Cong boycotts BDC polls

PCC chief GA Mir, flanked by senior leaders, Raman Bhalla and Ravinder Sharma, addressing a press conference in Jammu on Wednesday. —Excelsior/Rakesh
PCC chief GA Mir, flanked by senior leaders, Raman Bhalla and Ravinder Sharma, addressing a press conference in Jammu on Wednesday. —Excelsior/Rakesh

Gopal Sharma

JAMMU, Oct 9: Taking U-turn on its earlier stand, the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee today declared boycott of the upcoming Block Development Council (BDC) elections in the State.
Announcing the party decision, JKPCC president Ghulam Ahmed Mir, addressing a crowded press conference at Congress headquarters here today, said that Congress would not participate in October 24 BDC elections in the State. Earlier, the party had announced participation in the BDC elections on October 4.
‘The PCC chief cited the `indifferent attitude’ of the State Administration and the continued detention of its senior leaders in the wake of the Centre revoking the State’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution to justify its decision of poll boycott. He said BDC elections will be the first to be held in the State since its special status under Article 370 was revoked on August 5 this year. Click here to watch video
“The Congress believes in strengthening of democratic institutions and it has never shied away from any polls. But today, we are compelled to take a decision to boycott the BDC polls due to the indifferent attitude of the State Administration and the continued detention of senior party leaders in Kashmir, ” Mir said.
The PCC chief, who was released from house- arrest in Jammu recently, accused the Administration of deliberately creating hurdles for the mainstream political parties in the State in order to facilitate the victory of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the BDC polls.
“They have kept other party leaders and cadres under detention. They did not allow political activity to take place and the Congress was deliberately targeted in this exercise,” Mir said.
He said the Congress had approached the State Election Commission for facilitating a smooth movement of its leaders after deciding to take part in the polls on two occasions and on October 5 recently, but they did not take cognizance of their request. They even did not permit them to visit Kashmir and meet the party cadre.
“We had issued letters to candidates for taking part in the BDC polls so that we could contribute to the democratic exercise and some of our candidates had also filed their nominations,” he said.
Now, since today (October 9) was the last day for filing of nominations, “we have decided to stay away from the polls, which should have been deferred taking into consideration the prevailing situation in the State, as was demanded by all opposition political parties”, Mir maintained.
Accusing the State Administration of favouring the BJP, Mir said Congress leaders were being denied security and not allowed to move out of their homes at a time when the Director General of Police had put the number of active militants in the State at 300.
“We are continuously being harassed, despite being a responsible national party. We were ready for the elections because it was the dream of our leader late Rajiv Gandhi to strengthen the Panchayati Raj institutions, but the Government forced us to boycott the polls,” the PCC chief said.
While pointing out that the administration was holding the polls under the State’s Constitution, instead of in accordance with the 73rd Amendment of the Constitution, Mir said, “The three-tier system was introduced by the Congress through an amendment in the State Panchayati Act. The BJP, during its rule, abolished the Act under which, everyone was elected by the electorates.”
“By holding the BDC polls without consulting the mainstream parties, the Governor’s administration is fulfilling his goal or the goal of the ruling party. They are holding the BDC polls in those blocks where the number of Panches is one or three,” Mir said, adding that elections were not held in Over 12,500 Panchayats last year and instead, the BDC polls were being conducted.
He said the Congress leadership had appealed for deferring of the BDC elections the day they were announced because the situation was not conducive and there was no political atmosphere as a number of leaders were under detention. He said the mainstream political leaders in Kashmir valley, including former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have either been detained or placed under house arrest since the Government announced abrogation of Article 370 over two months ago.
In response to a question on security situation in Kashmir, Mir said, ” The Government is talking about withdrawing Advisory for tourists visiting Kashmir, but we are unable to understand through which prism they see the situation. The school- colleges are still closed in Valley, there is no trade activity and public transport is not plying, but they still claim that situation is conducive. It is very strange situation,” he added.