Jammu, Nov 4: As the slog overs have begun for the Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in J&K, the corporators and councillors, cutting across party affiliations, have a similar grouse that delaying elections with no timeframe in sight is an explicit violation of existing law.
Immediately after the expiry of terms of ULBs, the Mayors, Deputy Mayors, presidents and vice-presidents will lose their power. The powers vested with them will transfer to Commissioners (in case of JMC and SMC) and Administrators or Executive Officers in case of Municipal Councils and Committees.
“After the expiry of terms of ULBs (and subsequently even Panchayats), the people will lose direct interface with the government. Elected representatives are directly connecting links between people and the government. Now even these connecting links will go missing while MLAs are already not there,” they lament.
Main irksome issue for all is the “smokescreen” effect being given by the government (agencies responsible for conducting the polls) vis-à-vis the exact schedule of polls.
“Going by the provisions of 74th Constitutional amendment, the elections should have been conducted before the expiry of terms of ULBs, including both Corporations. However, the government has dismally failed in keeping alive the spirit of this constitutional amendment. Ironically, the government of the day was taking credit for extending this constitutional amendment to J&K. They say that elections are being delayed to ensure reservation to OBCs and complete delimitation to remove all discrepancies. My question is – when the government brought in J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019, they did all the exercises required, why was this not done. They have three years at their disposal to complete these processes. They could do when exercise related to reservation for women and SCs/STs and rotation of wards was done. So this should not have been taken as an excuse to delay the polls. To me, this is only to deprive the people of all the “remnants of elected interfaces”,” says Deputy Mayor Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) Parvaiz Ahmad Qadri.
He argues, “The government had an option to dissolve the Corporations if they had to make certain amendments. In that case at least, we would have been at peace that the elections would be conducted within six months. But now we have no clue.”
Deputy Mayor Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) Baldev Singh Billawaria does not directly find fault with the government’s decision to delay polls for conducting delimitation and OBC reservation. “That was imperative to ensure justice to all. Decision is delayed but I feel, even we as the corporators should also have pursued these issues earlier. Nevertheless, after completion of this exercise, the election should be conducted immediately to give people their elected representatives in perfect spirit with the grassroot democracy for which our government is committed,” he avers.
Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) corporator Gaurav Chopra representing Ward no 28 in JMC echoes similar sentiments that the election should be conducted at the earliest possible. However, he also makes a prickly observation. “The government, while abrogating Article 370, had maintained it was a hindrance in implementing 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments here in J&K. But after implementing it, they are dithering in the process – it is disappointing,” he says.