Srinagar: Even as many of the leaders of the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) are reluctant to hold Panchayat polls in Kashmir next month, its coalition partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), asserts that the scheduled elections should be conducted on time as previously underlined by the government.
“We were told that Panchayat polls will be conducted in mid-February, but that seems to not be happening,” state BJP general secretary Ashok Kaul said. “But we demand that and our position is clear that polls should happen on time, which means mid-February.”
In December last year, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had said that the government would conduct the Panchayat polls in mid-February.
“So far, they have not recommended any date when to contest the polls,” Kaul said. “We have not seen any notification even. We think situation is completely fine to conduct polls in the state.”
Another BJP leader and legislator, Yousuf Sofi, said that the BJP will go on with its demand for conducting polls on time.
“If not on time, we want the elections should be conducted in phase-wise manner,” he said.
“The government can conduct elections in Jammu and Ladakh regions and some areas of Kashmir,” he said
Sofi further said that in the recent Budget, money was kept reserved for the Panchayats as this will usher in the era of development in the state.
Many of the ruling PDP legislators, particularly from south Kashmir, and people associated with the tourism industry have opposed polls being conducted due to fear of the eruption of violence.
“We are not able to go out in our constituencies. How will we be able to conduct polls and persuade people to vote?” a PDP legislator asked. “We have communicated our message to the party that it is not feasible to conduct elections. I think they will listen to us.”
The PDP’s spokesman, Rafi Mir, did not answer the phone despite repeated attempts to find out the party’s position on the issue.
Earlier, people associated with the tourism industry have also asked the government not to conduct Panchayat polls lest their businesses be ruined for a third consecutive year.
“The government has intimated the Home ministry that the situation is not conducive for conducting the polls in Kashmir,” sources in the government said. “There is a tacit understanding in the government, irrespective of political ideologies, that the polls cannot take place. If there would not have been an understanding, then BJP leaders would have strongly demanded election notifications, etc. But they did not and have accepted to participate in the all-party meeting to decide whether to go for polls or not. Or they can decide other ways to conduct polls, like in a phased manner in the state. It will become clear soon.”