Votes will be counted for the significant District Development Council (DDC) elections in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, with the contest having taken place mainly between the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration and the BJP.
The results of the DDC elections are significant for both the People’s Alliance and the BJP. This is for the first time that any election is being held in Jammu and Kashmir after the nullification of Article 370 of the Constitution which did away with the special status enjoyed by the state. It also demoted it from being a state to a Union territory.
The results would, in a way, be a referendum on the nullification of Article 370. While the People’s Alliance – a front of Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP, Omar Abdullah-headed National Conference and the Congress – fought the election on the plank of restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by undoing the nullification of Article 370 of the Constitution, the BJP has banked upon the development issues.
Altaf Bukhari-led Apni Party, which was formed in March, is also in the fray. It is widely believed that Apni Party candidates and some independent ones had the support of the BJP.
PDP head of communications Suhail Bukhari told timesofindia.com that the united front campaigned promising that it would resist and fight against all the “unconstitutional and illegal” decisions perpetrated by the Narendra Modi government on the people of the former state.
“We are for scrapping all unconstitutional laws with respect to Jammu and Kashmir and which are aimed at disempowering and disenfranchising the people politically, economically and in every sense,” he added. On the other hand, the BJP focused its campaign on development issues and on demolishing the demands of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration.
Talking to timesofindia.com, BJP spokesperson and former Union minister Shahnawaz Hussain said the party contested the election mainly on the development plank. He said. “For us, DDC stands for development, dynasty-free and corruption free Kashmir.”
Hussain alleged that the “Gupkar gang” sought to mislead the people. “Janata maang rahui jawab, Gupkar gang se gumrah gang kyun bun gayi (The people of Kashmir are seeking an explanation why did the People’s Alliance become a misleading gang from the Gupkar gang),” he said.
He said the People’s Alliance never raised the development issues. “Who stopped them from doing so? Therefore, there is anger against the Gupkar gang.”
Shahnawaz alleged that the Mehbooba Mufti had nothing to boast of regarding her party’s contribution towards development of the state. “She and her party have just emotionally exploited the people and did not carry out any development work. The central point of her campaign was that India should talk to Pakistan regarding Kashmir,” he said.
The other issue which remained the talking point during the campaigning was the low-key campaigning by the People’s Alliance leaders. No senior Congress leader, nor the sulking leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad who hails from the Union territory, campaigned in the DDC elections.
The Abdullahs – father Farooq Abdullah and son Omar Abdullah – too did not step out of their house. Sources said they took precautions because of COVID-19 pandemic. For the BJP, Union minority welfare minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Shahnawaz Hussain campaigned in the Kashmir Valley while Union ministers Smriti Irani and Jitendra Singh among others campaigned in the Jammu region.
The PDP alleged that restrictions were put on their leaders and candidates. “Mehbooba Mufti was put under undeclared house detention on multiple occasions. Besides her, several candidates of the People’s Alliance could not campaign freely as their movement was restricted in the name of security. On the other hand, the BJP leaders had a field day,” Suhail Bukhari said.
Journalist-turned-politician Bukhari, who himself has contested the DDC elections from Sangrama in Baramullah district, said Mehbooba has been stopped from stepping out of her house at least three times in the last few days in the name of security.
However, Shahnawaz Hussain, who campaigned in the Kashmir Valley as the BJP’s in charge of DDC elections there, rejected PDP’s allegations and said there was anger among the local people against Mehbooba Mufti. “She herself is not meeting the people to avoid their outburst. Instead, she is falsely accusing the administration of stopping her from campaigning,” he said.
Hussain, who is the BJP’s in-charge for the DDC election in the Valley, said the administration was also not allowing her to go out due to security concerns as there was anger against her among the people.
Starting from November 20, the DDC elections were held in eight phases. The last last phase was held on December 19. Elections were held for 280 seats – 140 each in the Jammu region and Kashmir Valley. There are 40 districts – 20 each in Jammu and Kashmir – and each district has 14 seats.