Update at 4.48 pm: Escalating the political fight, former J-K CM Mehbooba Mufti has called the central government's plea in Supreme Court to link decision on 35A with panchayat and urban bodies elections a 'disastrous idea'.
Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JKNC) patron Farooq Abdullah on Wednesday held a news conference following a meeting of the core committee of his party, and announced that it would not be contesting the upcoming local body polls that were announced recently.
Raking up the matter of the Supreme Court currently hearing pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Article 35A of the Constitution of India, the senior Abdullah said:
"The recently announced urban local body polls and panchayat elections came under discussion. The core group felt that this decision was taken in a hurried manner without taking into consideration the prevailaing situation created by the powers-that-be by unnecessarily fiddling with Article 35A. The core group unanimously decided that the JKNC will not participate in these elections till the govt of India and the state government clears its position in this regard and takes effective steps for the protection of Article 35A in and outside the court."
Following this, his son and fellow former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted:
Within minutes after the National Conference's announcement, sources said to Republic TV that its political rival PDP also plans to boycott the polls.
The announcements, citing Article 35A, follow hot on the heels of NSA Ajit Doval making a strong statement about Jammu and Kashmir's sovereignty and opining that the separate constitution for the state, which has existed since the 1950s, was an aberration.
Speaking at the launch of a book about India's first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Doval said:
"It is only a means to an end. The thing was, that to make a sovereign state in which there was the sovereignty of the people was established through a constitution, which is applicable to the whole of it, probably with Jammu and Kashmir where the constitution was ... in a truncated form, and another constitution of J&K continued to exist, which is an aberration, which I think Mr RPN Singh has brought out in his book, very vividly."
Article 35-A of the Constitution of India grants special rights and privileges to the state legislature of Jammu and Kashmir, including the power to define 'permanent residents' of the state. The Article also prohibits non-residents of Jammu and Kashmir from buying property in the state and guarantees employment and education-linked reservation for J&K residents.
On Saturday, Jammu and Kashmir's newly installed Governor Satya Pal Malik had announced the schedule for the municipal and panchayat elections in the state, which has been under Governor’s Rule since June. Satya Pal Malik chaired a State Administrative Council (SAC) meeting on Friday and after extensive deliberations on various aspects and feedback received from various departments a decision was taken to hold municipal polls in October followed by panchayat elections.
As per the schedule, the elections of Urban Local Bodies will be held in four phases from 1 to 5 October whereas Panchayat polls will be conducted in eight phases from 8 November to 4 December.