Of the 1738 panch vacancies notified for polls on Friday, less than 20 per cent to have polling

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Jammu, December 3: ON Friday when 1738 panch vacancies go to polls during the third phase of panchayat by-election, only less than 20 per cent of them will have polling from 7 am to 2 pm.

Reason: While there are no candidates for 613 vacancies, the remaining 798 stand filled up without any contest. As such, polling will take place for only 327 panch vacancies.

Similarly, for the 126 vacancies of sarpanch going to polls during the third phase, polling will take place at only 66 places as 40 sarpanch seats stand filled up unopposed and there are no candidates for the remaining 20 vacancies.

Official sources said that almost all these vacancies are in Kashmir Valley where the elected panchayat members are already the main target of militants.

The situation was no different in earlier two phases of panchayat byelections held on November 28 and December 1.

Sources said that during the first phase, a total of 1,669 vacancies of panches were notified for by-election. However, polling took place for only 368 vacancies as there had been no candidates at 533 places and the remaining 768 vacancies got filled up unopposed.

Similarly, of the 146 vacancies of sarpanches notified for by-election during the first phase, polling took place for only 94 seats. Of the remaining 52 vacancies, while there had been no contestant at 16 places, candidates at other 36 places got elected unopposed.

In the second phase of elections, there were 1,815 panch vacancies, but polling took place at only 331 places. Of the remaining vacancies, no one had filed nomination papers at 680 places, while 804 others got filled up unopposed, sources pointed out.

Similarly, of the 160 sarpanch vacancies notified for by-election, only 83 went to polls on December 1. While there were no contestants at 19 other places, candidates for remaining 58 seats got elected unopposed.

During the 2018 panchayat elections for 33,592 panches and 4290 sarpaches, only 22,214 panches and 3.459 sarpanches were elected. Later, following election of chairpersons of Block Development Councils in 2019, another 307 seats of panches and sarpanches fell vacant.

During the eight phased by-election for filling of panch and sarpanch vacancies along with the DDC elections, a total of 12,153 panch and 1.088 sarpanch vacancies are also going to polls. Of these, 11,814 panch and 935 sarpanch vacancies fall in Kashmir Valley.

Meanwhile, State Election Commissioner K K Sharma said that 7.37 lakh electors will decide the fate of 305 candidates including 53 females, who are in the fray in 33 constituencies going to polls during the third phase of the maiden District Development Council elections in Jammu and Kashmir on Friday. Of these, while 16 constituencies are in Kashmir, other 17 are in Jammu division, he said, adding the polling will take place from 7 am to 2 pm.