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Article 35-A row:PDP follows suit, to boycott polls

Srinagar: Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) President Mehbooba Mufti addressing a press conference,at her Residence in Srinagar on Monday. PDP decided to boycott upcoming municipal and panchayat elections. PTI Photo by Umar Ganie

Srinagar, Sep 10:Days after National Conference decided to boycott local polls citing assault to Article 35-A, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Monday said it too will boycott municipal and panchayat elections to be held in October.

“It was felt that any attempt to impose any electoral exercise in the current atmosphere of fear and apprehension would seriously erode the credibility of the process and intuitions. It would defeat the very purpose of it,” said PDP president, Mehbooba Mufti, in Srinagar.

 

“It has been noted with concern that the situation created by linking local body polls with the case pending in Supreme Court about Article 35A has created serious apprehensions in the minds of the people, who genuinely see an assault on the special constitutional status of the state,” the PDP statement said.

In a stern warning, the former Chief Minister said she had already told the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier that fiddling with Article 35A, under any pretext, including property rights of widows will not be tolerated.

Article 35A, which gives special rights to people in the state and bars outsiders from owning immovable property, has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

In August, the top court deferred the case till January 2019. Attorney General K KVenugopal and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the centre and Jammu and Kashmir government told the court that the issue was “very sensitive” and keeping in mind the law and order situation, the hearing be held in January or March, 2019.

With the two biggest parties of the state threatening to boycott the local body polls, the governor Satya Pal Malik, went out of his way and met the PDP chief at her residence on Sunday, to persuade her not to announce boycotting the polls.

The state government last week had announced the schedule for holding elections in the state. While the urban local body polls are scheduled for the first week of October, the panchayat elections are set to take place in December.

“The core group National Conference has unanimously decided not to participate in these elections unless and until the government of India and the state government clarify their positions and take effective steps for protection of Article 35A in and outside the courts,” said NC chief Farooq Abdullah on Wednesday.

Abdullah said the decision of the state administration to hold the panchayat elections was taken in a “hurried manner” and without taking into consideration the prevailing situation “created by the powers that be by unnecessarily fiddling with Article 35A”.

While reacting to Farooq Abdullah’s statement Ram Madhav, National General Secretary of the BJP said, “We want local body elections to be held in Jammu and Kashmir to provide democratic rights to the citizen of the state. Farooq Abdullah has always done politics and never made efforts to ensure democratic rights of people. Now, that Modi ji is trying to do so he is speaking against it. If Farooq Abdullah is objecting to panchayat polls over 35A issue then why did he contest Kargil polls?”

Political parties in the state believe that the central government’s stand over Jammu and Kashmir in the Supreme Court is “clearly against the wishes and aspirations” of the people of the state. On 27 August, 22 people were injured during protests and many parts of the state saw a shutdown amid rumours that the Supreme Court was hearing petitions against Article 35A.