Jammu: “Not a bird was harmed” and the civic elections were conducted peacefully, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik said Tuesday.
Malik, in an exclusive interview to PTI soon after the conclusion of the urban local body polls‘ final phase, also said the NC and the PDP should not have boycotted it and asserted that articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution were non-issues in this election.
The National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had announced they would not contest the polls over the legal challenge to the articles.
Expressing satisfaction over the peaceful conduct of the polls, Malik said, “It (the response) has been very good. The four-phased elections has been concluded and not a bird was harmed, it was a peaceful election.”
“Today (Tuesday), Srinagar saw 9,578 votes being cast. Ganderbal saw 1,000 votes. The turnout is better than some recent elections,” he said.
The real achievement of the elections was that it was conducted peacefully and people came out to vote without any fear, the governor said.
“The real factor is being overlooked. There were no complaints of any malpractice or violation of the model code or interference by the government,” he said.
Elections to 79 municipal bodies in the state started October 8 and ended Tuesday. It was held in four phases.
Asked if the polls could have been conducted any better in view of the low voter turnout in Kashmir, Malik said it could not have been any better.
“This was the best… I congratulate the administration, police and the people that they came out without fear to participate in the polls.
“The disappointment is that the political parties should not have boycotted. They should have participated in the elections… There was no benefit for (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi or me … They should have allowed the people to vote.This is a posturing for assembly elections,” he said.
Malik attributed the low voter turnout to several factors, including the Hurriyat Conference influence, the boycott by the NC and the PDP, and the fear of the gun.
“Two parties boycotted, Hurriyat had called for boycott, there were militant threats and also non-issues were made into issues like (Article) 35-A and (Article) 370.
These were the reasons that turnout was little less but I want to tell you that Muslim areas like Rajouri, Poonch and Uri saw 70 to 80 per cent voter turnout,” he said.
The Constitution’s Article 35A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order, accords special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and bars people from outside the state from acquiring any immovable property in the state.
Article 370 is a “temporary provision” with respect to Jammu and Kashmir and restricts the applicability of various provisions of the Constitution by “curtailing” the power of Parliament to make laws on subjects which fall under the Union and Concurrent lists.
Asked if the administration had any plans to woo the people back to the democratic process in view of the panchayat polls due next month, Malik said he would again appeal to the people to participate in these elections as it could bring in huge funds for development of local areas of these panchayats.
“I will again appeal to the people to take part in the panchayat elections because every panchayat will get a crore of rupees. How much loss is that for the development? These elections are not party based.
“They (the NC and the PDP) can field even proxy candidates. If the number of candidates is high, the possibility of violence will be low,” he said.