The authorities have decided not to publicise the details of candidates contesting in elections to urban local bodies in volatile pockets in the Kashmir valley “due to security reasons,” evoking sharp reactions from political parties.“Lack of transparency will only bring disrepute to the institution of democracy. It seems former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s legacy is being reversed. Mr. Vaypayee, as prime minister, ensured fair elections in J&K and allowed peoples’ representatives to come up. This saw a new hope emerging among people, who started looking up to elections as a credible exercise. In the process, mainstream political parties, too, gained an important space despite Kashmir’s complex situation,” senior Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Nayeem Akhtar told The Hindu. He described the situation in J&K as “worse than the 1990s.” “It’s getting worse than 1990s, with non-locals being fielded as candidates in many wards. They may have visited the area for the first time on the day of the nominations. The way the elections are held goes against tenets of democracy,” said Mr. Akhtar.All major regional parties, including the PDP and the National Conference, have decided to boycott polls, leaving the Jammu & Kashmir People’s Conference (J&KPC), the Congress and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) as major players in the fray. “The credibility of the poll process has been badly affected. No candidate has filed a nomination in 177 wards. In 215 wards, candidates have been declared [elected] unopposed. It speaks volumes about the power-thirsty BJP imposing [on the] elections. What will be the credibility of these polls, when even finding a candidate to contest has become difficult?” asked Congress vice president and MLC G.N. Monga .Details concealed Contrary to J&K Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra’s directive to returning officers “to paste details of contesting candidates on notice boards”, scores of wards in south and north Kashmir have decided against it. “Candidates have pleaded with us that their lives will be in danger in case their details are made public. In many wards, we decided against publicising it,” a south Kashmir-based official told The Hindu. In the wake of militant threats, several independent candidates on Thursday held a press conference in Srinagar. They claimed they were “not getting any response from the government over security. The property of two candidates have been attacked by unknown men in the past 24 hours in the Valley with petrol bombs.”However, Additional Director General Police-Law and Order (ADGP) Muneer Ahmad Khan said many contestants have been put up in hired hotels, guarded by heavy contingents of police and paramilitary forces. About 3,000 candidates are in the fray across J&K for elections to 1,145 wards across 79 municipal bodies, starting October 8.
Opposition BJP on Friday demanded an unconditional apology from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik soon after a photograph of martyr Ajit Kumar Sahoo’s coffin, draped in a BJD flag, went viral on social media. The photograph was taken on Thursday and it was uploaded on Friday. Ajit Kumar Sahoo, a jawan of the 44 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) hailed from Dhenkanal district in Odisha. He was critically injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Jammu & Kashmir’s Pulwama district on June 17 and later succumbed to injuries while undergoing treatment at the hospital on June 18. “Let BJD president Naveen Patnaik tender unconditional apology for hurting sentiments of the people and the martyr’s family,” BJP Ex-Servicemen Cell State President Colonel B.K. Bastia told reporters here. “It is unfortunate that the martyr’s coffin was draped with a BJD flag instead of the Tricolour,” Mr. Bastia said. BJP national vice -president and former MP Baijayant Panda also demanded an apology from the ruling Party. “Very unfortunate, politicising the death of an Indian soldier by the ruling party in Odisha draping his coffin with their party flag instead of the Tricolour. ….,” Mr. Panda tweeted. “The BJD people offered floral tribute to the martyr near Khuntuni on the way to our village in Dhenkanal district. They covered the coffin with the BJD flag. The BJD flag was removed later. My brother was not working for any political party,” the martyr’s brother, Parameswar Sahoo, said. Odisha governor Ganeshi Lal and many other persons had paid tribute to the martyr as soon the body reached the Biju Patnaik International Airport late night on Wednesday. The coffin was then taken to Dhenkanal Mini Stadium and later to his native village Badasuanla where his mortal remains was consigned to flames. BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra has, however, described the incident as unfortunate and condemnable. “Our Party has a lot of respect for the martyrs and we condemn the incident. Stringent action will be taken against those who are involved in this episode,” he said.