Jammu & Kashmir: local bodies' elections

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District Development Council elections


A backgrounder

December 10, 2020: The Times of India

Jammu & Kashmir District Development Council elections: All you need to know

Why the DDC polls?

The DDC elections are being held in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time after the Centre amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Raj Act, 1989, after the revocation of Article 370 last year.

DDC: The composition

DDC works jointly with District Planning Committee and Block Development Council from each district. A council consists of fourteen members elected from the countryside and also from the built-up areas where needed or approved by the Election Commission of India.

DDC is a form of elected local government of the Jammu and Kashmir union territory. It is primarily aimed at electing the members from the rural and urban areas for the District Planning Committee and the council itself with fourteen members from each district for speedy development and economic uplift.

Star contenders

Kashmir is undergoing a major political transition, with several established figures being humbled during the ongoing local elections-the first after New Delhi abrogated

Article 370 and 35A. While senior Congress leader and former minister Taj Mohiuddin is in the poll fray for Phase-5 of the DDC elections in Jammu and Kashmir for which ballots will be cast on December 10, the fate of several former ministers and ex-MLAs hangs in balance as voting has already been completed for the first four phases.

The 72-year-old Gujjar leader Taj Mohiuddin is contesting against the Peoples Conference (PC) activist Shaukat Ali Khan in his home constituency of Parenpillan Uri, close to the LoC, in northern Kashmir.

Shaukat Ali Khan, supported by Farooq Abdullah's Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti's J&K Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is the consensus candidate from the 'People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration' (PAGD). Altaf Bukhari's Apni Party (AP) has fielded Choudhary Rafeeq Balot, another local Gujjar activist, who was once Taj's right-hand man in the Congress party.

Known as the Congress party's 'crown', Taj has represented Uri as MLA twice. He has functioned as a cabinet minister in the governments of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Omar Abdullah.

Fate of a number of star politicians in J&K's electoral arena has already been sealed by the electors in Phase-3 and Phase-4 of the polling.

The political stalwarts who tried their luck in Phase-3 of the polling include senior PDP leader and former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig's wife, Safeena Baig, who is contesting as an independent candidate but interestingly continuing as president of PDP's women's wing.

Safeena Baig has locked horns with the PAGD nominee and NC activist Shaeena Begum in the reserved-for-women Wagora (Sangrama) constituency in Baramulla district.

Nasreen Firdaus, wife of the slain PDP Minister Dr Ghulam Nabi Lone and mother of former Congress MLA Shoib Lone (now in Apni Party) is contesting as the AP's candidate.

In the same constituency, a Kashmiri Pandit woman, Babli Devi, is contesting for the vacancy of a sarpanch.

NC's former minister Abdul Gani Malik is contesting the DDC election from the Mahore constituency in Jammu's Reasi district. Senior Congress leader Haji Buland Khan's son, ex-Minister Aijaz Khan, is also contesting from Thuroo in the same district. Having resigned from Congress, he is now representing the Apni Party.

Shah Mohammad Tantray, PDP's ex-MLA in Jammu's Poonch district, is contesting as an independent candidate from Loran in the same district. He is facing a tough competition from the former Riyaz Ahmad Naz, the son of the former MLA Choudhary Bashir Ahmad Naz.

Former Congress minister Shabir Khan is trying his luck from Manjakot in Rajouri while former BJP ministers Sham Choudhary, Choudhary Sukhnandan and Shakti Raj Parihar are contesting the DDC elections from Suchetgarh, Marh and Doda, respectively.

Dr Shahnaz Ganaie, NC's ex-MLC, is now contesting as an independent candidate against Atiqa Begum, the mother of the NC's ex-MLA Aijaz Jan and the wife of NC's exMLA of Poonch, Ghulam Mohammad Jan, in the reserved-for-women Mandi constituency in Poonch district.

PDP's ex-minister and two-time MLA Choudhary Zulfikar, an influential Gujjar leader whose father late Chouhary Mohammad Hussain had been returned for the Assembly five times on the NC's ticket, has now joined Apni Party. He has fielded his wife Zubaida as AP's candidate from Budhal Old-A in Jammu's Rajouri district.

Interestingly, Zulfikar's nephew Choudhary Javed Iqbal, the brother of Srinagar deputy commissioner, Shahid Iqbal, has made his wife Shazia Kousar resign as a government school teacher in Jammu and fielded her against Zulfikar's wife. Javed was elected as sarpanch in 2018 and chairman of the block development council in 2019.

Veteran Congress leader and former minister Mula Ram's son, Rajinder Kumar Happy, is trying his luck in his maiden election from the Marh constituency in Jammu district.

2020: the DDC poll results

December 24, 2020: The Times of India

2020: the DDC poll results
From: December 24, 2020: The Times of India

The National Conference had the highest strike rate (proportion of contested seats won) among the four major parties in the DDC polls in J&K. The party won 67 of the 164 seats it contested, giving it a 41% success rate.

PDP had a strike rate nearly as good (40%), winning 27 of 68 seats it contested, while BJP’s 75 wins from 230 candidates meant its strike rate was under 33%. The Congress did worst, winning 26 of the 160 it contested, a strike rate of 16%.

Parties like CPM (71%) and JKPC (80%) had higher strike rates, but parties that contest few seats in an alliance tend to have higher strike rates. TNN

What the DDC poll results indicate

December 24, 2020: The Times of India

The results of the Jammu & Kashmir DDC elections, 2020
From: December 24, 2020: The Times of India

See graphic:

The results of the Jammu & Kashmir DDC elections, 2020

An analysis of voting patterns in the just concluded district development council (DDC) elections in J&K reveals a sharp divide, with the BJP scarcely present in the Valley and the seven-party Gupkar alliance almost as marginalised in the southern districts of Jammu, Kathua and Udhampur, though less so in Samba. The northern parts of the Jammu region, which consists largely of districts where no religious community has an overwhelming majority, were the ones which saw something like a real contest.

The three seats won by BJP in the Kashmir region — one each in Bandipur, Pulwama and Sringar districts — might suggest that the party has made a breakthrough in the region long considered a no-gone zone for it, but a closer look belies this first reading. BJP’s vote share in the region is just 3.3% despite having contested 102 of the 138 seats for which counting took place. In fact, of the three seats it won, Tulail in Bandipur district and Khanmoh-II in Srinagar did not have any of the Gupkar alliance partners contesting and the Kakapora-II seat in Pulwama saw both NC and PDP contesting. As a result, BJP won by 14 votes though the combined votes of the two Gupkar alliance constituents was 174 votes higher.

Similarly, while NC’s boast that it won 25 seats in the Jammu region and hence is a truly pan-J&K party has some merit, what it papers over is the fact that only two of these seats were in the southern parts of Jammu. Gupkar alliance’s vote share in Kathua district was just 0.8%, in Udhampur 0.8% and in Jammu district 9.1%.

BJP’s dominance in the Jammu region also meant that its overall vote share was a respectable 24.6%, higher than the Gupkar alliance’s 22.9%. However, this was largely because more than two-thirds of all the votes cast in these elections (19.8 lakh of 28.9 lakh) were from the Jammu region, which saw higher turnouts than in Kashmir.

The vote shares also show the extent to which PDP has shrunk even within the Kashmir region and the decline of Congress in the Jammu region. PDP’s vote share of 7.3% in the northern parts of Kashmir was lower even than what Sajjad Lone’s JK People’s Conference was able to garner (8.1%), reducing it to the third place within the alliance though it won more seats (10 to 8) than JKPC. Similarly, Congress drew a blank in the four southern districts of the Jammu region — Jammu, Kathua, Udhampur and Samba — and its vote share in these parts of 14.2% would be a worry for a party that was not so long back competitive with BJP and the Panthers Party in these districts.

Another striking feature is the unusually high vote share won by independents in Kashmir in particular. Independents got 41.8% of the votes in Kashmir and 44.3% in northern districts. While independents typically matter more in local body elections than in assembly or Lok Sabha polls, these are high numbers by any yardstick.

Altaf Bukhari's Apni Party

M Saleem Pandit, December 24, 2020: The Times of India

How ‘outsider’ Altaf Bukhari turned the tables on Gupkar alliance in Srinagar

SRINAGAR: In an election billed as a straight contest between the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration and BJP, an estranged Mehbooba Mufti acolyte with a nine-month-old party has emerged as the unlikely kingmaker shepherding a clutch of independents to form semi-rural Srinagar's first District Development Council (DDC).

While Srinagar MP Farooq Abdullah's National Conference and the rest of the Gupkar alliance had built their DDC poll campaign around the fight for restoration of J&K's special status, Apni Party's Altaf Bukhari spoke about development as his choice of balm to heal the "wounded pride, self-esteem and confidence" of Kashmiris.

The pieces all fell into place for Bukhari, who was finance minister in the erstwhile Mehbooba cabinet. Farooq's pocket borough elected three Apni Party candidates and seven independents in the race for 14 seats, leaving the seven-party Gupkar alliance a surprising third with three wins. BJP got the remaining seat.

Although Apni Party or candidates backed by it didn't fare nearly as well anywhere else except north Kashmir's Baramulla and Jammu, where it won two seats each, the strategy that turned the tables on the Gupkar alliance in Srinagar could become the template for future polls. Overall, Apni Party finished with a tally of 12 seats.

"He may have been seen as a small player in the poll battle, but Bukhari was always known for his political management. His fledgling party has a bunch of hand-picked veterans, including former PDP MLAs and MLCs. There are some ex-Congress functionaries, too. Apni Party's Junaid Mattu is already the mayor of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation," an aide said.

Amid the high-voltage, and sometimes controversial, speeches and statements of the Gupkar alliance think tank, Bukhari all along maintained that harping on the nullification of Article 370 was like flogging a dead horse. "Though deprivation of statehood has been unpleasant and bitter for J&K and its people, Apni Party would like to focus on development. The misery of the people, particularly the youth, can end only through J&K's development," he had said at the launch of his party in March.

Srinagar mayor Mattu let fly a barb at the Gupkar alliance on Wednesday, saying all candidates who won on the back of the promise to restore J&K's special status should now go about fulfilling it "within one month".

He said at a presser in Srinagar that the DDC elections were meant to create an administration for development, but several parties and candidates flagged "issues that would add to the hurt".

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