Three Peoples Democratic Party leaders were held by the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Monday, the outfit’s President Mehbooba Mufti tweeted. The detentions come just a day ahead of counting votes of the District Development Council elections.

On Monday morning, Mufti tweeted saying that Sartaj Madni and Mansoor Hussain were “arbitrarily detained”. Later in the evening, she informed that another leader, Nayeem Akhtar, too was held.

“Looks like BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] is planning to manipulate DDC results tomorrow & don’t want any resistance,” she added. “Democracy is being murdered in J&K.”

Madni is the former Deputy Speaker of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly and Mufti’s uncle while Hussain is a former MLA, according to The Hindu. The two leaders were sent to a police station in Anantnag district’s Bijbehara town, the newspaper reported, quoting an unidentified official. The police have not disclosed the details of the case in which the detentions were made. Akhtar, on the other hand, has been taken to a MLA hostel, alleged Mufti.

“The detentions have come just a day before the results of the DDC polls, which is sheer political vendetta,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) Secretary Ghulam Nabi Malik said, according to The Hindu. “The rule of law is being flouted with impunity in Jammu and Kashmir.”

Counting for all the constituencies that went to the polls during the eight-phase District Development Council elections will begin at 9 am on Tuesday, State Election Commissioner KK Sharma told ANI.

Elections to the District Development Council is the first electoral exercise to take place in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5 last year, when the Narendra Modi-led government revoked the region’s semi-autonomous status, annulled its separate constitution, split the area into two Union Territories – Ladakh and Jammu-Kashmir – and removed inherited protections on land and jobs. The elected members have no legislative powers and are only responsible for economic development and public welfare of the region.

The elections, which have been held in eight phases, are a step to setting up district development councils, a new addition to Jammu and Kashmir’s panchayati raj system. The directly elected district councils will replace the district development boards originally envisaged as the third tier of local government by the 1989 Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act. The boards were to consist of the block council chiefs, local MPs, MLAs and municipal council members. But Jammu and Kashmir’s legislative Assembly was dissolved after August 5 last year.

Now, the electoral map of Kashmir will be redrawn to account for the new district councils. With direct elections, the third tier of the panchayati raj system will have a completely different composition from the lower two tiers.

The jurisdiction of the district development councils, which have a five-year term, will not extend to those areas notified as municipalities. So elections will only be held in areas falling outside municipalities. There are reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.

Each district council will have five standing committees – one each for finance, development, public works, health and education, and welfare. While they might look after the day to day and developmental needs of the district, members of the council have no say on larger political issues such as special status, land laws and industrial policy.