J&K BDC Polls: 217 Independents, 81 BJP Members Elected

Of the three-tier Panchayat Raj system, the government has implemented the second tier with BDC polls.

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India
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Over 200 Independents were elected to the post of chairperson in the first-ever Block Development Council (BDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, 24 October, with the BJP winning in 81 of the 310 blocks. This is after a turnout of 98.3 percent was recorded in the state.

On Friday, 25 October, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted what he called a 98 percent “historic turnout” and that “dynamic representatives shape the destiny.”

The Congress, the National Conference and the PDP stayed away from the elections, the first after abrogation of the state’s special status, because of continued detention of their leaders.

Elections were held in 283 blocks as twenty-seven candidates were elected unopposed, poll officials said, adding that results of three blocks are awaited. The Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) won in eight blocks and the Congress in one, Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar said.

The Congress candidate had filed nomination papers before the party announced it would boycott the elections, sources said.

"In total, 217 Independents won. The BJP won in 81 blocks," he said.

The state has 316 blocks but elections couldn't take place in two blocks as they did not have an elected panch and sarpanch, while in four blocks reserved for women, there was no elected woman panch.

In the Kashmir division, 128 blocks went to polls. The BJP won in 18, Independents in 109 and Congress on one, Kumar said.

There are thirty-one blocks in the Ladakh region, and the BJP won 11 and Independents in 20, he said.

Kumar said in the Jammu region, 151 blocks went to polls, with the BJP winning in 52 blocks, JKNPP in eight and Independents in 88. Results of three blocks are awaited, he said.

‘New Dawn of Grassroots Democracy’

As the block development council (BDC) polls in Jammu and Kashmir recorded 98.3 percent polling, sarpanches and panches expressed joy on becoming a part of this first-ever election and said they see it as a path to the "dawn of a new era" for grassroots-level democracy.

Of the three-tier Panchayat Raj system, the government has implemented the second tier with BDC polls, but panches hope for immediate elections to the third tier to elect district chairpersons.

"We are very happy to become part of history by taking part in the first-ever BDC polls in Jammu and Kashmir. It is a step toward a new dawn of grassroots-level democracy in the state," said Sanjeev Kumar, a panch of Pandora border panchayat (Samba).

Kumar said it will empower the Panchayat Raj system in Jammu and Kashmir. He batted strongly for holding earlier polls to choose district chairpersons.

Like him, Naib Sarpanch Abdul Rasheed of Reasi also patted the government for taking the bold step to hold polls to block development councils for the first time. "It will empower democratic setup from villages to districts by empowering sarpanches and panches. We are very happy today," he said.

“Holding these polls was a challenge. But the government and election body took a bold step. We are happy to be part of this election. We want the government to hold election to the third tier also.”
Ritu Choudhary, Sarpanch of Kathua

The sarpanches and panches, who voted enthusiastically on Thursday, feel a fully functioning Panchayat Raj system would boost development of rural areas.

‘Near 100 Percent Polling’

Near-100 percent polling was recorded in the BDC election on Thursday, with Congress, NC and PDP boycotting the first electoral exercise after abrogation of the state's special status.

"98.3 percent polling was recorded in JK," Chief Electoral Officer Shalinder Kumar said.

The polls to elect chairpersons of BDCs were held in 310 blocks in the state and 1,092 candidates were in the fray, of whom 27 were elected unopposed.

Srinagar district recorded 100 percent polling followed by Reasi (99.7 percent) and Jammu (99.5 percent).

There were 26,629 electors 8,313 women and 18,316 men, officials said.

The highest number of candidates were in north Kashmir's Kupwara district (101) and the lowest in south Kashmir's Shopian (4).

Roughly 24 percent (12,766) of the posts of panches and sarpanches are lying vacant due to reasons, including resignations, deaths and non-conduct of the polls during the exercise held last winter.

Other than Congress, National Conference and People's Democratic Party, CPI(M) did not take part in the elections.

(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

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