Kashmir Indepth

J&K Rural Bypolls: Mainstream parties question rationale behind holding polls on party lines

Mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir have argued against the election authority’s decision to hold panchayat bye-elections in Jammu and Kashmir on party basis.

Leaders of the Congress, the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have questioned the rationale behind holding bypolls for over 12,000 vacant seats on party lines when two-thirds of panchayat seats in Jammu and Kashmir were filled through election on non-party lines in 2018. Leaders of the NC and PDP have also said that with their top leaders still in detention, they are in no position to contest the polls reported Indian Express.

State Congress chief G A Mir said holding elections to two-third of the seats on non-party basis and one-third on party basis does not match. The Union Territory administration on Monday refused permission to Mir to travel to Kashmir from Jammu for meeting party workers ahead of the bypolls that start on March 5. “On Sunday evening, I informed the UT Police’s security wing about my tour programme for Anantnag and Srinagar to discuss with party colleagues about the panchayat bypolls. Two hours later, I was conveyed that I cannot proceed to the Valley,’’ Mir told The Indian Express.

Attempt to show normalcy

While holding panchayat polls could be aimed at showing normalcy in the UT, non-participation of mainstream parties like NC and PDP owing to detention of their leaders might not give much credibility to the poll process.

NC vice-president Rattan Lal Gupta has written to Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar, pointing out that the notification for the bypolls “is prima facie defective since the election process for these panchayats was notified and held earlier on non-party basis’’. He also expressed his party’s inability to participate in the elections in view of the continued detention of NC president Farooq Abdullah, vice-president Omar Abdullah and general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar reported Indian Express.

PDP spokesperson and former MLC Firdous Tak termed the poll process a “drama” being orchestrated due to “pressure from the global community”. He said the PDP is “totally incapacitated” to take a decision on its participation in the polls owing to the ongoing detention of its top leaders.

Elections for 35,029 panch and 4,483 sarpanch seats were held in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir in November-December 2018 on non-party basis. One-third of those seats, including 12,344 in Kashmir and 306 in Jammu, are vacant — in some areas, people did not participate in the poll fray, some of those elected died and some were elected to Block Development Councils.

CEO Kumar has justified the decision to hold the bypolls on party lines, saying that the last urban local body polls in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018 and the first Block Development Council polls in October 2019 were held on party lines.

Asked about the majority of panches and sarpanches already elected on non-party basis, he said the Representation of People Act is very clear on this that Independents can join a party of their choice reported Indian Express.

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