SRINAGAR: The central government is considering the postponement of Urban Local Bodies (ULB) polls in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, reliable sources of KNS said. These polls are likely to be rescheduled to take place after the Parliamentary elections, expected in April-May 2024.
Sources within the government informed news agency KNS that discussions are ongoing between the Central government and the Jammu and Kashmir administration regarding the timing of the ULB polls.
The Central government’s current stance leans towards deferring the ULB elections in the Union Territory to the following year, following the conclusion of the Parliamentary polls. It is worth noting that ULB elections, being a grassroots-level exercise, necessitate more extensive security arrangements compared to Parliamentary polls.
“The ULB polls require more comprehensive security measures than the LS polls, expected in April-May 2024. This election involves door-to-door outreach and, therefore, demands adequate security measures. New Delhi is in consultation with the J&K administration regarding the necessary arrangements for the smooth conduct of ULB polls. However, reports dispatched by security agencies to the Ministry of Home Affairs recommend that ULB polls are not possible this year and should thus be deferred until 2024,” sources of KNS said.
They added that security agencies have received credible intelligence indicating that militants may attempt to disrupt security forces and civilians in the coming months, potentially to deter people from participating in any democratic exercises. “Following attacks in Rajouri, Kokernag, and Srinagar, security forces have been on high alert. They have credible information suggesting potential terrorist activities in the coming months. Therefore, security agencies have written to the Ministry of Home Affairs, requesting the rescheduling of ULB polls in the UT,” they explained.
As per sources, the security agencies are keen to maintain a high voter turnout in the Parliamentary elections and believe that rescheduling the ULB polls is essential to achieve this.
Providing further details, the sources informed KNS that once the Parliamentary polls conclude, all elections in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will proceed in sequence. “First, the ULB polls will be held, followed by Panchayat, BDC, and DDC polls,” they said, adding, “The assembly elections in the UT will be held once all these polls are completed smoothly.”
On September 26, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has scheduled an important meeting involving northern zone States and Union Territories, including J&K, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, and New Delhi, to assess the security situation in candid discussions with respective officials. Sources disclosed that Lieutenant Governor J&K Manoj Sinha, Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta, DGP Dilbagh Singh, and other senior officers of the J&K administration have been invited to participate in this meeting. Alongside other matters, Home Minister Amit Shah will receive firsthand information from J&K officials regarding the prevailing security situation in the Union Territory.
The sources stated that the meeting will address the security situation following recent encounters in Rajouri and Kokernag areas.
According to sources, there is a proposal before the central government to conduct ULB, BDC, and DDC elections in a manner similar to Panchayat polls, where citizens have the right to elect their local representatives. “Like other States and Union Territories in the country, Jammu and Kashmir will conduct ULB, BDC, and DDC polls using the same pattern. Previously, Panches and Sarpanch’s were electing BDCs, and BDCs were electing DDCs. There will now be an amendment, granting people the right to elect their DDCs and BDCs. Additionally, Mayors for Srinagar and Jammu cities will also be elected by the people,” sources said.
It is worth mentioning that all regional and national-level political parties, including the BJP, had intensified their public outreach programs across J&K soon after Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha mentioned that ULB polls would be held by the end of this year. However, with the deferment of ULB polls in the UT, it is expected that political activities in the region will see a significant reduction.
The sources informed that the meeting on September 26, chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah, is also likely to discuss the appointment of a new DGP for J&K. (KNS)