SRINAGAR: January 9, 2024, marks the conclusion of the tenure for approximately 28,000 representatives from Panchayats and Block Development Councils (BDCs) as these bodies are set to dissolve. Due to upcoming exercises such as voter revision, identification of Wards for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and fresh delimitation, elections for these positions cannot take place for at least six months.
The government is poised to issue an order appointing Administrators to wield the powers and duties of Halqa Panchayats. Initially granted for six months, these powers may be extended for an additional three months if elections are not held by then.
Nearly 28,000 representatives of 4291 Panchayats will complete their five-year term tomorrow, rendering them ineligible to continue in their roles. Similarly, 310 BDCs, whose term extends until October this year, will see an abrupt end tomorrow, in adherence to the Panchayati Raj Act, which stipulates that the term of BDCs aligns with that of Panchayats.
Certain positions at the Sarpanch and Panch levels in Panchayats, as well as some BDC Chairpersons, have remained vacant since the elections, either due to a lack of candidates or the resignation and demise of elected representatives.
However, five Lok Sabha MPs (three from the National Conference and two from the BJP) and 280 District Development Council (DDC) members, including chairpersons and vice-chairpersons, will persist as elected representatives in the Union Territory.
The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir comprises 20 DDCs, with the BJP governing six out of the 10 DDCs in Jammu. The National Conference holds power in three, and an Independent female candidate leads Poonch DDC. The DDCs, established in January 2021, have nearly two years left in their term.
Regarding elections to Panchayats, the UT Government has approved an amendment for OBC reservation. The State Election Commissioner, BR Sharma, has ordered an annual voter revision for Panchayats, with the final rolls set to be published on February 26. Lok Sabha elections for five seats in J&K are scheduled for April-May.
The officials state that once the OBC reservation percentage is finalized, decisions will follow on the number of reserved Sarpanch and Panch constituencies, along with the delimitation of Wards. This process is anticipated to take approximately five to six months.
Elections to Panchayats were conducted in Jammu and Kashmir in November-December 2018, marking a return after almost four decades. The elections for Municipalities, held in the same year in October after a 13-year hiatus, also witnessed a delay. The recent amendment in the Panchayat Raj Act grants reservation to OBCs, and similar amendments are anticipated for the Jammu and Kashmir Municipal Corporations Act and J&K Municipalities Act.