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Soz takes U-turn on powers to Jammu Kashmir panchayat members

Posted on Nov 12, 07:02PM | IANS

Jammu and Kashmir state Congress chief Saif-ud-Din Soz Monday chose to remain non-committal on the issue of giving powers to panches and sarpanches in the state to elect block councils and have chairmen of their choice. Earlier he had supported such powers for them envisaged under the 73rd Amendment to the Panchayati Raj Act.

Talking to newsmen here after a meeting of the coalition coordination committee, headed by him, Soz said the "issue was not inclusion of the 73rd Amendment in toto. We wanted some provisions that would enhance the powers of the panchayat members".

He said coalition partner National Conference has no objection to that.

Soz had raised the pitch on the 73rd Amendment and had said the Congress would accept nothing short of the extension to J and K of the 73rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution in full which gives such powers to panches and sarpanches (elected village council members and heads).

Sources said Soz took this U-turn because he was cautioned by the party high command not to "overstep" his limit. The Congress high command is backing Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and his stand that whatever changes are required would be taken by the state government itself.

Abdullah had ruled out extension to Jammu and Kashmir of the 73rd Amendment that gives powers to panches and sarpanches to elect the block development councils, district development councils and to have chairmen of their own choice.

The state's provisions say that there would be no election to the posts of chairmen and women and scheduled tribes in the block and development councils -- instead they would be nominated.