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Panchayat polls in J&K from Feb 15

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The government has decided to hold Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir from February 15 next year, the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti informed Governor NN Vohra on Monday.

An official spokesperson said that Mehbooba met Vohra at Raj Bhavan here and informed him about several “important matters” about which the cabinet had taken decisions a few days ago.

The spokesperson said that the Chief Minister also informed the governor about her government’s decision to commence Panchayat elections from 15th February 2018.

“The governor reiterated his concern about the vital importance of ensuring prompt redressal of public grievances and for the entire administrative system to function in a truly transparent and accountable manner, to promote public welfare,” the spokesperson said.

A source told Greater Kashmir that the government of India was keen on holding the Panchayat elections in the state and has conveyed the same to the state reportedly through union home minister Rajnath Singh and the BJP high command.

The state government has already promulgated an ordinance to empower its chief electoral officer to hold the polls instead of constituting a separate body for the electoral exercise.

The polls have been pending for the last one-and-a-half-year as the previous panchayats had completed their term in July 2016.

During previous Panchayat elections held in 2011 after a gap of nearly 37 years, there were 4098 Sarpanch and 29,402 Panch constituencies. The division-wise constituencies included 2145 (Sarpanch) in Kashmir (including Ladakh) and 1953 in Jammu while there were 15767 Panch segments in Kashmir (including Ladakh) and 13,635 in Jammu.

However, the PDP-BJP government has done away with direct elections for Sarpanch seats by making amendments in the law governing Panchayats.

Due to delay in Panchayat polls, the central government has stopped certain funds to Jammu and Kashmir especially the amount that has to be spent only through the elected Panchayats.