Describing the ongoing delimitation of Panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir as sham, National Conference Provincial President Devender Singh Rana on Tuesday urged the Election Commission of India to intervene and prevent the subversion and murder of democracy in the sensitive state.“Hugely motivated by political considerations to suit the ruling PDP-BJP coalition partners, the delimitation process also appears to be a converted attempt to seek deferment of bye-polls due for two vacant Lok Sabha seats of Annantnag and Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley as PDP has no courage to face the electorate due to loss of its credibility and disenchantment of people”, Rana said while addressing a crowded press conference at Sher-e-Kashmir Bhawan here this afternoon. He said that under the garb of holding Panchayat elections, the government is possibly trying to send a message to the ECI that two processes cannot be carried out simultaneously, especially on the excuse of security environment. He, however, hurriedly added that the Panchayat elections were far more a bigger exercise, involving all the three regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, compared to two parliamentary constituencies as the former will entail heavy security bandhobast.
In these circumstances, he hoped the ECI will maintain its high degree of impartiality and intervene in stopping the manipulative delimitation process that will certainly betray the trust of people in democratic institutions and weaken democracy in the state.Elaborating on the ongoing delimitation process, Mr Rana said the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act envisages holding of elections to grass roots level democratic institutions as per the electoral roll as on January 1 of the particular year when polls are to be conducted and in case these are not upgraded and revised, the process has to be undertaken on the basis of notified electoral rolls of the previous year. “However, in the instant delimitation process, the government has fixed 2011 Census as bench mark, which does not only negate the spirit of the Act but also reflects the scant regard of the insensitive coalition for efficacy of the Panchayati Raj System”, he said and referred to authoritarian attitude of the PDP-BJP dispensation in eroding the sanctity of democratic system. He pointed out to the passage of amendment to J&K Panchayati Raj Act 1989 nearly two years ago at the strength of majority in the Legislative Assembly and shockingly when the entire Opposition had walked out of the House. “Without any debate and discussion, the amendment was passed”, he said adding that the amendment has reduced the stature of Sarpanch, who will be elected by the Panchs and not the village community as a whole. He said the indirect election of Sarpanchs will encourage quid-pro-quo and lead to “Aya Ram Gaya Ram culture” across the state.
The Provincial President said that being premier political party of the state, National Conference has exhausted all options while agitating the sham delimitation process and even called on Governor Mr N N Vohra. He said the party has been pleading for an independent Delimitation Commission led by a retired Chief Justice for demarcating Panchayats and wards in a time bound manneer. “ Since that has not been done, we were at least expecting the Chief Electoral Officer to take cognizance of the apprehensions of the major political parties of the state and take a decision after considering pros and cons of the entire futile exercise besides reservations of the stake-holders but to our dismay, he is reported to be publishing the final list of additions and alternations made in the Panchayats and their wards in a day or two”, he said and expressed serious concern over the issue, especially as the CEO has not come out with clarification to dispel the prevailing apprehensions.Rana cautioned against any unilateral decision hoisted upon the people with regard to the so-called delimitation of the Panchayats and Wards, saying if need be the National Conference will be constrained to approach the Election Commission of India, which continues to instill confidence among democrats of this country by maintaining impartiality and transparency.To a question, the Provincial President said that National Conference is not averse to carving out of odd number of Panchayats, wherever necessary, but certain rationale had to be adopted in creating and delinking the wards. “It must not be just adjustment and as per political convenience of the discredited coalition partners”, he said.He asserted that National Conference is prepared for elections to Panchayats and the two Lok Sabha constituencies but the way the government is preceding ahead in respect of the biggest democratic exercise is not acceptable. “They (the ruling PDP and BJP partners) may be shying away from facing the people but we are always prepared to face the highest court of electors, be it Panchayat, Lok Sabha or Assembly actions”, he maintained. (CNS)