Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today chaired an All Party Meeting (APM) here to discuss the upcoming Panchayat elections in the state, with the majority advocating deferment of the proposed polls.
“Though all parties favour holding of panchayat elections for empowering of gross-roots level institutions, majority view was that the situation is not conducive for the elections right now,” Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister Abdul Haq Khan told reporters after the meeting here.
On December 25 last year, Mehbooba conveyed her government’s decision to Governor N N Vohra to hold Panchayat elections from February 15 but later decided to convene an APM to discuss the proposed polls after opposition parties questioned the decision due to the prevailing law and order situation, especially in the Valley.
The Panchayat elections were scheduled in 2016 but could not be held due to unrest following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 08, 2016, which nearly 100 people dead.
The government failed to hold the Panchayat elections last year after large-scale violence erupted during bypolls in the Srinagar parliamentary constituency on April 08 claimed eight lives and forced cancellation of bypolls to the Anantnag parliamentary constituency scheduled on April 11.
Pertinently, the separatists have called for boycott of the Panchayat polls. Militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen has threatened to “pour acid into eyes” of those who contest the polls.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the BJP, the National Conference, the Congress, the CPI(M), the Peoples Democratic Front, the National Panthers Party, the Awami Itihaad Party and the Democratic Party Nationalist attended the meeting and put forth their suggestions.
Khan said majority of the participants demanded deferment of the polls for a time-being.
It was with the idea of soliciting views of various political parties that the Chief Minister has called for the all party meeting today, Khan said.
The BJP, coalition partner of the PDP, however, said it favoured holding of elections to Panchayat and urban local bodies as soon as possible.
“We conveyed our parties view point at the meeting. Barring some pockets, the situation is overall conducive for the elections,” BJP state president Sat Sharma said.
However, National Conference general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said the party was of the opinion that the situation was not conducive and “we have conveyed our view to the government”.
Sagar said if the government couldn’t hold Anantnag parliamentary by-polls on time, how at all it went ahead to announce Panchayat polls across the state.
“We are not against the elections but the government has to ensure that the security situation is conducive for the polls,” Sagar said.
He said “a conducive atmosphere has to be created for the holding Panchayat elections in the state. The government announced the decision of conducting Panchayat polls some time back and now after announcing the decision the opposition parties are asked for their views on holding these elections.”
Sagar said the ball is in the government’s court, which has to take a decision keeping in view its announcements, the present security scenario in Kashmir Valley, and the willingness of people for participation in polls.
Senior vice president of the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee Sham Lal Sharma said the party believes in the democratic exercise but the government needed to fulfill its responsibility to safeguard life and property.
He said the party favoured holding of Panchayat elections at the earliest, while urging for full powers to Panchayats and restoring the system of direct elections for the post of the Sarpanch.
He said it would never shirk from participating in any election exercise, when the government decides to hold taking into account the overall security concerns.
CMI (M) leader Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami said the elections are held for the people and their betterment and if the government is skeptic whether people would participate in them or not, then it is a high time that serious confidence building measures are taken on the ground.
“You have to regain peoples’ trust and then go ahead to strengthen the democratic institutions on ground. No one is against the polls but the priority should be to take people into confidence at an earliest,” Tarigami said.
Ghulam Hassan Mir, Hakeem Mohammad Yaseen and Engineer Rashid too slammed the government during the meeting over announcing the polls unilaterally and not taking other political parties into confidence at that time.
According to a party press release, expressing his views during all party meet, Er. Rasheed said “the Central government seems in much hurry and is pressurizing the State government to conduct Panchayat polls for the reason that New Delhi has been using the elected Panchayat members to mislead world community viz-a-viz Kashmir issue.”
Er. Rasheed said, “It is unfortunate that at the time of conducting the Panchayat polls, government claims these elections to be apolitical, but once people of the state participate in the elections, New Delhi claims it as its success and consent of Kashmiris for maintaining of status quo over Kashmir dispute.
“ It is shameful that India even uses the participation in Panchayat elections in United Nations as a tool to defend its unrealistic stand on Kashmir dispute,” he said.
“This unrealistic propagandistic and false approach has made the lives of Panchs and Sarpanchs vulnerable and many of them have lost their lives,” the press release quoted him as having said in the meeting.
The Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who was chairing the meet told the participants that the final decision over whether to hold the polls or postpone them shall be taken in a next cabinet meet while taking the views of the political parties into consideration.