Political parties ready to contest J-K assembly polls under UT

As the Government of India (GoI) has made it clear to grant statehood to Jammu and Kashmir [J-K] only after holding assembly elections, the mainstream political parties are willing to contest the polls under the Union Territory [UT].

Talking to The Kashmir Wallaall the major political parties expressed their willingness to take part in the electoral process “for the larger good of the people”. 

The National Conference (NC) senior leader and provincial president of Kashmir province Nasir Aslam Wani said that the party would only comment on their participation in the assembly polls after the election commission (EC) would announce the dates for the polls.

“It is too early to comment on the participation of polls. Let us see when the election commission will announce the dates,” Wani said.  

However, in September 2021, NC president Farooq Abdullah said that the party would take part in assembly elections when the polls take place in J-K.    

“The NC will win and I am telling you this with authority that if polls are conducted in a free and fair manner, we will be the biggest party here,” the former CM said while talking with the media.

The political parties in Jammu and Kashmir [J-K] are consistently demanding for the restoration of the statehood before the assembly polls, however, the Government of India (GoI) has maintained that the statehood would only be restored after delimitation of constituencies followed by assembly elections.

On 24 October, home minister Amit Shah during his three day visit to the erstwhile state while laying out the “roadmap” for the J-K, said that the statehood would be restored only after the elections.

“There will be delimitation. After that, there will be elections, and after that statehood will be restored. I have stated it in Parliament. And this is the roadmap,” Shah said in Srinagar.

On 5 August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) through presidential order scrapped the special status of Jammu Kashmir and split it into two Union Territories (UT) –Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] chief spokesperson Suhail Bukhari told The Kashmir Walla that the party’s purpose behind taking part in the assembly elections “is not giving a space to the communal elements in Kashmir politics”.

“Our aim to fight the assembly elections is not to form the government but to fill the space which would otherwise be exploited by people who want to disintegrate Jammu and Kashmir,” Bukhari said.

Bukhari added that the PDP would continue to fight for the restoration of the special status of the erstwhile state.

“Our leadership is determined to continue its fight for the restoration of Article 370. Elections have never been appropriate,” he said. “We also took part in the recent DDC [District Development Council] polls, only not to give a free space.” 

Though PDP and NC would participate in the assembly elections, its party leader’s PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and NC vice-president Omar Abdullah have both decided not to contest the polls.  

Senior vice-president of Peoples Conference (PC) Abdul Gani Vakil said that though they continue to demand the restoration of the statehood before assembly elections, the party would not hesitate to take part in the polls under UT.

“Our party’s demand has always been to restore statehood. However, if GoI won’t meet our demands, it won’t stop us from taking part in the assembly polls even if we have to contest it under UT,” Vakil said. 

“Our goal is to serve people and provide them relief. We have seen how in the last few years, the current dispensation has failed the people on every front.”

“Though, whosoever forms the government under UT will have less power in the administration, it will still be better to have a civil administration in place than to have a bureaucracy rule,” Vakil said.  

At a time when the political parties are gearing up to take part in the assembly elections, likely to be held next year, there would be no more than 10 percent of the Council of Ministers in the Legislative Assembly under the newly-established [UT] of Jammu Kashmir.

As per the J-K Reorganization Bill 2019, there shall be a Council of Ministers (CoM) consisting of not more than 10 percent of the total number of Members in the Legislative Assembly. The ministers shall hold office at the “pleasure” of the Lieutenant Governor.

Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) General Secretary Rafi Ahmad Mir while acknowledging the fact that under UT the government would be subservient to the GoI said that for giving people a popular government to mitigate their sufferings, “the party is likely to participate in the assembly polls.”

“We have seen in New Delhi, thow government has to struggle under UT. However, the people are suffering under the current government. They deserve a better government,” Mir said.

Mir said that JKAP would continue to strive for the restoration of statehood before the assembly elections, and are still hopeful that the GoI would listen to the political parties to restore faith among the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Former Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and senior Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] leader Kavinder Gupta said that they have no objection to fight the assembly polls under the UT.     

“Given the situation of Jammu and Kashmir it is better to be under UT where the centre can directly look after the state affairs,” Gupta said. “Once the situation improves, the statehood will be restored as promised by our party leadership.

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