Majid Kapra

Cong to contest ULB, Panchayat polls

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Congress responsible for erosion of J&K’s special status: NC

Srinagar, Sep 19: The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the Congress Wednesday said it would contest the upcoming Urban Local Bodies and Panchayat polls in the state but added it might review the decision if concerns related to security were not addressed by the state administration.

“After thorough deliberations with party high command, we have decided to participate in elections as we cannot afford to have a Mayor from Nagpur,” PCC president Ghulam Ahmad Mir told media at party headquarters here.

"We cannot allow a field day to the BJP and RSS. We will contest the local bodies and panchayat elections with full might to stop communal forces from occupying the institutions of grassroots level democracy," Mir added.

Flanked by senior party leaders including G.N Monga and Shyamlal Sharma, Mir said although the decision was taken out of compulsion but Congress cannot provide room to communal forces like BJP and RSS by boycotting these elections.

Mir also added that the Congress had time and again apprised the Governor's office of the security concerns, especially in the Valley.

"We sent three delegations to the Governor to convey our concerns about the security of candidates. So far, we have not received any response from the concerned quarters on the issue," Mir said.

He said his party will observe and assess the steps taken by the State administration on the ground to ensure peaceful, safe, free and fair elections.

"If this issue is not addressed, Congress party will deliberate and discuss it. We will be within our rights to review the decision (on participation in the polls)," he added.

Mir also said the Congress stood for safeguarding Article 35-A of the Constitution and will continue to do that.

"There are certain sections of people in our state who have some concerns. We have discussed those concerns minutely and found that those can be addressed by the State Legislature without tinkering with Article 35-A," he said.

On National Conference (NC) and PDP boycotting the upcoming polls, the state Congress president said they have their own issues "but secular parties have a role to play in stopping the communal forces".

Mir lashed out at PDP saying the party was ruling in alliance with BJP till just a few months ago but today is making tall claims on various issues.

"When you lose power, you start dreaming," he said referring to PDP president Mehbooba Mufti's recent statements on Article 35-A.

Article 35-A of the Indian Constitution provides powers to the Jammu and Kashmir Legislature to define 'permanent residents' of the state and bestow special rights and privileges on them.

Mir claimed there was a possibility of a "tacit" understanding between the BJP and those parties staying away from local bodies polls with an eye on future elections in the state.

"It can be an understanding whereby the field is left open for BJP and RSS in this election and they (parties boycotting elections) getting a return favour later," he said.

Meanwhile, with the State Congress chief expressing doubts about the reasons and motivations for the NC and PDP’s decision to boycott forthcoming ULB and Panchayat polls in J&K, National Conference said it was the Congress party which has been responsible for the erosion of State’s special status.

Terming JKPCC chief G A Mir’s utterances as “politically motivated”, NC provincial spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said, “It’s sad that the Congress chief has made such malafide targeted accusations on our recent announcement of not participating in local body polls.”

Pertinently, Mir today pointed to possibility of some ‘larger conspiracy” being at play in NC and PDP’s decision to boycott ULB and Panchayat elections.

“The very identity of the state is under threat and it is NC which has taken the fight head on,” Dar said in a statement here.

“It would have been better if Congress had supported parties from J&K in their attempts to safeguard interests of the state-subjects,” Dar said.

He added that by using words like conspiracy, JKPCC was drawing attention towards their own intentions and selfish motives.

“Congress is responsible for erosion of J&K’s special provisions and by issuing a statement like present one, the party had once again made clear its apathy.

“If we start reminding people of their (congress’) history with regard to J&K’s special status, a lot of old and painful wounds will be reopened,” NC spokesperson said adding, “Congress has been responsible for eroding most of the constitutional guarantees that the state enjoyed and the situation in the state now is more because of them.”

While strongly condemning Mir’s comments, NC spokesperson said, “Congress has ignored the vicious attacks on state’s states special status. I will not hesitate in saying that the Congress has indeed bailed out the rightwing BJP by announcing their participation in the upcoming ULB, panchayat polls without getting a guarantee from the central government on where it stands on Article 35-A and Article 370.”

“The state is going through a very sensitive phase. The very identity of our state is under threat and state’s premier political parties have put their foot down and asked for clarity on Article 35-A.

“When we announced the decision of not participating in polls, we were of the opinion that parties who give priority to interests of the state and its people would follow our call. This was an opportunity to send a strong message regarding Article 35-A, but once again the interests of the state have been sacrificed by the Congress party because of its perceived necessity of having to be seen as a national party,” the NC spokesperson said.

“The special status of J&K is enshrined in the Constitution and it cannot be tampered with. Our party president Dr Farooq Abdullah has echoed the sentiment of every state subject and we will not hesitate to protest in every nook and corner of the state if any tinkering is done with the state's special status. We are reaching out and spreading awareness throughout the state about our decision of staying away from polls,” he said.

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