Srinagar: The forthcoming urban local body in Jammu and Kashmir are likely to be deferred following the announcement by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) that they will boycott the elections until the Centre clears its stand on Article 35-A, according to a NDTV report.
The report cited sources saying that a final decision of deferring the Urban Local Body (ULB) elections, which are scheduled to be held in October, will be taken by the State Advisory Council (SAC) headed by J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik today. They said the polls are likely to be deferred till January next year.
However, the panchayat elections, which are set to held in November and December, will go as scheduled, the report said.
Sources said the Centre wants give to give the PDP and National Conference time to rethink their decision of boycotting the elections. On a related note, BJP general secretary and in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir Ram Madhav met the Governor yesterday.
Malik reportedly told the two dissenting parties yesterday that this wouldn’t be the “right time” to take this position vis-a-vis Article 35A or Article 370.
Following PDP’s announcement of boycotting the local body elections, the Jammu and Kashmir administration, which is at present under Governor’s rule, had said that the polls will be held as scheduled and the decision to hold these elections was taken in July.
The PDP’s decision to boycott local body elections came after its arch-rival, the National Conference, announced not to contest the polls until the Centre and the governor administration clarify its position on Article 35-A, which gives special rights to the people in the state and bars outsiders from owning immovable property.
The Supreme Court had on August 31 deferred the hearing on a bunch of petitions challenging Article 35A of the Constitution, as the Centre had urged the court to take up the matter after panchayat elections in the state.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the J-K administration, had said that “even debate or discussion on Article 35A will have serious repercussions on law and order”. He also submitted that if local elections were not held as per schedule, it will hit the Finance Commission’s grant of over Rs 4,000 crore. The apex court put off the hearing till January 2019.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, who wanted to hold panchayat elections at the earliest when she was chief minister, said at a hurriedly convened press conference that any attempt to impose any electoral exercise in the current atmosphere would seriously erode the credibility of the process.
“The PDP has been conducting deliberations over local body elections. The present situation is very fragile and sensitive. Unfortunately, the atmosphere has been vitiated because of the linking of Article 35A,” she said.
Reading from the resolution, Mufti said the PDP has noted with concern that the situation created by linking local body elections to the case pending in the Supreme Court regarding Article 35A has led to serious apprehensions in the minds of people who genuinely see it as an “assault” on the special constitutional provisions of the state.
Interestingly, in December last year, when the PDP was an ally of the BJP in the state government, Mufti had supported the idea of holding local body polls, saying “elections to panchayats and urban local bodies will empower these institutions to not only have democratic powers but financial resources as well to undertake developmental activities at the grassroots level”.