Around 277 elected District Development Council (DDC) representatives were administered oath in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday. However, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Waheed-ur-Rehman Parra, who is in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) custody and had sought a court order for online oath, could not do so “due to procedural issues”.
An official said that out of 280 members, 137 in the Kashmir division and 140 in the Jammu division “were administered oath in their respective districts”.
After an oath ceremony in Srinagar, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, P.K. Pole, said the completion of three-tier Panchayati Raj System had realised the dream of Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘Gram Swaraj’.
“People, now onwards, need not approach district administrations for the purpose of basic amenities, and can apprise their constituency members. The members shall facilitate them. Also, the annual budget of districts from next financial year will be prepared and decided by the DDC members,” he added.
Parra family’s charge
In south Kashmir’s Pulwama, the family of winning PDP candidate Parra alleged that the authorities “did not facilitate his oath online despite a court order”.
“One candidate [Mr. Parra] is under judicial custody. I received an email or a fax from the court of law to facilitate his oath through virtual mode. However, the court order was not served in original or through a proper channel. I have accordingly forwarded it to the election authorities, who will seek legal opinion and issue us the necessary instructions to do the needful,” Deputy Commissioner, Pulwama, Dr. Raghav Langer, told The Hindu.
The NIA arrested Mr. Parra days after he filed his nomination for the polls in a case related to the arrest of two militants earlier this year.
NC, PDP allege random arrests
The oath ceremonies were held amidst the allegations by the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that their senior leaders and workers remained detained on the occasion.
The arrested leaders included the NC’s Hilal Lone, Shabir Ahmed Kullay and Showkat Ganai and the PDP’s Sartaj Madani, Naeem Akhtar and Peer Mansoor, all taken into preventive custody recently.
“Our district-level workers have also been rounded up on one pretext or the other,” a senior NC leader said on the condition of anonymity.
A senior PDP leader said an attempt was being made to discredit the electoral process “by using muscle power to trigger a horse-trading”. “It was PDP patron Mufti Muhammad Sayeed who restored faith and credibility in the electoral process in 2002. The same process is being sullied and discredited,” the leader added.
Sajad Lone, Peoples Conference chairman and the Gupkar alliance spokesman, said, “The DDC marks a new chapter in grass roots democracy. The DDC members are the first democratically elected and politically empowered representative of people and they should go back to people with promises of deliverance”.
These representatives would have to navigate the challenges, after the administration had had a free run for more than two years now, he added.