• Publish Date: Nov 4 2018 8:32PM
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  • Updated Date: Nov 4 2018 8:32PM

After conducting the Urban Local Bodies polls in Jammu and Kashmir, the Governor administration is all set to hold the Panchayat elections in nine phases on non-party basis in the state. The polls would start on November 17 and would end on December 11, 2018.            

Kashmir based political parties--National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party—did not participate in the ULB polls and both the parties have already announced that they won’t even take part in the Panchayat polls also but speculations are rife that NC and PDP have decided not to “repeat the mistake” which they committed by staying away from the ULB polls and the candidates backed by them would contest the forthcoming Panchayat polls.

General Secretary of the National Conference Ali Muhammad Sagar termed the rumours that NC backed candidates would take part in the elections as “propaganda.” “Our party has already drawn a line. We stayed away from the ULB polls and would also boycott the Panchayat polls. NC won’t back any candidates,” Sagar told the Kashmir Ink.

He said that the low polling percentage in the ULB polls is an eye opener for the people sitting in New Delhi. “ULB polls were held to drive home a point that Centre can do anything but the move has backfired,” he said.

The NC General Secretary admitted that Kashmir based parties staying away from the ULB polls has provided an opportunity to the Bharatiya Janata Party to open its account in the Valley. “Yes BJP has made inroads but we cannot help. We are staying away from the polls to respect the aspirations of the people as our people are not interested in elections at this point of time. Violence and elections cannot go together,” Sagar said.

Since the day PDP-BJP government has fallen in Jammu and Kashmir the NC and its bête noire PDP have been on the same page on many issues. Both the parties have not tried to score a point over each other since they decided to boycott the ULB and Panchayat polls.  Despite BJP winning over 100 seats in the recently held ULB polls, National Conference did not blame PDP for allowing BJP to make inroads into the Valley.

When PDP was sharing power with the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir, National Conference used to leave no opportunity to accuse PDP of helping BJP to build its base in the Valley. There seems to be a pragmatic shift in the attitude of both the parties towards each other. “It looks like that both NC and PDP have realized that people sitting in New Delhi are least bothered about the credibility of Kashmir based parties and if they keep on fighting with each other it would mean their loss only,” said an analyst.              

Chief spokesperson of the PDP, Rafi Mir, accused New Delhi of making “mockery” of the election process. “People sitting in Jammu would run Municipal Committee Shopian. What an irony!” Mir said. “ULB polls were held without any planning and groundwork.”      

Mir denied that PDP has held any meeting asking its ground level workers to participate in the Panchayat polls. “We are firm on our decision to boycott the forthcoming elections and we won’t reconsider it,” the PDP leader said.

About BJP making inroads into the Valley Mir said, “In fact the ULB polls and the forthcoming Panchayat elections were announced just to benefit the BJP.”

The BJP is upbeat about it winning more than 100 seats in the recently held ULB polls and the party leaders are confident that their foothold in the Valley would strengthen in coming days. “Times have changed and people of Kashmir have started endorsing the people friendly policies of our party. ULB and Panchayat polls are an attempt to strengthen the democracy at the grass root level,” said former Deputy Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Kavinder Gupta.

He claimed that “proxy candidates” of NC and PDP failed to get any votes during the recently held ULB polls and the candidates whom both the parties would support in the forthcoming Panchayat polls are likely to meet the same fate. “Both PDP and NC should understand that they cannot blackmail New Delhi anymore. If they want to remain relevant in the political arena of the Valley they would have to reach out to the people and address their issues,” Gupta said.

The BJP leader claimed that his party would throw “big surprises” in the Parliamentary and Assembly polls which would be held sooner or later.

Former Minister and senior leader of Peoples Democratic Party Naeem Akther said that people by staying away from the polls have sent a strong message that no attempt should be made to dilute Article 35-A. “There was no coercion involved from either sides, nor from the militants neither from the government.  But people preferred to stay away. They did not come out to vote. They have made a larger point that Kashmir is not all about grass root democracy. Kashmiris have shown that they are concerned about their political issues and these issues cannot be ignored,” Akther said.

The PDP leader claimed that because of their staying away the space has been captured by the elements who don’t have “social acceptability or a political base.” “Most of them have got there unopposed, others have reached there with slender votes. It’s a cause of worry how ULBs would be managed for next five years,” he added.

“As far as Panchayat polls are concerned anybody can contest but we don’t want any more bloodshed and unnecessary killings,” Akther said.

The former minister, who was considered to be a trusted lieutenant of the late Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, claimed that the credibility of electoral system was restored in 2002 as those polls changed the very concept that New Delhi appoints governments in Jammu and Kashmir. “Since then people used to look up towards the elections as a source of making the government and as an instrument of political power. The recently held ULB elections have dealt a severe blow to the credibility of the elections as an institution. That faith has been eroded,” Akther said.     

MLA Kulgam and CPI (M) leader M Y Tarigami stated that BJP led NDA government and the Governor’s administration should not have linked Article 35-A with the ULB and Panchayat polls. “It was a blunder which they committed,” he said.

Tarigami alleged that BJP led NDA government has “dismantled” the democratic institutions during the past four years. “Not that we have asked for boycott. There is a difference between boycott and non-participation. We have not asked anyone not to contest. We as a party decided to stay away from the polls due to many issues. Our party stands for equal distribution of power but the present regime at the Centre is an authoritarian dispensation. We cannot endorse their polices,” he added.