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Under Governor Rule: Govt Fit To Hold J&K Local Body Polls

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Under Governor Rule: Govt Fit To Hold J&K Local Body Polls, The Centre is preparing the ground to hold much-overdue local body elections in Jammu & Kashmir while it is still under governor’s rule, starting with urban local body polls followed by panchayat polls.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh, who reviewed the security situation and developmental issues related to J&K at a meeting in Srinagar on Thursday, stressed on the need to percolate Central funds and development to the grassroots level in the state through installation and empowerment of local self-governments. While municipal polls were last held in J&K in 2005, panchayat polls have not been held in the state after 2011.

“The home minister has indicated the way forward: use the window of Governor’s rule in the state to hold polls to the urban local bodies and panchayats, followed by their empowerment through flow of Central funds for development works at the grassroots. The aim is to reach the fruits of development to the people of the state, which was impeded earlier due to vested interests of some state-level politicians,” said a Central government functionary.

Sources said the state machinery has been told to prepare the ground for conduct of polls to local bodies. “The modalities will be worked out keeping in mind the security scenario and factors such as weather, ongoing tourist season and Amarnath Yatra. The first set of polls, most likely to urban bodies, may be timed only after mid-August, possibly in September or October. Depending on how the municipal polls go, a call will be taken on timing of panchayat polls,” said an official.

While the Centre and Singh in particular have been persuading Mehbooba Mufti for long to hold local bodies polls in the state, sources said she kept putting them off citing security considerations. In 2016, panchayat polls were deferred after the killing of Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani triggered a round of violent protests, and the story was repeated in 2017 after the Srinagar Lok Sabha bypoll saw violence and very low turnout. “It has been the experience that state-level politicians in J&K do not favour empowerment of local self-governments, and even block Central funding from reaching them. However, with the governor now in charge, the Centre feels it is the best time to hold local bodies elections without the state government and local leaders acting as an impediment,” said an officer.

Singh on Thursday said peace and stability could be brought to J&K through an honest, effective and efficient administration. Sources said President’s rule has helped to expedite disposal of government files in the state.

Discussing the way forward, Singh who reviewed the situation in J&K along with governor, national security adviser Ajit Doval and top officers of the Army, Central para-military forces, home ministry and J&K government said development and good governance had eluded the people of J&K and the Centre was committed to bringing accountability and transparency to the state.

“The solution to problems lies in empowerment of the people and strengthening the institutions of local self-governance,” he stated in a series of tweets.

J&K was placed under governor’s rule on June 20 after the BJP withdrew support to its coalition partner PDP.

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