Kashmir's ruling National Conference (NC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday traded charges against each other over the recent spate of grassroots representatives' killings in the valley, hinting at deliberate appropriation of votes for the 2014 assembly polls.
"All the three deputy sarpanches killed in Kulgam, Pattan and Sangrama (in the valley) were NC supporters. Everyone knows who will benefit from the killings. I will not expose anyone right now," state rural and panchayat development minister Ali Muhammad Sagar told the state Legislative Council during a debate over the recent killings, obliquely referring to the opposition parties.
Sagar's take on the killings goes just opposite to the state chief minister Omar Abdullah's recent claim that "militant groups like the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba were behind these killings to derail the process of grassroots empowerment".
Sagar told the state legislative council that the government was serious in empowering panchayats and "more powers will be handed over soon".
"We will not allow any individual or party to succeed in their evil designs to derail the process (of empowering panchayats)," said the minister.
Opposition PDP, which accused the government of being reluctant in empowering panchayats, said the forces behind the killing intend to push for a boycott of assembly elections in 2014.
"Everyone knows who benefits from boycott of elections in the state," said PDP senior leader Murtaza Khan, referring to the NC indirectly.
The PDP leader claimed that the killings were also a result of linking the Kashmir problem with the panchayat polls. "It was projected as normalcy, which provoked people inimical to peace to carry out attacks," said Khan.
The two parties also accused each other of the failure to take measures to empower panchayats.
While the PDP legislator claimed no powers were devolved to grassroots representatives, the NC minister accused PDP's senior leader Muzzafar Hussian Baig of failing to cooperate.
"The government constituted a joint committee to look into empowerment of panchayats with PDP's Baig heading it. The PDP leader wanted the meeting to be held at his residence forcing NC leader to stay back," alleged Sagar.
Kashmir's 34,000 grassroots representatives, elected last year, were frightened when two deputy sarpanches were killed in north Kashmir in two weeks in September this year. It was followed by mass resignations through newspapers by scared grassroots representatives.
The issue resonated in New Delhi with Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi pitching for the grassroots representatives saying "they should be provided security".