The ruling Peoples Democratic Party candidate for Anantnag Lok Sabha constituency, Tassaduq Mufti, on Monday urged the Election Commission of India to postpone the bypolls to the southern segment, triggering a sharp reaction from the Opposition parties including National Conference and Congress.
"Keeping in view the situation, I appeal to the Election Commission to postpone the elections till the situation improves. It is my request to them," said Tassaduq, addressing a press conference at Gupkar residence of his sister and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. The polls were, late in the evening, deferred till May 25 by the ECI.
"I am hurt by what happened yesterday but I'm not here to pull out (from elections) but to appeal for postponement of the polls. My next course of action will be to go through this (election) process if they (ECI) don't agree," said Tassaduq.
After Sunday's killings by forces, the situation in Kashmir remains on the edge and conduct of polls in the south Kashmir constituency—the epicenter of last year's pro-freedom uprising—remains a challenge both for the State Government as well as the ECI.
In a veiled attack on resistance leaders who have asked people to boycott the "sham" polls, Tassaduq said calling for boycott wasn't part of democracy. He said those calling for boycott "can't be credited for curtailing people's freedom of expression."
"How will you give credit to anyone who curtails freedom, be it the government or the separatists," said Tassaduq, responding to a question whether boycott in Srinagar constituency was a moral victory of the resistance camp.
Just seven percent people participated in the Srinagar bypolls on Sunday—the lowest-ever turnout in the electoral history of Kashmir. The polling was marred by large-scale protests and clashes in which the government forces killed at least eight civilians.
"Calling for boycott isn't part of democracy…people should be allowed to express themselves whether they want to vote or not. You can't force people to vote or not to vote," said Tassaduq, who would be in a direct contest with Congress candidate GA Mir on the seat.
"Fairly some people were not allowed to vote yesterday. This is not an ideal situation and this is not how democracy works. I think no one carried the day yesterday…"
Tassaduq said the State Government had done a proper assessment of the situation a month before the polls were announced and had communicated it to the ECI. "The Government wasn't in the favor of the elections as it had stressed to the Commission that the situation wasn't conducive for the polls," said Tassaduq.
To a separate question that opposition has blamed the ruling PDP-BJP dispensation for the deterioration of the situation and yesterday's killings, Tasaduq refused to comment. "I have no comments for it," he said.
Asked whether there was also anger among people owing to alliance of PDP with the BJP, Tasaduq responded saying after the alliance Mehbooba Mufti won with a significant margin the bypolls to Anantnag seat to enter the J&K Assembly.
OPPOSITION SLAMS PDP
J&K opposition parties Monday opposed the Peoples Democratic Party's demand for postponement of polls to Anantnag parliamentary segment, saying the ruling party is "sensing an imminent defeat" from the constituency. The opposition took the stand hours after PDP candidate Tassaduq Mufti and brother of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti appealed to the Election Commission of India to postpone the bypolls to Anantnag seat.
NC leader and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said it was an "indictment" of the government headed by his sister.
"Tassaduq's statement is an indictment of his sister @MehboobaMufti's government and its abject failure. How can the BJP not see this (sic)," he posted on Twitter.
"EC is well within its powers to postpone or countermand Anantnag election but if so @MehboobaMufti must resign & Governor should take charge (sic)," he said in another tweet.
"If he (Tasaduq) feels that the Government has failed to provide a peaceful atmosphere, he should ask his sister (the Chief Minister) to step down. Why to defer polls when one phase is already over?" asked Congress' candidate for Anantnag seat, Ghulam Ahmad Mir. "The PDP is now sensing defeat and that is why they are seeking deferment of polls."
Mir, who is the joint candidate of Congress and National Conference, said they had months before cautioned the ruling PDP and BJP that the situation in Kashmir wasn't conducive for the polls. "We had opposed that time keeping in view the situation. Now when she (Mehbooba Mufti) has realized that even half of the five percent people are not with them, they are calling for boycott," said Mir.
National Conference also opposed postponement of polls, saying the PDP-led Government didn't listen to them when they had warned that the situation was not conducive for the electoral exercise.
"Now, when they (PDP) are sensing defeat, they are talking about the situation. The Election Commission should go by the rules to take a decision," said National Conference's General Secretary, Ali Muhammad Sagar.