Panachayat polls postponed

CEO fails to convince NC, PDP, Congress

SRINAGAR: The bypolls to panchayats scheduled from March 5 in Jammu and Kashmir has been postponed due to security reasons, J&K Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar said on Tuesday.
According to an order issued by the CEO, the polls have deferred on the advisory of home department citing “credible inputs” of security agencies.
He said this step was taken after inputs given to him by the home department over security issues.
“After addressing all the concerns suitably at the earliest possibly in two to three weeks, fresh schedule shall be notified,” it added.
The move comes hours after Kumar could not convince the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party, and the Congress to participate in the panchayat bypolls scheduled next month.
The trio of parties has decided not to participate in the by-polls after the government notified the dates for the elections which are to be held in eight phases. On Tuesday, CEO Kumar had called a meeting at Jammu with the main political parties.
“We asked him to explain why the meeting was called after the notifications for the elections were issued. We asked him how parties can participate in the polls when their leaders are under arrest or have restrictions on their movement. For months together our party activity has been zero. Our stand has been to defer the polls or postpone them,” GN Monga, senior Congress leader and former MLC, told Kashmir Reader.
Monga had attended the meeting with the party spokesperson.
PDP leader Surinder Chaudhary walked out of the meeting after there was no assurance from the CEO over the release of party president Mehbooba Mufti. Mehbooba, the former CM, has been booked under the Public Safety Act.
The stand of the National Conference (NC) in the meeting was also the same. Their participant, RL Gupta, asked for the release of party leaders as a precondition for participation in the election.
Earlier, the NC had said that there was no point in taking part in the panchayat polls on party basis when the top leadership of the party continued to be under detention after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5.
A participant in the meeting told Kashmir Reader that it was only the BJP that was agreeable to participating in the by-elections.
Awani National Conference Vice President Muzaffar Shah told Kashmir Reader his party was not even invited to the meeting, though there was no possibility of his party participating in the election.
“I stand by the Gupkar Declaration signed by all parties on August 4 for restoration of special status of Jammu and Kashmir,” Muzaffar said.
More than 12,000 Panchayat seats are going for polls after they remained vacant due to boycott of pro-India political parties. The election is the first major political exercise since the Government of India abrogated the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

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