Former Chief Minister and National Conference (NC) vice president Omar Abdullah on Sunday admitted that boycotting Panchayat elections was a wrong decision of his party.
Without naming BJP, Omar Abdullah said that it was all due to National Conference's boycott that 'new groups' have managed to sneak into Kashmir Valley. "As we boycotted Panchayat elections they seized this opportunity and expand their footprints in Kashmir Valley," Omar said without naming BJP, and added, "We are still bearing brunt of that wrong decision."
On the issue of Article 35-A, two mainstream parties of Kashmir Valley NC, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had boycotted Panchayat and Municipal elections held in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir between September to December 2018.
Citing Article 35-A as the reason, both the parties had asked the Centre to clear its stand on it and also take "effective steps" to protect it.
BJP expands footprint in Kashmir after Panchayat elections
As NC and PDP had boycotted the Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) elections in Kashmir Valley, BJP leadership seized this opportunity and sowed seeds of the party at the grassroots level.
Although Panchayat elections were held on a non-party basis, BJP claimed that it has 1,267 Panchs and Sarpanches in the Kashmir valley.
Due to the boycott of both the urban local bodies and panchayat elections by the NC and the PDP, the BJP also emerged as the main contender in the Block Development Council (BDC) polls.
Furthermore, BJP took control of at least seven municipal committees in Kashmir Valley, the first time in the electoral history of J&K, due to a boycott of elections by PDP and NC.
BJP wants NC to boycott assembly elections: Omar
Cautioning party workers against those who are demanding that NC should boycott elections against the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A, Omar made it clear that his party would fight assembly polls.
"Unlike Panchayat elections, we will leave the field for other parties," he said and added that some groups were hoping that NC would boycott assembly elections like Panchayats and ULBs. "This time we will not allow such groups to accomplish their nefarious designs," he said.
Asserting that NC was ready to fight assembly elections in J&K, Omar Abdullah said that decision on conducting elections has to be taken by the Election Commission of India.
"Elections in J&K have already been delayed. Last assembly elections were held in the year 2014 so seven years have been passed," he said and added that his party was ready to face elections any time.
Promises remained only on papers
Omar Abdullah alleged that the government was depriving local youth of J&K of employment opportunities.
"After the abrogation of article 370, it was announced that this step would provide huge employment opportunities to local youth", he recalled but hastened to add, "What to say of providing more employment, local youths are denied jobs in the existing projects of J&K".
"All promises of employment remained only on papers", he regretted and chided the J&K government for its failure to create job opportunities for unemployed youth of J&K.
"How many youth have been provided jobs after the abrogation of Article 370?", asked Omar but added that except promises nothing has been done on grounds.
Countering claims of the government, Omar said that claims of huge investment in J&K were also proved false. "How many industries have been opened", he said, adding, "promises of new industries, boost to the tourism sector, etc were ultimately proved as farce".