"Anything For Article 35A": Mehbooba Mufti's PDP To Boycott Local Polls

Governor of Jammu and Kashmir goes to meet PDP chief at her residence after she calls party meeting to decide on boycotting local polls

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Linking local polls with Article 35A is an assault on constitutional status of state: Mehbooba Mufti

Srinagar: 

Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti has said her party will boycott the urban local body polls and the panchayat elections later this year. "We will go to any extent to protect Article 35A," said Ms Mufti at a press conference in Srinagar. Ms Mufti said the people of the state have "sacrificed a lot" and no one can fiddle with the validity of Article 35A. The National Conference has already said it will boycott the panchayat polls and even the 2019 elections unless the centre takes steps to protect Article 35A.

"It has been noted with concern that the situation created by linking local body polls with the case pending in Supreme Court about Article 35A has created serious apprehensions in the minds of the people, who genuinely see an assault on the special constitutional status of the state," the PDP statement said. 

In a stern warning the former Chief Minister said she had already told the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier that fiddling with Article 35A, under any pretext, including property rights of widows, will not be tolerated.

Article 35A, which gives special rights to people in the state and bars outsiders from owning immovable property, has been challenged in the Supreme Court. In August, the top court deferred the case till January 2019. Attorney General K K Venugopal and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the centre and Jammu and Kashmir government told the court that the issue was "very sensitive" and keeping in mind the law and order situation, the hearing be held in January or March, 2019.

With the two biggest parties of the state threatening to boycott the local body polls, the governor Satya Pal Malik, went out of his way and met the PDP chief at her residence on Sunday, to persuade her not to announce boycotting the polls. The state government last week had announced the schedule for holding elections in the state. While the urban local body polls are scheduled for the first week of October, the panchayat elections are set to take place in December.

"The core group National Conference has unanimously decided not to participate in these elections unless and until the government of India and the state government clarify their positions and take effective steps for protection of Article 35A in and outside the courts," said NC chief Farooq Abdullah on Wdnesday.

Mr Abdullah said the decision of the state administration to hold the panchayat elections was taken in a "hurried manner" and without taking into consideration the prevailing situation "created by the powers that be by unnecessarily fiddling with Article 35A".

While reacting to Farooq Abdullah's statement Ram Madhav, National General Secretary of the BJP said, "We want local body elections to be held in Jammu and Kashmir to provide democratic rights to the citizen of the state. Farooq Abdullah has always done politics and never made efforts to ensure democratic rights of peoplegove. Now, that Modi ji is trying to do so he is speaking against it. If Farooq Abdullah is objecting to panchayat polls over 35A issue then why did he contest Kargil polls?"

Political parties in the state believe that the central government's stand over Jammu and Kashmir in the Supreme Court is "clearly against the wishes and aspirations" of the people of the state. On 27 August, 22 people were injured during protests and many parts of the state saw a shutdown amid rumours that the Supreme Court was hearing petitions against Article 35A.

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