The National Conference on Wednesday expelled eight Jammu-based office bearers for “willfully violating” its decision to boycott the local body elections in Jammu and Kashmir, PTI reported.

On September 5, the party announced that it would not participate in the polls until the central government clarifies its position on Article 35A of the Constitution, which has been challenged in the Supreme Court. The article, incorporated into the Constitution in 1954, grants special rights and privileges to the residents of the state.

National Conference spokesperson Madan Mantoo said the expelled party workers are Ayub Malik, Ashwani Charak, Kuldeep Gai, Ashok Singh Manhas, S Sucha Singh, Subash Bhagat, Rekha Manhas and Manohar Lal Bhagat.

On September 25, National Conference spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu resigned from the party, citing disagreement over its decision to boycott the 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.

Devender Singh Rana, the party’s provincial president, said the election boycott decision was in the larger interest of people as “overt and covert” attempts were being made to fiddle with the law.

Rana rebuked the Congress for deciding to participate in the elections and accused it of working against the state’s interests. “Congress, too, understands the imminent threat to this constitutional provision [Article 35A], but it has preferred to just pay lip service,” Rana said. “Political opportunism has prevailed over the larger public interest.”

While the Peoples Democratic Party has also announced its decision to boycott the elections, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) have said they will contest the polls. The state has been under Governor’s Rule since June.

Rana said the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party were two sides of the same coin when it came to “trampling democratic and constitutional rights” of the people of the state.