After NC, PDP, Congress to stay away from Panchayat polls

Arrest of leaders, restriction on movement among reasons for non-participation

After NC, PDP, Congress to stay away from Panchayat polls

Srinagar: Almost all major political parties are staying away from the Panchayat elections of vacant segments scheduled next month.
National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party as well as Congress have decided to stay away from the electoral exercise.
The reasons including the uncertainty triggered by unprecedented August move is the arrest of their top political leadership.
While NC’s three major leaders comprising its president Farooq Abdullah, vice president Omar Abdullah and general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar have been booked under Public Safety Act. Similarly, PDP’s president Mehbooba Mufti alongside Naeem Akhtar and Sartaj Madni are languishing under detention for the last six months.
Their arrests, according to middle-rung politicians associated from the two parties, has furthered the uncertainty and kept them indecisive about the polls.
“How can we take decision about participating in elections when the leadership is arrested? The government has to take a call about it. We can decide about it once our leaders are released,” said a PDP leader.
The political activity of traditional political parties has remained in deep freeze since the nullification of J&K’s special status and downgrading of erstwhile state into union territory.
“There is a contradiction in the government’s stand. First they allowed conduct of elections on non-party basis but now they are holding polls on party basis. First the government should come clear on the issue,” said Congress vice president GN Monga.
According to him, they will be participating in the polls subject to certain conditions. They include foolproof security to politicians and free movement to its leaders.
But, according to Monga, that is not being provided and instead the congress chief GA Mir is not being allowed to move freely in the Valley.
“This has forced him to stay in Jammu. We firmly believe in panchayat elections but our leaders are not being allowed to move freely. The government should provide security cover like BJP leaders is being given. Only then we will participate in the polls,” Monga added.
“These polls have been introduced in the country by Rajiv Gandhi and we firmly support grassroots democracy,” he said.
The National Conference was the first to announce their non-participation after the announcement of the polls.
The by-election for nearly 13,000 panchayat seats in Jammu and Kashmir will be begin from March 5, making it the first major political exercise in the region after the government scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status split it into two union territories. Earlier, in the panchayat elections in 2018, NC and PDP did not participate seeking over government’s non-committal on abrogation of the J&K’s special status. The election resulted in leaving over 12,000 panchayat seats vacant.

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