In a major blow to the Centre’s decision to conduct panchayat and urban local body polls in Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference on Wednesday announced that it will not participate in the polls “unless and until the Government of India and state government clears its position, and takes effective steps to protect Article 35 A in and outside the court”.
After a party core group meeting, NC president and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah said, “The core group had a detailed discussion about the prevailing situation of the state with particular reference to Article 35 A of the Constitution. It was felt that any tinkering with the Article would prove disastrous not only for our state, but for the entire country. The role of the central government and the present disposition in J&K before the Supreme Court goes clearly against the wishes and aspirations of the people of the state.”
Before former Governor N N Vohra announced the polls in the state, the NC had expressed reservations about conducting panchayat elections, citing security concerns of the candidates.
The State Administrative Council (SAC), headed by Governor Satya Pal Malik, on August 30 announced that the elections to urban local bodies in the state will be held between October 1 and October 5. Panchayat elections — not held in the state since 2011 — are scheduled to be held between November 8 and December 4.
Abdullah said that the party core group felt that the decision to hold panchayat and ULB polls “was taken in a hurried manner without taking into consideration the prevailing situation created by the powers that be by unnecessarily fiddling with Article 35 A”.
Observing that Article 35 A was incorporated in the Constitution in 1954 after thorough discussion between then state government and Government of India and was made part of the Delhi Agreement 1952, Abdullah said the NC will fight “all sinister attempts aimed at interfering with this constitutional guarantee”.
Senior NC leader Abdul Rahim Rather told The Indian Express that the situation on the ground is not conducive for the polls. “How can elections be conducted with the law and order situation on the ground right now. This situation has been created by the Centre. The role of the present state administration is against wishes and aspirations of the people,” Rather said.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has not decided till now if it will participate in the polls. Speaking to The Indian Express, former chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said, “I am in Poonch and I will need to talk to my colleagues before announcing the party’s decision.”
Referring to the plea taken by the Centre’s counsel in the Supreme Court recently, Mufti said that “mixing (the issue of) Article 35 A with panchayat and urban bodies elections was a disastrous idea and it has further complicated the situation”.
“During my tenure as CM, the Prime Minister was very keen to hold these elections. I had called an all-party meet to know their (political parties) views. As majority of them were in favour of deferment, I decided against holding these elections and conveyed the same to the PM. Today, there is again a need for an all-party meet to be convened by Governor and a decision should be taken after that,’’ Mufti said.
J&K Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir said the Governor must assess the situation before conducting elections. “A delegation of our party leaders met the new Governor soon after he assumed office and told him about the ground situation. He told us that he will ensure safety and security of candidates before elections are formally notified,” he told The Indian Express.
BJP slams NC
Jammu: The BJP on Wednesday slammed the National Conference for boycotting the urban local body and panchayat polls in Jammu and Kashmir. The party said the boycott “is an extreme example of political forces budging to the diktats of separatists’’. “A frightened and opportunistic NC has done it again by letting down people by declaring boycott of elections,’’ BJP spokesperson Sunil Sethi said.
(With inputs from ENS Delhi)
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