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Article 35A row: PDP to boycott panchayat, municipal polls

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.

Reported by: PTI, Srinagar [ Updated: September 10, 2018 19:46 IST ]
Image Source : PTI/FILE

Mehbooba Mufti

The PDP, which till recently was an ally of the BJP, Monday announced it will boycott forthcoming urban local body and panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir, saying the security situation was not conducive for holding these polls.

The PDP's decision comes days after its arch-rival, the National Conference, announced to boycott these elections 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. 

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. So, we passed a resolution on the issue at a meeting today,” Mufti told reporters at a press conference here.

Reading from the resolution, she 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 party feels that the special position of the state is a matter of survival for its people and society, while the democratic system is its sustenance. It was felt that any attempt to impose any electoral exercise in the current atmosphere of fear will seriously erode the credibility of the process and institutions. It will defeat the very purpose of it,” the PDP president said.

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 instead 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".

She had said these democratic institutions play a vital role in taking forward the all-round developmental agenda of the government for every section of the population.

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".

The state administration had in August announced the schedule for elections to the local bodies in the state. 

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.
Jammu and Kashmir is currently under Governor's rule. 

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