On December 10, the State Election Commission had said that it would soon set in motion the process for conduct of Panchayat polls after the Supreme Court upheld a new law in Haryana mandating minimum educational qualifications as a prerequisite for the contestants.
The much-awaited Panchayat polls in Haryana will be held next year in three phases on January 10, 17 and 24, State Election Commission said on Tuesday.Addressing a press conference in Panchkula, near Raipur on Tuesday evening, State Election Commissioner Rajiv Sharma said with the announcement of the elections, Model Code of Conduct has come into force in the area of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) where the polls will be conducted.The election process would be completed by February 15, 2016. He said that as the Supreme Court has upheld the new Panchayati Raj Amendment Act, 2015, now elections to the PRIs would be held as per the new Act.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Sharma said that the candidates who have already filed nominations as per the amended Act need not to file fresh nominations, but have to file fresh declarations or affidavits along with the required documents before the Returning Officer concerned during the period specified for the same. He said that the poll to elect panches, sarpanches of gram panchayats and members of panchayat samitis would be held in three phases.”There are a total of 6,198 Gram Panchayats, 126 Panchayat Samitis and 21 Zila Parishads in the state. Polls would be conducted for 416 members of 21 Zila Parishads, 3001 posts of 126 Panchayat Samitis and 6,198 and 62,492 posts of sarpanches and panches respectively,” he said.On December 10, the State Election Commission had said that it would soon set in motion the process for conduct of Panchayat polls after the Supreme Court upheld a new law in Haryana mandating minimum educational qualifications as a prerequisite for the contestants. Earlier, the polls were to be held on October 4, 11 and 18.The model code was put on hold from September 24 in view of the Supreme Court hearing the petition challenging the validity of Haryana’s Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015 which fixes matriculation as essential qualification for general candidates contesting panchayat polls. The qualification for women (general) and Scheduled Caste candidates has been fixed at Class VIII.Meanwhile, Haryana’s main opposition INLD has challenged the ruling BJP to contest the upcoming Panchayat polls on party symbol.”The BJP had been claiming that it has done a lot for the people over the last year, then this is the right time they should test their popularity by contesting on party symbol,” INLD leader Abhay Singh Chautala said. However, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Tuesday said that the BJP will not contest the upcoming polls on party symbol.”The Panchayat elections should be held with the spirit of brotherhood. Hence, the party has decided not to contest these polls on party symbol,” Khattar told reporters here on sidelines of a function.The Chief Minister urged people of the state to elect good representatives to Panchayati Raj institutions in the state in the upcoming elections so as to ensure better and transparent administration at village level. He said that the state government has implemented the new Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015, to enable educated and responsible people to enter into the system.In reply to another question, the Chief Minister said that voting is the fundamental right of every citizen and all should exercise their right to franchise for strengthening of democratic system. In reply to a question, State Election Commissioner Sharma said that three political parties – Bahujan Samaj Party, SAD and CPIM – have written to the Commission expressing their desire to contest elections on party symbols.Regarding educational qualifications of the contesting candidates, Sharma said that the list of recognised schools have been uploaded on the website of Board of School Education Haryana. Apart from this, Education Department has been asked to depute an officer in the Commission office to verify the certificates of contesting candidates.The State Election Commissioner said all preparations have been made to ensure the conduct of fair and peaceful polls. As many as 21,475 polling booths have been set up, of which 4,337 have been identified as hyper-sensitive and 4,159 as sensitive. Special arrangements would be made at these polling stations by the district administration concerned, he said. Sharma said that approval has also been given by the State Election Commission to conduct videography at hyper- sensitive polling booths.”Notification for the first phase of the elections would be issued on December 17, that of phase two would be issued on December 23 and of phase three would be issued on December 30, 2015,” he said.He also said that in the first phase, nominations could be filed from December 23 to December 29, 2015 and during the same period the affidavit or declarations would be furnished by the candidates to the concerned Returning Officers.Scrutiny of nomination papers would be held on December 30 and the last date of withdrawal would be January 1, 2016. Symbols to the contesting candidates would be allotted on January 1 and the list of contesting candidates would also be made public on the same day.Similarly, in the second phase, notification would be issued on December 23, 2015. Nominations could be filed from December 30 to January 4, 2016 and during the same period the affidavit or declarations would be furnished by the candidates to the concerned Returning Officers. Scrutiny of nomination papers would be held on January 5, 2016 and the last date of withdrawal would be January 7, 2016.Symbols to the contesting candidates would be allotted on January 7 and the list of contesting candidates would also be made public on the same day. In the third phase, notification would be issued on December 30. Nominations could be filed from January 5 to January 9 and during the same period the affidavit or declarations would be furnished by the candidates to the concerned Returning Officers.Scrutiny of nomination papers would be held on January 11, 2016 and the last date of withdrawal would be January 13, 2016.Symbols to the contesting candidates would be allotted on January 13 and the list of contesting candidates would also be made public on the same day. Sharma said while elections for sarpanch and members of Zila Parishad would be conducted through EVMs, ballot paper would be used for elections for panches and members of Panchayat Samitis. He added that it was for the first time that EVMs would be used for elections for members of Panchayat Samitis in districts Panchkula and Rewari.He said that counting of votes for the Panches and Sarpanches would be taken up on the same day at the polling stations itself, whereas, the counting of votes for election to the offices of Members Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad would be taken up on January 28, 2016 at the place specified by concerned District Election Officer.The casting of ballot would be conducted from 7:30 AM to 4 PM. Sharma said that 1,10,09,317 people are eligible to cast their ballot in these elections of which 59,04,696 are men and 51,04,621 are women.More than one lakh workers would be deputed for conduct of the election process.To ensure peaceful and secure conduct of elections in the state, requests have been sent to Director General of Police and Home Secretary to deploy personnel of Haryana Police, Haryana Armed Police and Home Guards. He also said that general and election expenditure supervisors would also be appointed.Officers of the level of senior Indian Administrative Services and Haryana Civil Services Officers would be appointed as general supervisors, and officers from the Excise and Taxation Department would be appointed as election expenditure supervisors. Giving information about election expenses of candidates, Sharma said that the Election Commission had increased the limit on election expenditure.The expenditure limit for panches has been increased to Rs 10,000, for Gram Panchayats with fewer than 15 members it has been increased to Rs 30,000 and for those with more than 15 members, it has been increased to Rs 50,000. Similarly, Rs one lakh has been set as the expenditure limit for members of Panchayat Samitis and expenditure limit of Rs two lakh has been set for members of Zila Parishads.