A delay in holding local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir will lead to a loss of almost Rs 4,500 crore. This is the reason home ministry officials are citing for pushing ahead with the plans to hold urban local body elections in the state. A final decision, however, is pending.
At a meeting, called by the state's new Governor Satyapal Malik, the matter was discussed threadbare. But there has been no decision about a time frame.
Officials say the Centre is under a lot of pressure and is treading very carefully on the issue. "Any negative report about elections would reflect on the Governors' Rule in Jammu and Kashmir. As far as the panchayat polls are concerned, as they are held on non-partisan lines, they are also on schedule," he added.
The local bodies' elections have lost their sheen after the two key parties in the state, the National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti's PDP, pulled out of the elections alleging uncertainty over Centre's stand on Article 35A.
The Article passed through a Presidential order in 1954 has been challenged before the Supreme Court. The top court deferred the hearing to January after the Centre sought to citing holding of panchayat and civic elections in the state.
The whole of Kashmir Valley shares that anxiety. "There are reports that fruit grower organisations, houseboat owners and local traders might also give a boycott call. So effort is being made to dissuade them," a senior officer told NDTV.
The PDP has said holding the elections now will be a "mockery" of the democratic process.
State chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam earlier told reporters that the elections will be held as per schedule. "There will no change in dates... Three weeks from now we will have urban body elections and on the first week of November, we will have panchayat elections,'' he had said.
While the urban polls are scheduled for the first week of October, the panchayat elections are set to take place in December.
The government wants to push ahead with the elections following Prime Minster Narendra Modi's statement on Independence Day. The government, he said, is going to hold local bodies polls in Jammu and Kashmir in view of a large number of requests from the state's village headmen.
The last urban body elections were held in 2005. The National Conference has a strong hold in urban areas, but this time, they have boycotted the elections.
Panchayat elections are another matter, the officials say. "They are contested by locals very fiercely and people do participate in it in huge numbers," an official said.
After last panchayat elections in 2011, as many as two dozen sarpanches were killed. But locals then made it clear that panchayat elections are not related to Kashmir issue, but about everyday issues like bijli, sadak, pani (electricity, roads, drinking water)," adds an officer.
The Centre has already agreed to send 221 companies of troops to the state for the elections.
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