LG Manoj Sinha

Amid the demand of the opposition parties to conduct elections of the grassroots institutions, Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha on Tuesday made it clear that Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) elections would be conducted in the Union territory after the reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) is implemented.

In an obvious reference toward successive governments of the National Conference, Congress, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Lieutenant Governor pointed out that those involved in bulldozing democratic institutions at the grassroots during their regimes are now doing politics on this issue.

"We will not allow these parties to do politics on this issue as our government is committed to strengthening democratic institutions at the grassroots", he asserted.

Assuring former ULB and Panchayat members, whose terms ended in November 2023 and January 2024 respectively, the Lieutenant Governor said that after the State Reorganisation Act came into force, the reservation of other backward classes was a constitutional necessity and the administration has started the process.

"I want to assure you that after concluding this exercise, ULBs and Panchayat polls will definitely be conducted in Jammu and Kashmir. I want to assert that they will definitely be held," Sinha said.

Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu and KashmirIANS

Tenure of 28,000 Panchayat members ended on January 9

Tenure of the elected 28,000 representatives came to an end on January 9 after representatives in Panchayats and Block Development Councils (BDCs) completed their five-year term. As per official data, the tenure of the 4892 Panchayats across the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir ended on January 9 as these Panchayats completed their five-year term.

With the completion of the tenure of the Panchayats, the functioning of the 310 BDCs ceased to exist because as per the Panchayati Raj Act term of BDCs will be a co-terminus with Panchayats. 280 District Development Council (DDC) members including chairpersons and vice chairpersons will continue to function as only elected representatives in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

The DDCs are the third tier of the Panchayati Raj system in Jammu and Kashmir, and the term of the DDCs will end in 2026.

The government appointed administrators to monitor the functioning of these institutions at the grassroots.

Apart from Panchayats, the government has already appointed administrators for the functioning of all Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) across the Union Territory.

J&K Panchayati Raj Act amended to allow OBC reservation

In December 2023, the Jammu and Kashmir Government amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 to incorporate the definition of OBCs in the Act to ensure their reservation in this grassroots democratic institution.

Earlier the draft J&K Panchayati Raj Act (Amendment) Bill 2023 was submitted to MHA, Government of India and observations raised by MHA were examined and necessary amendments have been incorporated in the revised draft J&K Panchayati Raj Act (Amendment) Bill.

The Amendment bill proposes the incorporation of the definition of OBCs for providing reservation for the Other Backward Classes, explaining a method of disqualification from membership of Halqa Panchayat, suspension, and removal of Sarpanch, Naib-Sarpanch and Panch by the government. It also defines the process for removal and conditions of service of the State Election Commissioner (SEC) here.

The proposed amendments aim to make the J&K Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 more effective by ensuring transparency in the functioning of PRIs, constitutional alignment & consistency with practices in other states where reservation has been provided to the OBCs apart from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

panchayat elections

Last Panchayat elections were held in 2018.

In view of the ongoing exercises of voter revision, identification of Wards for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and fresh delimitation there is uncertainty over the conduct of Panchayat elections in J&K.

The last Panchayat elections were held at the end of 2018. There are a total of 4892 panchayats in the Union Territory. A total of 27281 Panchs and 4892 Sarpanches were selected for this. The next election will be held only after the delimitation process is completed.