Political parties ‘boycotting local bodies elections’ is illogical

JAMMU: The boycott call by some of the political parties has lead to people thinking falsely that Panchayat elections cannot be possible with political parties not being a part of it. However, this is not the case.

Anil Sharma, State President, All J&K Panchayat Conference says, "Unlike, Municipalities, Panchayats are independent of political parties. They neither use symbols of political parties, nor involve them for election campaigning. So, the political parties which have decided to ‘boycott' these elections are making an illogical statement. These local level democratic institutions must be kept away from politics."

Some of the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir - NC, PDP, CPI(M), Separatists have announced boycott to upcoming Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies elections. Although to contest elections in Urban Local Bodies (ULBs), it is not mandatory for the candidate to belong to any political party. Therefore, ‘boycott call' is a meaningless and misleading statement.

Bashir Mallik, General Secretary, JK Awami Raj Movement and a former panch, corroborates Sharma's statement. But, he also warns against the political position Sharma holds, while claiming independence of panchayats. This year, Sharma has been made BJP State Convenor for Panchayati Raj and Border Cell.

"The election process and working of Panchayats, nowhere involve any political party. Rather, the political alignment and interference have brought wrath from militants to some of the Panchayat members elected in 2011," says Bashir.

The restive state of J&K is working to hold Panchayat elections after a gap of 7 years, while elections to ULBs will be held after a hiatus of 13 years. The Centre has decided to back Governor's decision to hold elections, disregarding boycott call given by some parties, simply because these elections are not held on party lines.

The Panchayats and ULBs (Municipalities) are grass-root level and community-based democratic institutions. Locals vote in the elections, for local candidates contesting the elections, to elect a local self-government. The locals are given an opportunity to plan and implement their own development, with funding from Union and State Government.

The representatives elected in these elections are accessible and more personally connected to the community than MLAs, MLCs, and MPs. So, the Union Government was recommended by the 14th Finance Commission to devolve funds to these local bodies for grass-root development, and forbid state government to divert these funds for any other purpose. But, the delay in these elections has deprived locals of their right to development, and also, huge amounts of funds have lapsed.

The amendment has been made to conduct polling through EVMs, and for the first time, people have been empowered to directly elect their Panchs and Sarpanchs.

"We support democracy and development. We are ready to contest elections, despite security concerns," echo Anil Sharma and Bashir Mallik.

The state, under Governor Satya Pal Malik, has accelerated the election process to Municipalities which will be held in four phases, between October 8 to October 16. The Panchayats polls will be held in nine phases, between November 17 to December 11.


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