The Communist Party of India (Marxist) on Monday joined the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party in boycotting the upcoming panchayat and local bodies elections in Jammu and Kashmir, PTI reported. The state is set to hold its first local body elections since 2011.

Both the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party have announced their decision to not contest the polls. While Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP urged the central government to reconsider its decision to conduct the polls, the National Conference said it would boycott elections until the Centre clarifies its position on Article 35A of the Constitution.

Article 35A defines the “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir and confers on them special rights and privileges aimed at preserving the character, culture and demography of the state. A petition challenging its validity has been filed in the Supreme Court, which will take it up in January.

The CPI(M) criticised the Centre for going ahead with the elections even though mainstream parties have opposed it. The party’s state secretary Ghulam Nabi Malik said the decision reflected the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government’s arrogance.

The government should have convened an all-party meeting to discuss the matter, Malik said. “It was wrong on behalf of the government to use polls as a reason to seek deferment of Article 35A in the Supreme Court,” Malik added. “The mainstream political parties had also urged the Centre to clear its stand over Article 35A before announcing ULB and Panchayat elections.”

He said the prevailing situation in the stateKashmir was another reason for the parties to boycott the elections. “CPI[M] had always been demanding to hold dialogue with voices of dissent in the state,” he added. “But now the situation has reached to a stage where even the suggestions of mainstream political parties are being ignored.”

The CPI(M)‘s decision came on a day Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh appealed to political parties in the state to participate in the upcoming panchayat and municipal bodies elections.

The panchayat elections will be held in nine phases between November 17 and December 11, while elections to municipal bodies will be held in four phases between October 8 and October 16. Jammu and Kashmir has been under Governor’s Rule since June, when the BJP pulled out of the PDP-led government.