Srinagar: In the first ever District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) post abrogation of Article 370, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has failed to achieve its political aim to sweep the polls in the Union Territory (UT) while regional parties have exhibited an impressive show.
The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an alliance of seven political parties including National Conference, People’s Democratic Party and others, formed to challenge last year’s August 5 decision, has managed to win 110 seats, while BJP won 75 seats.
In Kashmir, the PAGD has maintained control over nine out of ten districts, indicating a strong footing of the regional political parties against the BJP and its allies in the Valley.
Except for Srinagar city, the PAGD parties have swept the entire contest in the Valley, defeating BJP and its allies decisively. As many as seven out of 14 seats have been won by independent candidates while National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement and BJP have won a seat each in the summer capital area. Altaf Bukhari led Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP)– which many see as an ally of the BJP – managed to win three seats in its maiden contest.
Also read: J&K: Overall Voting in DDC at 51%; Kashmir Reports 35%
In other parts of the Valley, however, the PAGD secured most of the seats, especially NC which has emerged as the strongest party by winning 42 seats followed by Mehbooba Mufti led PDP, which has managed to win 26 seats across the Valley.
As many as 31 seats in the Valley have been won by independent candidates, which both PAGD and BJP are expected to woo in the coming days on their respective sides.
The results also indicated that parties like Communist Party of India (Marxist), People’s Democratic Front and Sajad Lone led People’s Conference have been able to retain its bastions of Kulgam, Budgam and Kupwara respectively, despite disruption in the political landscape by the ruling BJP.
While BJP’s performance has remained confined to the Hindu belt of Jammu division, the PAGD emerged as a dominant force in Muslim majority areas of Jammu. In Jammu district, BJP has emerged as a single winning party except for Dansal constituency which has given its seat to Shamim Begum from NC and Marh constituency which has been grabbed by an independent candidate Balbir Lal.
However, in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban district, NC-PDP combine has given a tough fight to the saffron party. While BJP managed to win 8 seats of 14 in Doda district, it lost some key segments to NC and Congress. In Gundna segment of Doda district, former BJP Minister Shakti Raj Parihar lost to NC candidate Asim Hashmi. Meanwhile, Congress also bagged four seats in the district.
In Kishtwar district, which shares 60:40 population ratio of Hindu and Muslim, NC bagged majority of 5 seats of 13 seats, followed by three seats won each by Congress and BJP.
Meanwhile in Ramban, NC bagged maximum number of six seats out of total 14, followed by three for BJP and remaining by Congress and Independent candidates.
In Rajouri and Poonch districts, PAGD maintained an upper hand while BJP may be now banking on independent candidates. As NewsClick had predicted earlier, Poonch has displayed a clear shift from party-based voting with Independent candidates bagging seven seats of total 13 seats followed by Congress with four seats and one by NC. Notably, BJP has failed to open its account in Poonch.
“Local residents want their basic issues of road, water, electricity and essentially bunkers to protect from shelling to be addressed. They are not attracted by the parties and believe that a local independent candidate who knows their area and is without party biases would work for them,” Sajad Khaki, a social activist from Poonch, told NewsClick.
Commenting on NC’s performance in Jammu, party vice-president Omar Abdullah said that the party would have performed even better on its own and outside the alliance. “If we would not have been part of the alliance we could have won more seats in the polls but, we sacrificed for the bigger cause,” he said in Srinagar.
The former chief minister added that the poll verdict is clearly against the BJP as results have showed that “the people of Kashmir reject the decision made in August last year.”
Meanwhile, in the Hindu belts of Jammu division, including Jammu, Reasi, Kathua and Samba districts, even as BJP remained dominant, NC, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and JKAP bagged quite a few key seats. In Reasi district, while seven seats were bagged by BJP, NC grabbed three seats followed by two seats by JKAP.
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BSP opened its account in Kathua’s Nagri, a dalit dominated area, as Sandeep Majotra defeated BJP’s Neelam Devi by a margin of 1823 votes. Jammu and Kashmir’s Panthers Party (JKPP) opened its account in district Udhampur’s Chenani and Dudu Basantgarh segments by defeating BJP candidates.
Reacting to the DDC poll results in Jammu, executive editor of Kashmir Times, Anuradha Bhasin tweeted, “The twist by much of media “Valley chooses PAGD, Jammu BJP” is misleading. In Jammu, BJP is miserably down from the clean sweep it enjoyed in previous elections in 2014. The message is LOUD and CLEAR.”
The results of the DDC polls were announced across 278 out of total 280 seats in the union territory as the State Election Commission (SEC) withheld the counting in two seats – each from Kupwara and Bandipora – where two women of the Pakistan-Administered-Kashmir origin were in the election fray.
The two women – from Hajin and Drugmulla areas – are amongst the scores who have crossed over the Line of Control (LoC) after marrying Kashmiri men who had ex-filtrated from the region in the 1990s in the wake of armed insurgency.
The results came at a time when several political workers have been detained including senior leaders from the PDP party. According to reports, PDP’s Peer Mansoor, Nayeem Akhtar and Sartaj Madni have been detained by the authorities ahead of the election results. Earlier, PDP’s Waheed Para was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in an alleged militancy case only days after filing his DDC nomination.
Former J&K chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, while speaking to media at her Gupkar residence on December 23, decried that the government and the BJP have begun a “witch-hunt” against her relatives and party members. Mufti while launching a scathing attack on the BJP also alleged that the party is exercising undue control over law enforcement agencies like the National Investigation Agency and Enforcement Directorate.