Theweekendleader

Is there more to J&K panchayat poll deferment than meets the eye?

Sheikh Qayoom   |  Srinagar

19-February-2020

The postponement of the scheduled Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir has more to it than meets the eye.

After issuing the notification for the second phase of the Panchayat elections in the Union Territory, the office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) said in a late night communication on Tuesday that these elections have been postponed and the earlier notifications in this regard stands withdrawn.

The decision to postpone the Panchayat elections, the first democratic exercise in J&K after abrogation of Article 370 and downgrading the state's status to Union Territory, assumes significance for more than one reason.

The decision came after leaders of the UT's mainstream political parties, National Conference (NC), Congress, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Panthers Part met Shailendra Kumar, the CEO and informed him that unless the "roadblocks in the conduct of fair polls are removed these parties won't participate in the elections".

A major roadblock, according to these parties, is the continuing detention of the top leadership of the two major mainstream political parties, the NC and the PDP.

The elections have apparently been postponed because of security reasons as communicated to the CEO by the UT's Home Department.

But, it is reasonably illogical to believe that something earthshaking happened on the security front in the UT between February 12 and February 17 when the second phase notification was issued and the elections were withdrawn by the other notification respectively.

Sources privy to the development told IANS that the elections had to be postponed because other than the BJP, all other parties in J&K had expressed their inability to participate because of the prevailing political scenario here.

Interestingly, the Panchayat elections were held last year on a non-party basis, but the bypoll to the uncontested seats of that election were ordered to be held on the party basis this year.

Although the election office has said that a fresh schedule would be announced after two or three weeks, it is highly unlikely that the same would be announced unless a material change occurs on ground so far as the political situation is concerned.

It is now clear that sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander in J&K.

If these parties are unable to join the Panchayat elections unless their top leadership is released, they would also say so in case of the Assembly elections in J&K as and when those are held.

The bottom line is that New Delhi will have to do more to build bridges with the detained leaders and allow normal political process to take place for the new crop of leaders to emerge in these parties.

The hope of an entirely new leadership to replace the old guard in the NC, PDP and other parties in J&K at the press of the button is still a far cry.-IANS