Counting of votes for Jammu and Kashmir’s eight-phase District Development Council elections began at 9 am on Tuesday at the district headquarters, reported ANI. Elections for the 280 seats began on November 28 and concluded on December 19.
“Responsibility of counting is given to returning officers of the constituencies,” Jammu and Kashmir Election Commissioner KK Sharma said.
A total of 2,178 candidates were contesting in these elections – the first since the erstwhile state lost its special status under the Constitution on August 5, 2019.
The eight phases of voting held on November 28, December 1, December 4, December 7, December 10, December 13, December 16, and December 19 registered voter turnouts of 51.76%, 48.62%, 50.53%, 50.08%, 43.27%, 51.51% and 57.22%.
A day before the counting, three Peoples Democratic Party leaders – Sartaj Madni, Mansoor Hussain and Naeem Akhtar – were held by the Jammu and Kashmir administration, the outfit’s President Mehbooba Mufti said.
During campaigns for the elections, members of the Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, a coalition of political parties, alleged that they were not being allowed to campaign freely. The primary aim of the Gupkar Alliance is to restore Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
The elections are a step to setting up district development councils, a new addition to Jammu and Kashmir’s panchayati raj system. The directly elected district councils will replace the district development boards originally envisaged as the third tier of local government by the 1989 Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act. The boards were to consist of the block council chiefs, local MPs, MLAs and municipal council members. But Jammu and Kashmir’s legislative Assembly was dissolved after August 5 last year.
The jurisdiction of the district development councils, which have a five-year term, will not extend to those areas notified as municipalities. So elections will only be held in areas falling outside municipalities. There are reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.
Each district council will have five standing committees – one each for finance, development, public works, health and education, and welfare. While they might look after the day to day and developmental needs of the district, members of the council have no say on larger political issues such as special status, land laws and industrial policy.
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