Congress To Take Part In Polls, Puts Security Rider  

SRINAGAR — The Jammu and Kashmir unit of the Congress said Wednesday 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.

“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,” state Congress chief G A Mir told reporters here.

Mir, however, added that the Congress had time and again apprised Jammu and Kashmir governor’s office of the security concerns, especially in the valley.

“We sent three delegations to the governor right from the time N N Vohra took over the reins of the state (on 19 June 2018) to convey our concerns about the security of candidates. So far, we have not received any response from the concerned quarters on the issue,” he said.

Mir 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 35A 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.

‘Mir’s Remarks Against NC Outrageous, Uncalled For ’  

National Conference on Wednesday called J&K PCC chief GA Mir’s remarks on National Conference’s decision of staying away from upcoming ULB polls as “outrageous and far from truth.”

Calling his utterances politically “motivated”, national Conference said, “It’s sad that the congress chief had to make such malafide targeted accusations on our recent announcement of not participating in local body polls. Congress chief had called NC decision as part of a ’larger conspiracy’. The very identity of the state is under threat and it is NC which has taken the fight head on.”

“It would have been better if Congress had supported parties from J&K in their attempts to safeguard interests of State subjects,” NC said. The party said that by using words like conspiracy, JKPCC was drawing attention towards their own intentions and selfish motives. 

It alleged that congress was 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 history with regard to J&Ks Special status a lot of old and painful wounds will be reopened,” Imran 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 said, “The State Congress has ignored the vicious attacks on states special status. I will not hesitate in saying that the congress has indeed bailed out the right wing BJP by announcing their participation in the upcoming ULB, Panchayat polls without getting a guarantee from the central government on where it stands on Art 35 A and Art 370.”

“The state is going through a very sensitive phase. The very identity of our state is under threat and states premier political parties have put their foot down and asked for clarity on Art 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 Art 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 party 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,” it said.

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