Accusing the BJP of bulldozing democratic institutions and gagging dissent, the Congress on Wednesday changed its earlier decision and announced to boycott the Block Development Council (BDC) elections to be held on October 24.
The Congress had earlier said it would participate in the polls as a responsible opposition party. 'We have no other option but to withdraw from the BDC elections due to oppressive measures being adopted by the administration on the directions of the Centre to deprive opposition of its democratic rights,' the Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Mr. Ghulam Ahmed Mir, said.
The announcement has given a virtual walkover to the BJP as except the Jammu-centric Panthers Party most parties have decided not to participate in the 'much-publicized' elections--projected by the government as a move to empower people at the grassroots level.
The National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Peoples Conference (PC) and other political groups have yet to take a formal decision on the BDC polls for which Wednesday is the last date for filing nominations.
'The Congress was the only opposition party which came forward to participate, to strengthen democracy at the grassroots level, but the government did not cooperate,' the chief PCC spokesman, Mr. Ravinder Sharma said. 'It appears the authorities are discouraging the opposition to give the BJP a walkover.'
Mr. Sharma said the Congress had written to the election department to allow movement of its leaders so as to mobilise panchayat members for elections but nothing had been done.
The state government on September 29 had announced to hold the polls on October 24. The results will be declared the same day. The elections will see 26,629 elected panches and sarpanches elect 310 Block Development Chairpersons for the first time in the state's history with a view to setting up three-tier Panchayati Raj Institutions like other parts.