Tribune News Service
Jammu, October 9
Accusing the BJP of bulldozing democratic institutions and gagging dissent, the Congress on Wednesday changed its earlier decision and announced to boycott the Block Development Council (BDC) elections to be held on October 24.
The Congress had earlier said it would participate in the polls as a responsible opposition party.
“We have no other option but to withdraw from the BDC elections due to oppressive measures being adopted by the administration on the directions of the Centre to deprive opposition of its democratic rights,” Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir said.
The announcement has given a virtual walkover to the BJP as except the Jammu-centric Panthers Party most political parties have decided not to participate in the “much-publicised” elections--projected by the government as a move to empower people at the grassroots level.
National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Conference (PC) and other political groups have yet to take a formal decision on the BDC polls for which Wednesday is the last date for filing the nomination papers.
“The Congress was the only opposition party which came forward to participate in these elections to strengthen democracy at the grassroots level, but the government did not cooperate,” chief spokesman of PCC Ravinder Sharma told The Tribune, adding, “It appears the authorities are discouraging the opposition to give the BJP a walkover.”
Sharma said the Congress had written to the election department to allow movement of its leaders so as to mobilise panchayat members for elections but nothing had been done.
The J&K government on September 29 had announced to hold the polls on October 24. The results will be declared the same day.
The elections will see 26,629 elected panches and sarpanches elect 310 Block Development Chairpersons for the first time in the history of J&K with a view to setting up three-tier Panchayati Raj Institutions like other parts of the country.
The government had announced that the BDC polls would be followed by elections of chairpersons of District Development Boards.
The government has reserved 172 seats for the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. Also, 33% seats have been earmarked for women panches and sarpanches.