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Srinagar Mayor Turns Municipality Into 'Battleground' Amid Allegations, Counter-Allegations

Anees Zargar |
Junaid Mattu of Apni Party alleges NC-BJP in ‘secret alliance’, NC hits back, says he is ‘installed’ by saffron party.
Srinagar Mayor Turns Municipality Into 'Battleground' Amid Allegations, Counter-Allegations

Srinagar: The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has turned into a battleground where accusations of corruption, wheeling and dealing are being levelled against political parties especially the National Conference (NC).

Srinagar’s Mayor Junaid Azim Mattoo, who belongs to the Apni Party led by Altaf Bukhari, has since last week levelled a slew of allegations against NC, including that the regional party is in “secret alliance” with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Mayor in a press conference on Tuesday said the NC was “vacillating” since it has for the first time lost control of the municipal corporation.

“It happened because they boycotted it. They have been from day one tried to create differences between me and the former deputy mayor. We do not belong to the family of political dynasts, so we are not attached to it for our livelihood or for merely tradition. Our stand is very clear that we have the numbers,” he said.

The fresh allegations from the Mayor come amid a war of words following which Mattu was accused of corruption. The allegations against him were, however, levelled after Mattu accused NC leaders, including former mayor from NC Salman Sagar, of corruption. He also made allegations hinting that one of the leaders from the party is involved in a sexual harassment case.

"The NC is steeping low and is therefore resorting to allegations against the functioning of SMC. These allegations have no connection with facts on ground, and thus vindicates that the NC leadership has realised now the party is losing foothold in Srinagar,” Mattu told reporters.

At a press conference on November 24, Mattu had asked the NC and BJP to come out openly about their alleged alliance. He also accused the two parties of making attempts to “destabilise” the municipal corporation.

“Assembly elections are happening in Jammu and Kashmir and if BJP again imposes the NC on the people then we will have no option but to leave politics. We had joined politics because of our passion and not because we were born into a political dynasty,” he said.

Mattu, who was formerly associated with NC before joining Apni Party, alleged that NC had also been attempting to blackmail him into allowing several proposals that he claimed were “illegal”.

The Mayor now faces a serious challenge with many speculating that he could be removed from his position even as he believes that he faces no threat from his opposition.

After his remarks, however, the BJP on Monday said they had withdrawn support to Mattu and vowed support for the “independent” group which is likely to bring a ‘no-confidence motion against him. BJP corporators, during a media briefing, refuted allegations that BJP candidates were being supported by NC.

Mattu also said that BJP should know there was no legislative process in supporting the chair of Mayor. "Yesterday, BJP announced it has withdrawn its support from Mayor. I want to tell them there is a contesting process for Mayor's chair and it is not a legislative process,” he said.

The Mayor was also caught in the bad spot after Salman Sagar, while responding to his allegations, lashed out at him for hiding his “incompetence” through political rhetoric. Sagar also accused Mattu of being installed by BJP itself.

“Satya Pal Malik (former J&K Governor) had announced beforehand who will become the mayor and Ram Madhav (BJP) had also send congratulatory messages to him. Everyone knows who is close to BJP and who is not. Who has alliance with BJP or who are installed by BJP, they know and so does BJP,” Sagar told reporters.

Sagar also accused Mattu of swindling funds worth crores and illegally appointments since the last four years. Mattu also came under fire from the deputy mayor Srinagar, Parvaiz Ahmad Qadri, who held a presser in response to the Mayor levelling similar allegations back at Mattu.

In the absence of an Assembly, mainstream political parties are mired in politics of municipal corporation that some find is a prelude to the larger polity ahead of the next Assembly elections. Many, however, continue to see it merely as a “storm in a teacup” despite serious allegations and charges of corruption.

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