Maintaining that the Panchayat elections, if held in time, and the by-polls to two Lok Sabha seats in Kashmir are "the biggest challenge" for National Conference, former J&K Chief Minister and National Conference's Working President Omar Abdullah on Sunday asked the party leaders to pull up the socks and ensure that it has the maximum number of Panchs in its kitty. He also dared the PDP-BJP government to hold the Panchayat elections in time, saying it has been promised in the Governor's Address that the Panchayat elections in the state would be held before March 31.
"If this government has courage, it should conduct the Panchayat elections in time in line with its promise in the Governor's address that these will be conducted before March 31 this year," Omar said, addressing party leaders at Sher-e-Kashmir Bhawan, here.
He accused the PDP-BJP government of "playing mischief with the Panchayati Raj System in J&K and weakening it."
"This government played mischief and interfered in Panchayati Raj System because now, they say, Sarpanchs will be elected by Panchs instead of the people," Omar said, adding: "I fear, at this level, the government has lot of influence and will also interfere. So the Sarpanchs instead of doing the people's works will be more inclined in saving their own chair."
"You will see lots and lots of Sarpanchs will be changed within a short span of time as per the government's wish," Omar said.
This, Omar said, will weaken our three-tier system. "So we have to ensure that we (NC) have maximum number of Panchs and our performance is good in the Panchayat elections," he said.
"I don't know if weather would permit holding of the Panchayat elections but we have to be fully prepared and ensure that we have the maximum number of Panchs in our party," Omar told the leaders and asked them to "start the ground work and reach out to the people."
"Our first and biggest test will be the Panchayat elections, and the by-elections to two Lok Sabha seats which fell vacant after the resignation of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Tariq Hameed Karra," he said, and exhorted upon the party workers to "get to the job."
Omar also said in coming days, Panchayats will be stronger "as majority of the funds and money will come through them and will also be utilized through them, while the MLAs will only have the Constituency Development Fund."
"So our efforts should be to have maximum Panchs," Omar said.