Peoples Democratic Party president and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has said Article 35A of the Constitution is beyond compromise and off-limits for the Centre. The article, incorporated into the Indian Constitution in 1954, grants special rights and privileges to the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
In an interview to the Hindustan Times, Mufti said her party decided to boycott the local body elections as the situation in the state was not conducive for the polls. She said there was fear and suspicion since the Centre has linked the elections to proceedings on Article 35A in the Supreme Court.
Petitions have been filed in the top court challenging the law’s validity. On August 31, the court adjourned the hearing on the matter till January 2019 after the Centre and the state administration said hearing the matter now could create law and order problems, particularly during the elections.
“There are certain issues where you can’t compromise. Article 35A is one such issue,” Mufti told the newspaper. “Our message to the Centre is loud and clear: Keep your hands off. This is off-limits; don’t play with this.”
Besides the Peoples Democratic Party, the National Conference and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have decided not to contest the elections. Mufti said the Centre’s decision to go ahead with the polls would not serve any purpose when the mainstream parties have decided to boycott them.
“When two main political players have opted out, what kind of competition is there going to be?” she asked. “We are the mainstream parties and do not belong to the other side [separatists]...It will not be a good election. It will not have the legitimacy that it should have. Only selective people are going to contest because of the fear psychosis. That may defeat the purpose.”
She added that the gap between mainstream politicians from the state and the Centre has widened due to the government’s stand on Article 35A.
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.