Nomination process begins for Kashmir panchayat polls

March 23rd, 2011 - 2:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar, March 23 (IANS) The filing of nominations for Jammu and Kashmir’s first panchayat elections in 10 years has begun, officials said Wednesday.

The process of nominations for the 16-phase panchayat elections began Tuesday evening. The April 13-June 30 polls will see more than five million voters choosing 4,130 village heads and 29,719 panchayat members in 143 developmental blocks of the state.

The panchayat elections are being held on a non-party basis with none of the mainstream political parties officially fielding their candidates for the elections, seen as a powerful tool to strengthen democracy at the grassroots level.

“Any political party intervening directly in the panchayat elections will be in violation of the modal code of conduct,” said an official of the election office here.

The main opposition in the state legislature, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led by former chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, has expressed reservations about the decision to hold the panchayat elections on a non-party basis.

“The PDP will work out strategy about the panchayat polls after the end of the ongoing budget session of the state legislature,” said PDP spokesperson Naeem Akhtar.

“Although we are not directly involved in the panchayat elections, it is important to ensure that honest candidates are fielded because ultimately the democratic dispensation at the grassroots level is to be made by the sarpanchs and panchs who are elected through these elections,” said a leader of the ruling National Congress-Congress coalition.

“The political base of the mainstream parties in various villages and blocks of the state is no secret. It is not possible that contesting candidates would remain uninfluenced by the mainstream parties who call the shots at the village or block levels,” said Samad Sheikh, a former village head from north Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.

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