Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh asserted that the local body polls will be of historic significance in many ways and help re-establish long overdue grass root level democracy in the state.
In a tweet he mentioned, “The central government is providing all possible support to the state government for smooth conduct of these elections including deployment of central forces in sufficient numbers.”
The elections to the local bodies are due in October. The polls will be conducted to elect 4,130 ‘sarpanches’ (village headmen), 29,719 ‘panches’ (panchayat members) and 1,145 ward commissioners.
The last urban local body elections were held in 2005 and panchayat elections were held in 2011. The minister said, “Provision of Direct elections for Sarpanches of the Panchayats has also been restored to ensure accountability.”
“The central government is providing all possible support to the state government for smooth conduct of these elections including deployment of central forces in sufficient numbers.”https://t.co/v1xwpTPIM3
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) September 28, 2018
The elections will be boycotted by two major parties in the state, the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party. The bone of contention being Article 35A of the constitution which is being challenged in the Supreme Court. The central government is yet to clear its stand on the issue. Article 35A was added to the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order and grants special rights and privileges to citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Union Home Minister in a series of tweets said the elections will pave the way for making available nearly Rs 4,335 crore of 14th Finance Commission Central grants to the duly constituted local bodies and added if not for these elections, the people of the state would have been deprived of these funds meant for their welfare.
He added that the financial powers of panchayats are being enhanced 10 times from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh. Every Panchayat will now on an average get around Rs 50 to 80 Lakhs per year at its disposal for implementation of development schemes.
The minister said that the functions and functionaries of all 29 subjects transferred to panchayats under the 73rd amendment of the Constitution will also be transferred to the panchayats of Jammu and Kashmir. These include institutions like primary health centres, primary schools and anganwadi centres.
Rajnath Singh also mentioned that the Leh and Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Councils (LAHDC and KAHDC) have been strengthened and empowered to become the most autonomous councils in the country. They have been given more powers to levy and collect local taxes.