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No obstacles to free and fair assembly votes: J&K LG | India News


JAMMU: Following the successful completion of the District Development Council (DDC) surveys at J&K, Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha has said that any attempt to interpret the results “for political reasons” is a mistake. He added that he sees no obstacles to holding elections to the assembly.
Speaking exclusively to Bharti Jain In his first interview after the elections, Sinha rejected speculation by some parties that the DDC result would delay the assembly elections. “The delimitation process in J&K is underway and once the delimitation is carried out, EC is the competent authority to decide on the conduct of the assembly surveys,” he said. LG, which took office in August and has initiated various measures to connect with the people, said it has been speaking to political leaders across partisan lines.
“My priority continues to be the people of J&K, ensuring prosperity and peace, and boosting industry and agriculture here,” he said. On the prolonged detention of leaders like Mehbooba Mufti and the Abdullahs, he said this was due to “special circumstances” and was based on the assessment of security agencies at the time. He said that while leaders are now free to participate in political activities, anyone involved in anti-national activities will be treated according to the law.
Saying that the UT is heading towards full normality, he assured that 4G services, currently operating in two districts, will gradually be restored everywhere.
The results of the DDC survey have been well received by all parties. What is the message of the polls?
After a long time, there have been violence-free, free and fair polls at J&K. This is also the general assessment. The enthusiasm with which young people and women participated in the survey demonstrates their deep faith in democratic processes. I am grateful to the State Election Commission, election officials, J&K police, and central military for doing their duties well despite the cold. Participation was better than in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, in some difficult areas it doubled and even tripled. Those who offer their own political interpretations are making a mistake and playing with the mandate of the people. I think this is a victory for democracy. For a long time, the people of J&K were deprived of a three-tier democratic configuration… Now the district development boards will deal with development work in the villages through directly elected representatives.
How will DDC boards contribute to grassroots development?
In the past 3-4 months, Panchayati Raj institutions and urban local bodies have been given more financial and administrative powers in accordance with the 73rd and 74th amendments. We have made a provision in our budget to extend adequate funding to boards for development work.
Do you think that the successful completion of the DDC survey will pave the way for the assembly surveys?
I do not foresee any obstacles to the polls. The prime minister had talked about holding the ballot box in his Independence Day speech. We all know that the delineation process is underway in J&K and some northeastern states. Once the delimitation is completed, the Electoral Commission, which is the competent constitutional body, will decide on the conduct of the elections. I can tell you that the votes of the assembly will be carried out freely and fairly.
North Carolina leader Omar Abdullah suggested that DDC poll results may further delay assembly polls …
Such misgivings are unfounded. Interior Minister Amit Shah has spoken of holding assembly elections in Parliament. The PM’s Red Fort address is the final word. I’ve been meeting with all the leaders. Recently, Farooq Abdullah was with me on a program to lay the foundation stone for a 100-bed ESIC hospital. I have met MPs, former MPs and former MPs from across the party. My priority is still the people at J&K. I am here to address your issues. My goal is to ensure prosperity and peace, boost industry, and promote agriculture and horticulture.
Do you think the DDCs will lead to declining J&K assembly and MLAs?
In almost every state in the country, this system is working. I don’t think the powers of parliamentarians and judicial deputies have been reduced in those states. No one should have any objection to grassroots democracy and the institutions of the Panchayati Raj. I think it will strengthen democracy.
Is the J&K administration considered to be the main sponsor of the Apni Party?
I can assure you that there is no condescension on our side of any political party, be it NC, PDP, BJP, Congress or Apni Party.
Your take on the DDC results that point to community polarization?
I don’t see it as such. I think the main parties in the Valley have gotten more seats in the Kashmir region, as they were stronger there even before; similarly, parties that were traditionally stronger in Jammu have more seats there.
How do you assess the current security scenario?
The security forces have an advantage. Recent statistics show a sharp decline in incidents related to terrorism, recruitment and infiltration. Coordination between the J&K police, the central forces and the Army is excellent. This helped thwart a major terrorist offensive with the neutralization of terrorists in Nagrota. In Poonch, an attempt by neighboring nation forces to disrupt the DDC polls was cut off. Thanks to the alert forces, the situation is heading towards full normality. People are fed up with militancy.
Do you think the prolonged detention of political leaders like Mehbooba Mufti and the Abdullahs was necessary?
The arrests were ordered in special circumstances. At the time, those handling security matters may have had some apprehensions. But now people participate in normal political activity, hold rallies and travel freely. I would like to clarify here that, while there is complete freedom to engage in political activity, anyone found participating in anti-national activities will face strict measures in accordance with the law.
How long before 4G services are restored at J&K?
4G services are already in operation in two districts. The matter is in the Supreme Court and the government has assured that it will gradually restore 4G in other districts as well.
How do you react to the charge of witch hunts against political leaders through law enforcement?
The NIA is mandated to investigate terrorism-related cases, and anyone allegedly involved in a terrorist act should confront the agency. ED is competent to investigate any person who has accumulated assets disproportionate to their income. All these agencies have their ‘maryada’; I will not allow any politically motivated investigation. I would also like to assure the common people of J&K that they need not fear anything, the action will only be directed against the evildoers.
As the J&K government seeks the review of Roshni Law higher court verdict, do you think ‘name and shame’ beneficiaries could have waited?
We went to court before Roshni’s beneficiary list was made public. Some time had passed after the court’s decision to compile the list. There is no discrimination and the full list is made public as directed by the court. We went to high court for two reasons: I feel like the names that are released are just “the tip of the iceberg.” So we have asked the court for permission to establish an SIT. Second, we have requested instructions on a possible law to save the poor who obtained land for genuine reasons. A CBI investigation is on and after the investigation the government will reclaim land as directed by the HC. Ordinary people can be asked to deposit the market value of the land.
How do you plan to boost employment at J&K?
The number of government officials in J&K and Bihar is about the same, despite the latter having a much larger population. Employment at J&K has been driven largely by government jobs. We work on many fronts. Government vacancies are being filled and we expect to offer 25,000 government jobs. A new industrial policy aims to boost investment. DIPP has approved it and cabinet approval may come soon. I anticipate an investment of 25-30 billion rupees in the near future. Large commercial companies, including global players like the Lulu Group, have shown interest. Industry needs a peaceful environment and land. We have made necessary changes to land laws to ensure that the land rights of the locals are protected.

Times of India