SRINAGAR Days after the National Conference announced its decision to not participate in the panchayat and urban local bodies (ULB) elections, the party on Saturday threatened to boycott the assembly and parliamentary polls too if the Centre does not take effective steps for protection of Article 35-A.
Article 35-A, which was incorporated in the Constitution by a 1954 Presidential Order bars people from outside the state from acquiring any immovable property in the state. It is facing legal challenge in the Supreme Court.
“How can we go to our workers and ask them to come out to vote? First do justice to us and clear your (Centre) stand (on Article 35-A). If your plan is that (weakening Jammu and Kashmir’s special position), then our ways are separate. Then we cannot have elections. Not only these (urban Local bodies and panchayat) polls, but we will also boycott the assembly and parliamentary elections then,” NC president Farooq Abdullah said here.
He was addressing party workers at a function here to mark the 36th death anniversary of his father and NC founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.
The former chief minister said his party was not running away from polls, but wanted the Centre to do justice with the people of Jammu and Kashmir first and take effective steps for the protection of the state’s special position.
“On one hand they (Centre) want to conduct polls here. On the other hand they want to revoke Article 35-A, Article 370 has been weakened and there are also attacks on the (Jammu and Kashmir) Constitution,” Abdullah said.
He said the Centre and the state government hurriedly announced the the ULB and panchayat polls, which will be held next month in four and eight phases respectively.
“First they should have talked to us. They should have called every leader that they plan to conduct polls and asked for our opinion. They did not. The prime minister, like Hitler, announced on 15 August from the Red Fort that elections will be held in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
The NC president also trained his guns at National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval over his statement that having a separate constitution for Jammu and Kashmir was probably an “aberration”.
“Their (Centre’s) intentions are not right. They never were. The NSA has said that a separate constitution for Jammu and Kashmir is an aberration. I want to tell him from this stage that if the constitution is an aberration, then this accession (of Jammu and Kashmir to India) is also an aberration,” he said.
“On one hand they tell us that we are their crown, but on the other hand they put that crown in their feet So, they have to think. They cannot control this state if they cause any further problems here. If they want this state together with the country, then they should stop what they are doing,” Abdullah said.
And Congress Has ‘Doubts’
Jammu and Kashmir Congress president G A Mir Saturday expressed doubt over the holding of panchayat and local bodies elections in the state, saying the party would clear its stand after a review meeting next week.
He said the administration had announced the panchayat and local bodies elections without taking on board the political parties in the state.
“Yesterday, the administration set up a high-level committee to review the ground situationI feel the elections will be postponed on some pretext or other whether it is rain, snow or winter,” Mir told reporters here.
He said the state Congress leadership will be meeting on September 11 to review the situation and will come out with its official reaction.
Asked about his reaction to National Conference president Farooq Abdullah’s threat to boycott upcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the state if the Centre did not come clear on its stand on Article 35-A, he gave a guarded response and said “better to ask him and his party”.
He, however, said the validity of the article was challenged in the Supreme Court in 2014 and since then a number of elections were held in the state and the NC, too, participated in the polls.
“I will not comment on the statement of Abdullah who has been the chief minister of the state four times in the past and the Union minister as well” he said.
He said the Congress believes in democratic exercise and will never escape from taking part in the elections.
“Panchayats and civic polls are meant to empower people at the gross-root level. Those elected have no legislation power and it is purely an exercise to ensure development,” he said, adding that the only concern of the Congress is the law and order situation and the security of the voters and the candidates.
He said it was up to the state and central governments to decide whether they want to move forward or go backwards.
“Let the election commission issue a notification and set the process in motion. Congress will come out with its official stand,” the state Congress chief said.
“The governor has announced the panchayat election in the first week of next month but till date neither any notification nor any other exercise was undertaken by the state election commission. The high-level team announced by the governor has also not given any time frame to submit its report, which, I think, is time delaying tactics,” Mir said.