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Panchayat poll announcement: Albatross around NC, PDP’s neck
Will duo mend ways or tread separatist path in March?
2/14/2020 12:11:09 AM

Early Times Report

Jammu, Feb 13: The announcement of panchayat elections in the vacant seats of Jammu and Kashmir has put the mainstream parties of the erstwhile state in a tight spot with to be or not to be the central theme their paranoia.
The panchayat elections as per the government notification issued on Thursday will be held in March, this year. The polls will be first after the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped and the state was downgraded to a Union Territory on August 5, last year.
The coming elections hold significance as all eyes will be set on the mainstream parties and their decision of whether to take part in the poll process or reject it in toto.
Earlier, in the year 2018, municipal and panchayat polls were held in the erstwhile state. However, the mainstream parties- PDP, NC and CPI (M) boycotted them, citing BJP’s assaults against Jammu and Kashmir’s special status as a primary reason for not taking part in the process.
Both the NC and PDP BJP at that time that it was working behind the scenes for the removal of Article 35A. The NC was the first party to announce its unwillingness to take part in polls. The party’s president, Farooq Abdullah, had stated on September 5 that the NC “will not participate in the upcoming polls unless [the] Indian and state government clears its position on Article 35A.” The PDP then followed suit with Mehbooba Mufti, the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and PDP president, announcing that her party will not contest these upcoming elections as the prevailing situation was not favorable. “We will go to any extent to protect Article 35A,” she said. CPI (M) MY Tarigami also boycotted the polls.
Now, when a strong message was given by the central government to the mainstream parties with three former chief ministers- Dr Farooq, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti slapped with the Public Safety Act for supporting the separatist agenda in Kashmir, there is a million dollar question about whether the parties will mend their ways now. “We don’t know whether we will take part in the polls or not. The leadership is in custody. Who will decide whether jump into the fray or give the process a wide berth. It is all confusing at present,” says a functionary of a political party in Kashmir.
Pertinently, even the leaders within the PDP and other political parties raised questions over the decision of not taking part in the municipal and panchayat polls.
Muzaffar Beigh termed the boycott of polls by NC and PDP as a possible reason that the state of Jammu and Kashmir was downgraded to a UT. The PDP patron stated in a recent interview that the boycott decision of Kashmir’s mainstream camp must have annoyed the centre.
Another PDP leader Nizamuddin Bhat had publically questioned his own party over staying away from polls. “PDP-NC boycott is not proving enough to foil the BJP game plan,” the leader was quoted as having said in a statement on October 2, 2018.
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