Monday, 30th October 2017

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Rivals sniff BJP Kashmir plot

No candidates were available following a boycott by key players, including the National Conference and PDP

By Muzaffar Raina in Srinagar
  • Published 1.10.19, 2:15 AM
  • Updated 1.10.19, 2:15 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Farooq Abdullah addresses his supporters during an election campaign rally in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir on April 8, 2019. AP

The Opposition parties in Jammu & Kashmir smell a BJP plot to grab control of panchayat institutions in the government’s decision to hold panchayat polls at a time when the state is in lockdown and top political leaders are in detention.

The rural body second tier polls have been announced while life in the Valley remains paralysed and top leaders, including three former chief ministers — Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, are in jail.

Chief electoral officer Shailendra Kumar said on Sunday the block development council polls will be held along party lines on October 24. It is the first time these polls will be held in the state, with the situation in the past never deemed conducive.

The first-tier panchayat elections were held in November last year after seven years and did not involve parties. Last year’s polls saw an abysmal turnout. But more embarrassing for the government was that 12,000 panch and sarpanch seats in the Valley — or around 60 per cent of all seats — remain vacant.

No candidates were available following a boycott by key players, including the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party. In their absence, the BJP had won many seats.

State Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir said the time is not right for the panchayat polls now and argued these are aimed at allowing the BJP to wrest control of the institutions.

“This is betrayal with the people of state. They want to thrust the BJP on the state, on people’s heads, it is their policy. They want to control the system,” Mir told The Telegraph.

“Their design is to hold selection in the name of election and lie before the country that 95 per cent people in state are with them. To tell people that people here are Modi bhakts and are endorsing his decisions.”

Mir said most mainstream leaders are in jail. “People are angry, the mainstream is detained or arrested. In 60 days they did not allow any leader to hold a media interaction, how will they allow political interaction?” he asked.

The only media interaction the state has allowed in the past two months was a news conference by a few unknown men who appeared to be supportive of government’s decision to scrap the state’s special status.

Mir asked how any contestants would canvass for votes and before whom, given the lockdown.

“We have contested polls as Independents and on non-party basis. Now when panchayat members have to vote in block development councils, how can it be held on party basis?” he asked.

All J&K Panchayat Conference chairman Shafiq Mir echoed this, saying they contested polls as Independents last year. “The BJP might be trying to take control (of panchayat institutions) in the state (by holding elections on party basis),” he said.

BJP spokesman Anil Gupta said the allegations were “totally false” allegations and claimed “there was a level playing field” for all parties.

“They (jailed politicians) are in correspondence with the government. They can make an appeal and they will be allowed (to canvass),” he said.