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SRINAGAR: The National Conference has conveyed to the J&K administration its willingness to participate in the eight-phase panchayat bypolls next month, albeit with the caveat that “roadblocks” must be removed and “mainstream political thought” unshackled “for a genuine political exercise to happen”.
In a letter to chief electoral officer Shailendra Kumar, NC central secretary Rattan Lal Gupta said his party was a “strong votary of the democratic process”, but it would be practically impossible to contest the bypolls if party president Farooq Abdullah, vice-president Omar Abdullah and general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar remained in detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
“Kindly advise as to how these roadblocks that have been placed in the way of participation in the panchayat elections can be overcome,” the letter states. “If the aim is to create conditions to exclude all other parties except the BJP, then nothing more needs to be said. But if the aim is to create a genuine culture of grassroots democracy, then the process adopted is a deeply flawed one.”
Gupta urged the chief electoral officer “to ensure that the democratic institutions for which members are elected become genuine and credible reflectors of the people’s aspirations”.
While Farooq has been in detention under the PSA since August last year, Omar and Sagar were booked under the Act along with former CM and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti on February 6. On Friday, former IAS officer Shah Faesal became the eighth detained J&K politician to be charged under the same law.
The March 5-20 bypolls to 12,565 panchayat seats will be the first democratic exercise since J&K transitioned from a state to a Union Territory. The first-ever J&K Block Development Council polls were conducted in October amid a lockdown and a boycott by the mainstream political parties.



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