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Panchayat polls: Pol parties demand release of party leaders

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Jammu: Amid demands from mainstream parties for the release of their leaders ahead of the Panchayat by-elections, the Jammu and Kashmir Election Commission (EC) held a meeting with political parties on Tuesday in Jammu to hear their concerns.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar said that the concerns of the political parties were heard in the meeting.
The parties have raised the issue of the detention of their leadership, asking how elections can be held in their absence.
PDP leader Surinder Choudhary said the party boycotted the meeting because it believes the polling can’t take place if the leadership remains under detention.
“We have said elections are possible only when all the detained leaders of all the political parties are released,” Choudhary said. “Party president has to sign the nomination papers of the candidates, how can that happen when he or she has been detained,” he added.
Voicing similar concerns, Panther’s Party leader Harshdev Singh asked how elections can be conducted on a party basis when most leaders are in detention.
“The BJP wants to do a one sided election,” Singh said.
National conference leader Ratan Lal Gupta said the party is of the view that the situation is not conducive for holding elections.
“The meeting should have been called much earlier to know the view of political parties about holding the bypolls,” Gupta said.
The Election Commission (EC) last week announced by-elections for over 12,500 vacant Panchayat seats in Jammu and Kashmir.
The eight-phase polling will be held from March 5 to March 20 on a party-basis.
The polling is scheduled for March 5, March 7, March 9, March 12, March 14, March 16, March 18 and March 20.
Panchayat elections were last held in 2018 that were boycotted by the PDP and the NC.
The polls were announced at a time when three former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti continue to be under detention since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year. They were first detained under CrPC 107 and 155 and on February 6 the stringent PSA was slapped on them. (Agencies)

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