With the National Conference (NC) announcing that it will boycott the upcoming municipal and panchayat polls and the PDP and the Congress undecided over its participation, the Jammu & Kashmir government is contemplating over holding these elections on non-party lines.
Sources said Governor Satya Pal Malik is giving a serious thought to the suggestion of holding the polls on a non-party basis. “The government contemplates holding municipal polls, scheduled from early next month, on a non-party basis as there is no wisdom in holding the exercise on political lines when major parties have decided to stay away from the process,” they said.
State Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra said, “You will get to know soon about it.”
However, a senior officer in the state government said they have decided to go ahead with the polls, despite the NC’s call for a boycott. “The schedule of municipal polls may be announced anytime this week,” he said, adding that New Delhi was keen to strengthen grassroots institutions in the state.
On Wednesday, just four days after urging the people to vote in municipal and panchayat polls, NC patron and MP Farooq Abdullah made a U-turn. In a news conference, Abdullah announced that his party won’t participate in the polls unless central and state governments assured protection for Article 35A, a constitutional provision that bars non-state residents from buying land and applying in various government jobs in the state.
The Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Sunday urged the governor to facilitate a consensus over the holding of polls. While state Congress president G A Mir said that taking any unilateral decision would not be wise in a state like Jammu & Kashmir, PDP president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said the governor should call for an all-party meet before going ahead with the elections.
People are apprehensive, parties are apprehensive. Another problem is that Article 35A is in court, and then deferring it on the premise that a decision will be taken after panchayat elections have further aggravated the atmosphere. So in this situation, I think the governor should call all the parties to consult them and then take a decision,” Mehbooba said.
Militants have already warned candidates against taking part in the polls while separatists have called for a boycott.
The state has 79 municipal bodies, including municipal corporations in the twin capitals of Srinagar and Jammu. Of the 41 municipal bodies in Kashmir, 20 are in the four districts of south Kashmir where the government has failed to hold by-elections for parliamentary seats since 2016.
On August 31, when Malik presided over the first meeting of the State Administrative Council (SAC), his first decision was to hold the municipal and panchayat polls.