Out of Kashmir’s 20,093 panch and sarpanch seats, more than 12,500 seats have remained vacant since November 2018 (Photo Credit: PTI File)
The by-elections for nearly 13,000 vacant panchayat seats in Jammu and Kashmir will be held from March 5, the Election Commission announced on Thursday. This will be the first major political exercise in the region since government scrapped Jammu and Kashmir's special status and split it into two union territories in August last year. The polls will be held in eight phases from March 5 to 20.
"The model code conduct has come into forces in Jammu and Kashmir," State Chief Electoral Officer Shalinder Kumar said.
The posts were lying vacant since November 2018 when the elections to the local bodies were held. Out of Kashmir’s 20,093 panch and sarpanch seats, more than 12,500 seats have remained vacant since then. Most of the seats that will go to polls are in the Valley.
The announcement of the election comes even as all top opposition leaders and three former chief ministers -Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti - remain in detention. The two major regional political parties — the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — did not participate in the 2018 exercise boycotting it.
The announcement has been made after the visit of 36 union ministers to Jammu and Kashmir at the end of January.