the BDC elections only after its leadership was released so that a broader consultation could be held.  The party's two former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar have been in detention since August 5 and so has been PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti.

The senior Abdullah was slapped with the stringent Public Safety Act last month. Scores of political leaders from both the parties are also under preventive detention at the Centaur Hotel.

The NC had slammed the decision to hold BDC elections, alleging it is "the biggest mockery of democracy" to hold polls when the entire leadership of the state is "under detention". The Congress had announced its decision to boycott the elections citing "indifferent attitude" of the state administration and continued detention of its leaders in Kashmir.

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