Putting to uncertainty the upcoming rural polls in Jammu and Kashmir, the PDP chief and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday announced that her party will boycott the panchayats and urban local body elections later this year and “will go to any extent to protect the Article 35-A against which petitions are being heard in the Supreme Court”.
Mufti’s announcement comes days after the National Conference (NC) chief and MP Farooq Abdullah had announced that his party would contest all elections in the state until the centre cleared its stand on the Article 35-A.
The boycott of the two main political parties of Kashmir is likely to throw the already delayed panchayat poll process in limbo. Their decision has comes after the Hurriyat leadership called for boycott of these elections.
On the other hand, it is learnt that the Governor Satya Pal Malik was firm on holding these elections and was consulting legal experts on also holding the local body and municipal corporation elections on non-party basis.
When asked whether the PDP would follow the NC that has decided to boycott also the assembly and Lok Sabha elections, Mehbooba told media persons that the boycott of PDP was only for the panchayats and urban local body polls.
She said the people of the state have “sacrificed a lot” and no one can fiddle with the validity of Article 35-A. “We don’t want any casualties or bloodshed” during elections under such tense atmosphere.
The PDP’s decision was announced by her after a meeting of the party legislators and senior leaders.
She said that during deliberations on the issue “it was noted with concern that the situation created by linking local bodies elections with the case pending in the Supreme Court about the Article 35-A has created serious apprehensions in the minds of people who genuinely see it as assault on the special constitutional position of the state”.
“The party feels that while the special position of the state is a matter of survival for its people and society, democratic system is its sustenance. 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 institutions,” she said.
“The party, therefore, urges the Government to review its decision to hold local bodies elections at this venture against the will of the people and instead focus on confidence building measures so that the state is assured of the inviolability of the constitutional guarantees that make it a special part of the Union of India”, she added.
Mehbooba said that as chief minister she had in a stern warning told the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi that she would pull out of the alliance if any fiddling was done with Article 35-A by changing even any comma or fullstop, under any pretext, including property rights of widows or refugees will not be tolerated.
She said that she warned the Centre that no mainstream party would be there to carry the Indian flag in the Valley if fiddling with the constitutional provision goes on unabated. Mehbooba said that the constitutional position was the only bridge between rest of India and Kashmir and if it is eroded then the accession of the state would come into question.
Article 35-A, 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.
She confirmed that the Governor had visited her but only pleasantries were discussed over a cup of tea.