Srinagar, Jan 26: Long-due Panchayat polls expected to be held next month have once again been postponed, official sources revealed to The Kashmir Monitor.
The deferment, sources say, has come after PDP-BJP coalition “mutually agreed that delaying the polls was necessary to avoid deteriorating the situation ahead of the 2018 summer”.
“The Chief Minister has already informed New Delhi about it. The issue was also discussed on Sunday, when BJP’s National General Secretary, Ram Madhav, met with J&K Governor, NN Vohra,” a source said.
Interestingly, the decision has come weeks after the Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, had earlier informed the governor that the elections were going to be held from February 15.
Sources said the shift was a result of the “general goodwill that the government believes to have developed with the budget”.
“The budget, more or less, has received a positive feedback. The alliance does not want to spoil it by conducting the elections, which, given the recent experience, can become a major law and order issue,” they say.
Sources added that the CM, during her recent visit to New Delhi, apprised Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, of the same, and both of them agreed on deferring the polls.
The meeting, sources said, was followed by BJP’s point-man rushing to Jammu to convey the same to the governor, who had, in November last year, spoken against any further delay in the polls.
The second reason for delaying the polls, sources say, was the issue of the security of the candidates expected to be in the fray.
Opposition as well as the Panchayat members of the state recently expressed their apprehensions following separatists’ call for a boycott of the polls and warning by militants.
Earlier this month, an audio clip of a purported conversation between two Hizb militants went viral on social media, in which a commander of the outfit asked the cadres to pour acid into the eyes of the candidates.
Corroborating the sources, Shafiq Mir, chairman of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference (AJKPC), told The Kashmir Monitor that given the “lack of preparedness from the government, it did not seem that they were in a mood to conduct the elections”.
“They should have come out with the notification by now, which they have not,” he said.
Mir added they were “ready” for the polls.
However, he said, it was the responsibility of the government to provide a secure environment for it.
“If they can’t create a suitable environment for it, they should not be in power. Deferring it again means the political system of the state does not want a parallel institution that may curtail its own powers. So, in garb of security situation, they, time and again, delay the polls,” he said.
The panchayat elections in J&K have already been delayed since 2016.
Not forming an ideal precedent to it, the April 2017 Srinagar Lok Sabha election, with eight civilian casualties and over 200 incidents of protest, proved enough bloody to cancel a similar one in Anantnag.