Jammu, Oct 7 (IANS) Ahead of the block development council (BDC) polls in Jammu and Kashmir scheduled for October 24, the main regional parties – People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC) – are yet to decide on their involvement in the exercise in the absence of their top leadership which has been under house arrest since August 5 following the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution from the erstwhile state.
The BJP and the Congress on the other hand have announced that they will participate in the local elections. The Congress also alleged that without the participation of opposition parties it cannot be called an election, but it will merely be a selection process.
PDP General Secretary R.K. Bali told IANS, “The political activity of our party is completely zero as all of our senior leaders have been detained or put under house arrest.”
Bali was referring to the house arrest of party chief and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who has been kept in a guest house in Srinagar since August 5.
The PDP leader said that in absence of their senior party leader, no major decisions can be taken in view of the BDC elections.
The PDP leader said the meeting of the senior leaders with Mufti was scheduled on Monday, but it was deferred due to some reasons and now another meeting will be arranged in the coming days.
To a question over how the party was keeping its flock together in view of the abrogation of Article 370, Bali said “we are uable to take any political decisions and all political activities are completely zero in last two months.”
Another senior PDP leader Narinder Singh Raina said that in absence of senior leadership following their house arrest, the party in Jammu has formed a committee of few people to help those coming to party offices for administration-related work.
Raina said that when Mufti comes out of the house arrest then only a proper decision will be taken on contesting in the BDC polls and further action of the party.
The PDP leader also said that “till that time we have asked our leaders to keep on working at the grassroot level.”
Charging the Modi government for the abrogation of Article 370, Raina said that it will have an adverse effect for the people of Jammu and Kashmir as the reservation for students in the educational institutions will go as students from other parts of the country will also participate in the examinations here.
The PDP leader said that Section 43, which ensured jobs to the kin of the government emplyees in case of their deaths has also been scrapped.
When asked about the magic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Jammu and Kashmir, Raina replied, the magic of both the leaders are fading in the rural areas.
“Before the Lok Sabha elections, rural Jammu was with Modi and Shah. But things have changed now following the abrogation of Article 370 as people are angry for the clampdown here for past two months,” Raina added.
On the other hand NC, which has also faced the house arrest of its senior leaders Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah is also uncertain on participating in the BDC polls scheduled later this month.
The J&K administration has released its Jammu provincial president Devender Singh Rana on October 2. He was also put under house arrest after Article 370 was revoked on August 5.
Rana, along with 14 other party leaders on Sunday met the Abdullahs in Srinagar.
At his Jammu’s party office, Rana said: “Without the senior leadership we cannot decide on our own if we will participate in the polls or not.”
He further said that there has ben a complete lockdown in Kashmir.
To a question about his views on the clampdown in the state for last 60 days, Rana said, “All the sections of the society has been hit badly in the state in last two months.”
“And if the political process has to be started here then these members have to be released first,” the NC leader said.
Rana held a meeting with the party leaders on Thursday and submitted a memorandum to Governor Satya Pal Malik seeking his permission meet the NC President and Vice President in Srinagar.
Commenting on party’s stand on BDC elections, Rana said “for any political process to start in the state, the mainstream political leaders should be released first”.
He further said that if the NC wants to contest the BDC elections, the mandate has to be signed by the party President (Farooq Abdullah), who has been detained under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
Rana said that the fruit traders have been adversely affected by the clampdown in the state.
“Earlier thousands of trucks used to arrive in Jammu with the apples and other fruits from Kashmir, but that has also been hit hard as only a few hundred trucks are coming,” he said.
State Congress chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir, who was also released on October 2 said that the party being a national political party cannot boycott polls.
“So we will participate in the polls, but before that the government has to ensure that we are allowed to move across the entire Jammu and Kashmir, as I have been only allowed to move in and around Jammu,” Mir said.
“I am not allowed to go to my own assembly constituency,” Mir, who represents Doru assembly from Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir.
Slamming the government, the Congress leader said, “If the government really wants to hold elections in J&K, then they need to free all the political leaders and ease the clampdown in the state.”
“And without that this it cannot be called an election but it will be merely a selection process,” he said.
Mir also said that when opposition leaders are not allowed to campaign then how could elections be free and fair.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)