1500 Sarpanchs, Panchs Remain Unelected18 July 2011
Jammu: Amid great hype over the large-scale voter turnout in the recently concluded Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir, around 1500 Sarpanchs and Panchs remained unelected across the state leaving the government in catch-22 situation. Well informed sources told Greater Kashmir that the elections in 47 Sarpanch and 1458 Panch constituencies could not be completed on various reasons including zero voter turnout. Jammu and Kashmir has 4128 Sarpanch and 29709 Panch constituencies in 143 blocks across the state, which went to polls recently. Official figures reveal that election process was completed only in 4069 Sarpanch and 28251 Panch constituencies. “At some places no nomination was filed while no voter turned out in some other areas”, sources, preferring anonymity, said. Among the Sarpanch constituencies, where elections remained incomplete, 39 are in Kashmir region, while 8 in Jammu region. Similarly among the Panch Halqas 1359 were in Kashmir and 96 in Jammu division. Minister for Panchayat Raj told media men in Srinagar on Monday that the elections in all these blocks will be held soon. However, he did not explain the procedure. On the other hand if sources in the office of Chief Electoral Office (CEO) are to be believed there was no procedure of filling up the vacant posts in the existing Panchayati Raj Act. “The government can go for by-elections only when an elected Panch or Sarpanch has been removed”, sources claimed adding, “The office of CEO has already completed the process and has forwarded entire record to the government and there was no question of holding by-elections for the vacant seats”. Commissioner Secretary Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Yedullah acknowledged the vacancies and said these will be filled up alongwith the elections at block level. “There is a procedure in the Act to treat the vacant seats as casual vacancies”, he said adding, “We will fill up the vacancies at the time of holding the elections for block level bodies”. He further claimed that the vacancies will not have any affect on the central assistance to strengthen the Panchayat Raj system in the state.