VIRTUALLY FACED with a revolt from party workers for the decision to boycott civic body elections in Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference (NC) on Wednesday expelled eight party leaders, including one who was said to be the party’s provincial vice-president, for filing nomination papers for various municipal wards in Jammu going to the polls from October 8.
NC spokesperson Madan Mantoo identified those expelled for “anti-party activities’’ as Ayub Malik, Ashwani Charak, Kuldeep Gai, Ashok Singh Manhas, S Sucha Singh, Subash Bhagat, Rekha Manhas, and Manohar Lal Bhagat.
“They have willfully violated the party decision of non-participation in civic body polls,’’ he said.
All these leaders had filed nomination papers for municipal polls across Jammu region as Independents. Ayub Malik was the Jammu provincial vice-president of the National Conference, it is learnt.
The expulsions came two days after NC state spokesperson Junaid Mattu quit the party in protest against the decision to boycott the local body elections. The decision appears to be aimed at sending a tough message to all NC leaders deciding against the party’s boycott decision, and also to stem rumours about the party fielding proxy candidates.
The NC and the PDP decided against contesting the elections until the Centre makes public its stand on Article 370 and Article 35-A, guaranteeing special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP had accused both parties of fielding “proxy candidates’’.
Sources said the NC’s dilemma was mainly regarding its members in Jammu region, as many of them believe the party’s poll boycott decision is Kashmir-centric.
“We have to take care of the aspirations of our people living in the otherwise peaceful Jammu region,’’ one party leader said on conditions of anonymity.
The municipal elections, being held in the state after 13 years, are scheduled to take place in four phases between October 8 and 16, with parties putting up their candidates. These are scheduled to be followed by panchayat elections, beginning November 17, on non-party basis after a delay of two years. These elections were last held in 2011 after 33 years.
More than 4,000 sarpanches and nearly 40,000 panches will be elected in the panchayat elections.