Jammu: The Mehbooba Mufti government has decided to hold the much-awaited panchayat polls in Jammu and Kashmir in July in view of the volatile situation in the Valley and dissention by opposition parties. The CM had on December 25 announced that the state would hold panchayat polls from February 15, but reneged on its promise.
PDP chief spokesman Rafi Ahmed Mir told The Sunday Standard that the government had not issued any order for holding the panchayat polls from February 15. “The government may now hold the panchayat polls after July. It was not a sudden decision. A lot of thought went into it and the government decided to hold the polls at the end of winter,” said Mir. A formal order in this regard will be issued soon, he said.
He added that traders were opposed to polls in February as it would impact the tourist season.
Tourism in the Valley has been badly hit due to the unrest following the elimination of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani in 2016 and only a few tourists visited Kashmir in 2017 due to the anti-militancy operations by security forces and protests, clashes and stone pelting by the people.
“Providing security to the contesting candidates is major challenge for the government,” sources said.
In the last five years, 16 panchayat members have been killed and 30 wounded in terrorist attacks in the Valley.
The panchayat polls were scheduled to be held in July 2016 but were deferred due to unrest in the Valley and could not be held last year also due to security concerns and mere 7.5 per cent polling during bypolls to Srinagar parliamentary seat on April 9, 2017.
Following Mehbooba’s announcement regarding panchayat polls, opposition parties including the National Conference and the Congress had questioned the PDP-BJP government’s decision saying when bypolls to Anantnag parliamentary seat in south Kashmir could not be held last year, how could the panchayat polls be held?
Mehbooba had convened an all party meeting on February 4 in Jammu to take the final call on the polls and most of the parties had favoured deferring the polls.