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Legislative council elections in J&K creates political storm

As J&K is bracing for elections to the four berths in the 36-member legislative council on December 3, political activism is at its peak.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Nov 14, 2012, 07.28 PM IST
SRINAGAR: As J&K is bracing for elections to the four berths in the 36-member legislative council (upper house) on December 3, political activism is at its peak. Panchs and Sarpanchs who were elected through a non-party election in September 2011 have already set up a party and within days it has suffered a split.

All J&K Panch Sarpanch United Forum (AJKPSUF) on Wednesday announced the candidature of two of its members Khursheed Ahmad Malik (Kokernag) and Sheikh Ashiq Hussain (Kupwara) for the two seats from Kashmir divisions. Its office members said their Jammu counterparts will announce the two candidates for the twin seats of Jammu later in the day. “We don’t belong to any political party and we are independent candidates enjoying support of 35000 elected Panchs and Sarpanchs,” Khursheed stated. “The government is using us as scapegoats because they neither empower us nor secure us.”

Within an hour, the same room in the same hotel hosted another news conference. This time a new group claimed to be the “real AJKPSUF” and announced unqualified support to the ruling coalition. “We extend our full support to government candidates because we can do nothing if we annoy the government,” said Ghulam Nabi Mir who claimed to have founded AJKPSUF. “Those who talked to you earlier in the day are nobody.”

Interestingly, there are many more factions which will be making noises in coming days. While one faction is consistently insisting that they are apolitical and shall remain so, there are factions which owe allegiance to various political formations.

Though opposition PDP is still silent, BJP and Panthers Party have already announced their decision to contest all the four seats. There were initial issues between the coalition partners as Congress was seeking mandate for three of the four seats. It was finally decided last week that the two partners decided to have equal stakes. They, however, are short-listing the names for the candidates. Sources in PDP said they would contest all the four seats but would consult various factions of the Panchs and Sarpanchs before formally announcing candidates.

Elections to the four seats are slated for December 3. Election Commission has finalized the location of 145 polling stations on block basis across the state and at every station two Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) would be set up. Every panch and sarpanch will have to cast two votes for two candidates. J&K has 33540 voters for this election including 15628 (13678 Panchs and 1950 Sarpanchs) in Jammu and 17912 (15767 Panchs and 2145 Sarpanchs) in Kashmir region. Though any person eligible for contesting any election under Representation of People’s Act (RPA) can contest this particular election, candidates of Jammu division cannot compete for the reserved two seats for Kashmir division and vice versa.
The four seats of the legislative council have remained vacant since 1974. In the 36-member house four berths are reserved for Panchayat’s and two for urban local bodies. Since the last election for Panchayat’s was partially held in 2002, these seats remained vacant and would be filled this year. Twin berths for ULBs were filled in October 2005 after ULB elections were held in January 2005 after a gap of 26 years. One was taken by PDP and other by Congress. Both the seats fell vacant because PDP candidate Nizamuddin Bhat resigned and successfully contested 2009 assembly elections and the Congress candidate Arvind Singh Micky who headed the Council completed his tenure and retired in September 2011. ULB elections were not held despite being due since February 2010 and the seats in the Legislative Council are lying vacant.

Interestingly, eight other members of the Council would be completing their tenure early between February and March 2013. These include Congress minister R S Chib and Advisor to the chief minister Devinder Singh Rana besides the Deputy Chairman M Yusuf Taing also from NC. Four of them are from Congress and two each from NC and PDP. This will add to the race within the mainstream camp and keep ambitious have-nots on tenterhooks. There is already a strong campaign against a Congress minister.

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