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Who Will Contest With Leaders Under Detention, Asks Congress, Boycotts J&K Local Body Elections

The Congress on Wednesday decided to boycott the J&K local body elections, the first after the Narendra Modi government scrapped the state’s special status, in protest against the detention of its leaders.


Updated:October 9, 2019, 6:11 PM IST
Who Will Contest With Leaders Under Detention, Asks Congress, Boycotts J&K Local Body Elections
Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard during security lockdown in Srinagar, Kashmir (PTI)

New Delhi: The Congress on Wednesday said it would boycott the Jammu and Kashmir local body elections, the first after the Narendra Modi government scrapped the state’s special status, to protest against the detention of its leaders and the "indifferent" attitude of the state administration.

The Block Development Council (BDC) polls will be held in Jammu and Kashmir on October 24. This will be the first election to be held in the state since its special status under Article 370 was revoked on August 5.

Addressing a press conference, Ghulam Ahmad Mir of the J&K Congress said stakeholders were not taken into consideration before taking any decision on the erstwhile state.

"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 the valley," said Mir, who himself was released from house arrest in Jammu recently.

He accused the state administration of deliberately creating hurdles for the mainstream political parties in the state in order to facilitate the victory of the ruling BJP in the polls.

"They have kept leaders and cadres under detention. They did not allow political activity to take place and the Congress was deliberately targeted in this exercise," the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief said.

“We have never run away from elections but if an election has been called for, then where are the political parties? Who is contesting these elections... We want to contest polls... We have spoken to the Election Commission (EC) and the Centre but our leaders are still under detention. We want them to be released for campaigning but there has been no response from the government,” he said.

Mir said, “The way BDC elections have been announced is not right... procedures have been violated. A well-to-do state has been destroyed undemocratically. It is clear that only one party is being facilitated...given the prevailing situation we have decided to boycott these BDC elections.”

Reacting to the development, senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid said: “I believe that the government has been unfair to the people of J&K… People are under difficult circumstances and have been betrayed... If my party takes a position that is expressive of this angst, any expression on what's happening in J&K and what's happening to Indian nationalism and Indian democracy, it is justified.”

The move, however, invited criticism from BJP ally Shiv Sena, with Priyanka Chaturvedi tweeting: “Seriously strange to see a party that is now imparting ‘lessons on nationalism’ to its office bearers is so unwilling and reluctant to participate in the BDC elections to ensure that the voices from Kashmir are heard through their BDC representatives. Well, okay then.”

Mainstream political leaders in the Valley, including two former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have been either detained or placed under house arrest since the government announced dilution of provisions of Article 370 over two months ago.

The state administration said last week that political leaders under house arrest in Kashmir will be released in a phased manner after proper analysis of every individual.

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