SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha has assured political parties of ensuring smooth campaign for the upcoming local body elections and said the polls will go a long way in strengthening panchayati raj institutions in the Union Territory.
Responding to a letter by CPI(M) leader Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami who had raised the issue of candidates being kept away from their constituencies and not being allowed to campaign, Sinha said he has taken note of the concerns and issued "necessary instructions".
Tarigami, a former MLA from the militancy-hit Kulgam district of south Kashmir, had informed the Lt Governor that after filing their nomination papers, the candidates were not allowed to campaign due to "perceived threat to their lives" and had been bundled in "cluster accommodation".
"Confining candidates against their wishes has severely restricted their movement and ability to campaign. Even in some cases, they are not allowed to attend party meetings," the CPI(M) leader said.
Tarigami said there had been instances that rival candidates were sent in the same vehicle and asked to campaign together.
"Several candidates from far-off places were sent to hotels in Srinagar soon after they filed the nomination forms last week. Not just the voters, but the families of the candidates are also concerned," he said.
The former MLA said such arrangements were a big concern and there was a lot of dissatisfaction on ground over it.
"Who wins and who loses, the decision must lie on the electorate. Democracy must finally win. For that the process must be made secure and credible. It is advisable not to put avoidable restrictions on the contesting candidates and instead their legitimate movement for the campaigning in their respective areas must be effectively facilitated," he said.
In his response, the Lt Governor said, "I am sure that the coming elections will go a long way in strengthening the Panchayati Raj Institutions."
Tarigami released to the media his letter and Sinha's response.
The CPI(M) is part of the newly formed People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) which comprises the National Conference, the PDP and four other local parties.
The PAGD was formed to work for the restoration of the special status of the erstwhile state democratic and legally.
District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held in eight phases beginning November 28.
The elections will be the first democratic exercise since Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 was revoked in August last year and the state was bifurcated into union territories.