|Early Times Report|
Srinagar, Sept 19: The Centre is planning to give an insurance cover of Rs 10 lakh to each candidate participating in the upcoming local bodies elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
Sources in the government said that the proposal has already been agreed by the governor of Jammu and Kashmir. "Each candidate will be given this insurance cover. We will work out the modalities soon," said a government official privy to the issue. The government is hopeful that this move will give some sense of security to the candidates.
However, the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (JKPC) has said that they have never asked for such insurance and rather want the elections to be conducted in a secure environment. "We never wanted an insurance cover for us. We are not contesting elections for this. We only demanded that elections should be held in a secure atmosphere, which is the job of the government and it should ensure this," said chairman JKPC Shafiq Mir.
The panchayat elections will be held on November 17, 20, 24, 27, 29, December 1, 4, 8 and 11. Counting will take place on the day of polling. Votes will be cast using ballot paper, said Shaleen Kabra, J&K Chief Electoral Officer. The announcements come at a time when the main political parties -- National Conference and the People's Democratic Party -- have decided to boycott the local bodies election over the issue of Article 35A of the Constitution. In this backdrop, the Election Commission has a challenging task to ensure the polls witness participation. Besides the two main parties of J&K, the separatists and militants have also asked people to boycott the polls. The Election Commission hasn't been able to hold bypolls for Anantnag parliamentary constituency for over 20 months now and the bypolls for Srinagar constituency saw an embarrassing seven percent voter turn out.
"Congress will participate in the urban local body and panchayat polls. We will try to keep the communal forces away," said GA Mir, President state congress.
The government has been maintaining that it will take measures to ensure the elections are conducted peacefully. "We have taken the decision to go ahead after receiving inputs from various agencies involved on the ground. All arrangements are being put in place," said Chief Electoral Officer.
In 2011, when local bodies elections were last held in the state, there were 4,098 panchayats. However, new delimitations have added 280 panchayats to the list, taking the tally to 4,378. The number of panch segments has gone up by about 4,000, taking the total number of panch constituencies to 33,402. There were 29,402 panch segments in the state prior to delimitation. At least 16 Sarpanchs and Panchs have been killed since 2011 in various attacks.