New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill to provide reservation to Other Backward Classes in local bodies in Jammu and Kashmir, with the government asserting that important changes have taken place in the Union territory since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.
Replying to a brief debate on the Jammu and Kashmir Local Bodies Laws (Amendment) Bill-2024, Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said the people of Jammu and Kashmir have started enjoying the fruits of development ushered in by the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Currently, there is no provision for reservation of seats for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in panchayats and municipalities in Jammu and Kashmir.
The bill seeks to provide reservation to Other Backward Classes in panchayats and municipalities in Jammu and Kashmir and bring consistency in the local body laws of the Union territory with the provisions of the Constitution.
“With this, justice will be ensured to the citizens of Other Backward Classes of Jammu and Kashmir for the first time after 75 years of independence,” according to the statement of objects and reasons of the bill.
In his reply to the discussion on the bill in the Lok Sabha, Rai said he made no reference to the opposition demand for the government to spell out a time frame for holding of elections in Jammu and Kashmir and the restoration of statehood.
Rai said the opposition members, participating in the debate, were resorting to a drama of supporting the bill granting reservation to OBCs in panchayats and municipalities in Jammu and Kashmir and were raising other issues.
“I wish to make one thing clear, no matter how much you go around in circles, but in Jammu and Kashmir wherever you go you will only hear ‘Modi, Modi’ and the development ushered in by Modi,” the minister said.
Earlier, opposition members in the Lok Sabha urged the government to hold assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir at the earliest.
Participating in the debate, Hasnain Masoodi of the National Conference (NC) demanded that the polls in the Union territory be held soon.
He said the central government should have decided on the polls before the Supreme Court had to intervene in the matter.
The top court had a few months back asked the Election Commission to hold assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir by September this year.
Masoodi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Monday said his government would take big decisions. Polls in the Union territory should be held before other big ticket decisions are taken, Masoodi said.
Minister of State for Home Ajay Misra intervened to point out that local bodies’ elections were held in the erstwhile state.
Participating in the debate, TMC leader Saugata Roy also referred to the Supreme Court observation and pitched for early assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir.
On August 5, 2019, Jammu and Kashmir was made a Union territory with a provision for a legislative assembly after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which accorded special status to the erstwhile state.
Supriya Sule of the NCP demanded a timeline and “not a vague” answer from the government on holding assembly polls and giving statehood to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
She said while the Election Commission will decide on the date, the government could at least give a tentative timeline for holding the democratic exercise.
BJP member from Jammu and Kashmir Jugal Kishore Sharma said the bill would ensure justice to OBCs.
Chinta Anuradha of the YSRCP said this was a progressive legislation and would help streamline the election process in the local bodies, including panchayats.
Shiv Sena member Pratap Jadhav, Navneet Rana (Ind), Kaushalendra Kumar (JD-U), Ramesh Bidhuri (BJP), Veeraswamy Kalanidhi (DMK), N K Premachandran (RSP), Ve Vaithilingam and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury (both Congress) also participated in the debate.