Jammu: The National Conference has expelled eight party leaders, including a provincial vice-president, for refusing to toe the party line of boycotting of local body elections in the state.  According to The Indian Express, the leaders had filed their nomination papers for various municipal wards in Jammu; the polls begin on October 8.

Identifying the errant leaders as Ayub Malik, Ashwani Charak, Kuldeep Gai, Ashok Singh Manhas, S Sucha Singh, Subash Bhagat, Rekha Manhas, and Manohar Lal Bhagat, NC spokesperson Madan Mantoo told the daily, “They have willfully violated the party decision of non-participation in civic body polls,” he said.

All the eight had filed their nomination papers as Independents. Ayub Malik was the Jammu provincial vice-president of the National Conference, sources said. Earlier this week, NC state spokesperson Junaid Mattu had quit the party in protest against the decision to boycott the local body elections. So the expulsion of leaders is being seen as a message to whoever does not agree with the party’s stand. The daily said it was also meant to check rumours about the party fielding proxy candidates.

The NC and the PDP both decided to boycott the elections until the Centre clarified its stand on Article 370 and Article 35-A and the BJP accused them of fielding “proxy candidates”.

The daily quoted sources as saying that NC was in a fix vis-a-vis its Jammu members as they believe the poll boycott decision is Kashmir-centric. “We have to take care of the aspirations of our people living in the otherwise peaceful Jammu region,” a party leader said on conditions of anonymity.

The municipal elections, being held in the state after 13 years, are scheduled to take place in four phases between October 8 and 16. These are scheduled to be followed by panchayat elections, beginning November 17. These elections were last held in 2011 after 33 years. More than 4,000 sarpanches and nearly 40,000 panches will be elected in the panchayat elections.