As the process of elections to key positions in the District Development Councils in Kashmir concluded Saturday, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) that had won the maximum seats in the Valley in the polls that concluded on December 22 had secured control of only five of the 10 councils in as many districts.
The coalition of J&K’s mainstream parties that contested the elections together — the National Conference, PDP, JK People’s Movement and CPM (with the People’s Conference having exited the group) — has not got a single council in Jammu so far, with polls to three DDCs put off Saturday due to lack of quorum.
Baramulla and Bandipore DDCs in Kashmir elected their chairpersons and vice-chairpersons Saturday. Independent candidate Safeena Beigh, wife of former PDP patron Muzaffar Beigh, was chosen as the Baramulla chairperson with the support of the J&K Apni Party, while Sanaullah Parrey of the People’s Conference (PC) was elected vice-chairperson.
NC candidate Abdul Gani Bhat was chosen the Bandipore DDC Chairperson, and the PDP’s Kausar Shafeeq its vice-chairperson.
In Jammu, the PAGD as well as the Congress failed to get a single council on Saturday, even as Independents got hold of Poonch while the electoral exercise was adjourned for want of quorum in Kishtwar, Rajouri and Ramban. Of Jammu region’s 10 DDCs, the previous six — Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Reasi, Udhampur and Doda — had all gone to the BJP.
The NC and Congress, which joined hands in Jammu after the elections, lost Poonch despite having won two and four seats respectively. The two parties were just two short of a majority in the 14-member Council.
In Kashmir, the PAGD now controls the DDCs in Bandipore (headed by the NC), Kulgam (CPM), Pulwama (PDP), Ganderbal (NC) and Anantnag (NC). The PC, that exited the PGAD last month claiming proxy candidates were fielded against its candidates by constituents of the alliance, controls the Kupwara DDC.
Of the other four councils in Kashmir, two (Shopian, Srinagar) are held by the Apni Party, which is seen to have the Centre’s backing, and two by Independents (Baramulla, Budgam).
Cloud over results
The NC said Saturday that it would legally challenge the results in Budgam, citing “unfair mode of selection of DDC chairman”. NC vice-president Omar Abdullah tweeted, “Talk about murdering democracy in J&K. I met 8 of our DDC members of Budgam district. There is at least 1 more alliance member of Javaid Mustafa Mir’s party so 9 out of a total strength of 14 & yet in an “election” an independent member was made the chairman.”
He alleged this was done with “active involvement of the district administration which issued blatant threats about the powers to detain people for 2 years”. Omar said the NC had raised the matter in the Lok Sabha, as well as approached J&K Chief Election Commissioner K K Sharma.
Former PDP member Nazir Khan was chosen the Budgam DDC chairperson after a draw of lots to break a tie. NC sources said they apprehended cross-voting by one party member.
In Jammu, elections were scheduled to be held Saturday to the four DDCs in Muslim-dominated Chenab Valley and Pir Panjal region.
In Poonch’s surprise results, Independents Tazeem Akhtar and Mohammad Ashfaq got eight votes each, to be elected chairperson and vice-chairperson, respectively. Nazia Ganhi of the Congress got six votes of the NC-Congress alliance. NC members could be seen accompanying the chairperson and Congress leaders the vice-chairperson after the results.
In the Rajouri DDC, the NC had won five seats, followed by the Congress and BJP three each, and the PDP, Apni Party and Independent one each. Sources said that at 11.30 am Saturday, only eight members were present at the office of the Rajouri Deputy Commissioner — the NC’s four, the Congress’s three and the PDP’s one. They kept waiting for two more members for the quorum of 10 (of total 14). While NC member Khalid Hussain from Doongi arrived later, he made it clear he was himself a nominee for the post of chairperson and hence was not going to support anyone.
In Kishtwar, the NC had the support of eight members, including the Congress’s three. Sources said that on Friday evening, after a head-count of all 11, the NC and Congress had announced Pooja Thakur and Saima Parveen Lone as candidates for chairperson and vice-chairperson for the 14-member DDC.
However, on Saturday, only nine of the Congress and NC members reached the office of the Kishtwar Deputy Commissioner. Shareefa Begum (NC) and Mohammad Zafarullah (Independent) didn’t turn up, leading to the election being adjourned. Later, Shareefa, slamming the NC for not fielding her for chairperson, said she was joining the Apni Party.
In the Ramban DDC too, elections had to be adjourned due to lack of quorum as only eight members, including the NC’s six and the Congress’s two, turned up. Six others, including three members of the BJP and the three Independents, stayed away.
The respective Deputy Commissioners are likely to issue fresh notifications for elections next week.