By-polls to Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir, expected to be held from March 5, have been postponed due to security reasons, J&K Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar confirms.
Kumar says this step was taken after inputs were given to him by the home department over security issues.
“Office of the Election Authority, Chief Electoral Officer (J&K): Notifications dated 15th & 17th February issued for Phrase 1 and 2 (Panchayat by-elections) respectively and the schedule issued on 13th February for other phases of Panchayat by-elections are hereby withdrawn”, read the notification issued by Kumar’s office.
The polls were scheduled to be held from March 5-20 on a party basis. The voting was slated for March 5, March 7, March 9, March 12, March 14, March 16, March 18 and March 20.
The by-election to more than 12,500 panchayat seats was scheduled to be held in eight phases. This would have been the biggest political exercise since August 5, 2019 as the state was bifurcated into two union territories.
Opposition parties, including the National Conference, PDP and the Congress, had met the Chief Electoral officer in Jammu and said they were willing to take part in the polls only if their leaders were released from detention, in order to provide a level playing field
The Panchayat elections, last held in 2018, were boycotted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC).
On August 5 last year, the union government had revoked Article 370 which granted special status to state of Jammu and Kashmir. Since the abrogation, several political leaders, including former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah have been detained. Internet services remain suspended in the valley.