PAGD candidates not allowed to canvass, complains former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah to the Election Commission.
In a letter shot off to the J&K Election Commissioner KK Sharma, president of the newly formed People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) Farooq Abdullah, complained that the Alliance’s candidates were being denied a level playing field in the upcoming polls for the District Development Councils (DDC) in the name of security.
The letter was sent amid the allegations by the People’s Alliance that the police are preventing the PAGD candidates from campaigning by lodging them into “secure” accommodations in the name of security.
“I am taking the liberty of writing to you about the upcoming DDC elections. A strange and unique feature has come to the fore. The PAGD candidates are immediately whisked away to ‘secure locations’ in the name of security and confined to those ‘secure locations’,” Abdullah wrote in the letter. “They are not allowed to canvass, they are completely out of touch with those from whom they are supposed to seek votes.”
In his letter, Abdullah has accused the government of “interfering” in the democratic process.
“The current state of affairs in the realm of security is blatantly oriented towards providing security to a select few and confining others,” Abdullah said in an apparent reference to the BJP and PAGD candidates, respectively.
“This comes across more as an attempt to interfere in the democratic process than any real concern for the wellbeing of the contestants. Security cannot and should not be used as a tool or an excuse to interfere in democratic processes.”
Gross interference in democracy
Abdullah, in his letter, also stated that it was the job of the government to provide security to the candidates contesting the DDC polls.
“Security is a challenge and it is for the government of the day to counter that challenge in a manner which is fair and transparent,” Abdullah said, adding that: “Providing security to a select few and literally interning the rest is a gross interference in democracy.”
Saying that the journey of democracy in J&K is soaked in blood, Abdullah has termed the government “interference” in the polls as “desecration of those sacrifices”.
“May I add that the evolution of democracy in J and K is distinctive compared to any other part of the country. The journey is a bloodied journey, soaked in the blood of thousands of political workers who have laid down their lives for the sake of democracy. It is a desecration of those sacrifices when the very conflict that consumed their lives is used as an alibi to customize democracy,” Abdullah has written.
“Democracy is still in a state of fragility in J and K. Governments come and go. No government has the right to alter the institutional foundations of democracy in J and K, nourished by the sacrifices of thousands of political workers,” he added.
LG’s intervention sought
Abdullah said that being in power in the past, they are aware of the security challenges in J&K. “Our parties have been in power in the past and have had the opportunity to head and run the government. We are aware of the challenges posed in the realm of security in a place beset by violence,” the letter read.
“These challenges are not new but have been painfully persisting for the last three decades. But the government had structures in place which ensured security for all contestants irrespective of the ideology they espoused or the parties they represented.”
Meanwhile, the PAGD vice-president and PDP President Mehbooba Mufti also raised the PAGD candidates issue and called for the intervention of J&K’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha.
“GOI sabotaging participation of non-BJP parties in DDC polls. PDPs Bashir Ahmed despite having adequate security has been detained at Pahalgam on the pretext of security. Today is the last day for filing nominations & have spoken to DC Anantnag for his release,” Mufti tweeted.
In the first phase of the DDC elections scheduled to be held on November 28, 167 candidates are in the fray from 10 districts in the Valley. In the second phase, 227 candidates have filed their nomination (subject to scrutiny) papers, and nominations for the third phase are still being received.
The decision of mainstream parties to contest DDC polls is likely to open up political space after almost 15 months since the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and downgrading of the state into two Union Territories last August.