PDP follows NC in boycotting local body polls

#Admin to go ahead with elections


Srinagar, Sep 10: The PDP Monday followed its arch rival National Conference in boycotting the forthcoming urban local body and panchayat polls and sought the central government's commitment in safeguarding constitutional provisions for Jammu and Kashmir.
An unfazed administration of Jammu and Kashmir, which is at present under Governor's rule, said the polls will be held and the decision to hold these elections was taken in July. The PDP, which till recently was an ally of the BJP, announced that it will boycott forthcoming polls, saying the security situation was not conducive for holding these polls.
The PDP's decision to boycott local body elections comes days after its arch-rival, the National Conference, announced not to contest the polls until the Centre and the governor administration clarify its position on Article 35-A, which gives special rights to the people in the state and bars outsiders from owning immovable property.
The Supreme Court had on August 31 deferred the hearing on a bunch of petitions challenging Article 35A of the Constitution, as the Centre had urged the court to take up the matter after panchayat elections in the state. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, who wanted to hold panchayat elections at the earliest when she was chief minister, said at a hurriedly convened press conference that any attempt to impose any electoral exercise in the current atmosphere would seriously erode the credibility of the process.
"The PDP has been conducting deliberations over local body elections. The present situation is very fragile and sensitive. Unfortunately, the atmosphere has been vitiated because of the linking of Article 35A," she said.
Reading from the resolution, Mufti said the PDP has noted with concern that the situation created by linking local body elections to the case pending in the Supreme Court regarding Article 35A has led to serious apprehensions in the minds of people who genuinely see it as an "assault" on the special constitutional provisions of the state.
The former chief minister, whose tenure ended abruptly in June this year after the BJP pulled out of the alliance, said her party urges the government to review its decision to hold local body elections "against the will of people" and focus on confidence building measures, so that the state "is assured of the inviolability of the constitutional guarantees that make it a special part of the Union of India".
It was, therefore, unanimously resolved that the party would stay away from the electoral exercise at this juncture, Mufti told reporters.
In December last year, she had supported the idea of holding local body polls, saying "elections to panchayats and urban local bodies will empower these institutions to not only have democratic powers but financial resources as well to undertake developmental activities at the grassroots level".
The NC, the state's oldest political party, had on September 5 decided to stay away from panchayat and urban local body elections, saying the decision to hold the polls was taken in a "hurried" manner without taking into considerations the prevailing situation "created by the powers that be, by unnecessarily fiddling with Article 35-A".
In a related devlopment, state Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam said Monday, "Panchayat and local bodies polls are on. The decision was taken in July."
He said the process of issuing notification for the polls would begin within a week.
"For urban and local body polls, voter-list drafts have been published and delimitation and reservation of constituencies has been done. The actual notification will be issued by the CEO (chief electoral officer) in a few days," he said. A month after that, the CEO will notify the dates for panchayat polls. He is just waiting for notifying the dates for urban and local body polls, the chief secretary added.
Asked about the security scenario, K Vijay Kumar, the adviser to Governor S P Malik, said it was being reviewed based on the requirements and there would be a flexible plan based on the dynamics.
Subrahmanyam and Kumar visited the south Kashmir districts of Kulgam, Shopian, Anantnag and Pulwama to have first-hand appraisal of the scenario and ensure on-spot redressal of public grievances, an official said.
While urban local body polls are scheduled for the first week of October, panchayat elections are slated to be held in November-December this year.
Giving a different spin to the boycott of polls, BJP leader and former state minister PriyaSethi said panchayat elections in itself are a challenge to "anti India, pro-Pakistani and fundamentalist elements and those who want to oppose them".
Sethi said in a statement that the parties opposing the upcoming panchayat and local body polls in the state are "anti-people and anti-development".
"The state will lose crores of grants if these elections are not held as soon as possible. Parties such as the National Conference and the PDP who are opposing elections to local bodies and panchayats are scared of losing ground," the statement read.
However, Peoples Democratic Party Monday received a shot in the arm as a 'rebel' MLA attend a meeting of the organisation.
Javed Hassan Beg, the MLA from Baramulla, was part of a group of legislators who had opened a rebellion against party president Mehbooba Mufti's leadership.
He attended the meeting of party's senior leaders, legislators and parliamentarians at PDP president Mehbooba's residence, a senior PDP leader said.
He said it was the first time that Beg attended any party meeting after the rebellion in the PDP.
The meeting, chaired by Mehbooba, was called to take a decision on whether the party should participate in panchayat and local bodies polls scheduled to be held from next month in Jammu and Kashmir.
The party decided to not participate in the polls citing the current situation and the threat to Article 35-A of the Constitution, which is facing a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.
Beg was one of the seven legislators of the PDP who had openly rebelled against Mehbooba's leadership immediately after the party's coalition with the BJP fell apart. They had accused Mehbooba of nepotism.
In a press conference on July 13, Beg, accompanied by MLA Pattan Imran Ansari, MLA Noorabad Abdul MajidPadder and two MLCs, also accused Mehbooba of putting them and their families at risk by claiming that the internal rumblings in the party were being done at the behest of Delhi.
"One, she has tried to give an impression that the institution is up for sale that anyone can buy them. Second, she has tried to label us that we are dancing to someone's tunes. This is like putting us before the lynching mob, this can put our families and workers at risk," he had told reporters.
Ansari's uncle MLA ZadibalAbid Ansari and MLA Tangmarg Abbas Wani were the other two PDP legislators who also openly rebelled against Mehbooba.
The party welcomed Beg's attendance in the meeting, saying the legislator is part of the PDP family.
"He is part of the family and there are misunderstandings in every family and when someone in the family has any resentment or complaints, those are addressed. Whatever he had against the party, has been addressed and we welcome him," the PDP leader said.
He said the party was hopeful that other dissident legislators would also return to the party fold.
"We are hopeful and we will try to get them back," the leader said. Beg was not available for comment.

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