STATE TIMES NEWS
SRINAGAR/JAMMU: Elections for posts of chairperson and vice-chairpersons of the District Development Council (DDC) were held in two districts of Kashmir in the final phase on Saturday, while a lack of quorum forced adjournment of polls in three of the four districts in Jammu region.
In the fifth and the last phase of the polls, the chairpersons and vice-chairpersons for the DDCs in Baramulla and Bandipora, both in north Kashmir, were elected on Saturday, the officials said.
They said that People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) won the election for the post of the chairperson in Bandipora district and an independent candidate won from Baramulla.
NC to challenge DDC chairperson’s election in Budgam
Srinagar: The National Conference on Saturday said it would mount a legal challenge against the election of District Development Council chairperson in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir, accusing the administration of “murdering democracy” in the Union territory.
NC vice-president Omar Abdullah said an independent candidate was made the chairman of District Development Council (DDC) despite his party having eight members, out of the total strength of 14, in the council.
He added that his party also had the support of a member of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Movement, a part of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD).
“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 (sic),” he tweeted.
Abdullah alleged that all this was done with the “active involvement” of the district administration which “issued blatant threats” about powers to detain people for two years.
“Early next week we will challenge this undemocratic action in the courts of law,” he said in another tweet.
Meanwhile, in a statement later, the party said Abdullah rued the “unfair mode of selection” of DDC chairman Budgam, terming the entire exercise a clear violation of law and rules.
Interacting with a delegation of the party’s eight DDC members from Budgam who had called on him at his residence here, the party vice-president rued the active involvement of the district administration which, he said, “issued blatant threats” about the power to detain people for two years.
“The administration is playing partisan to curry favor with particular DDC members; the mode and manner in which the election of DDC chairman was conducted is a point in case,” he said.
Abdullah said the manner in which the normal course of election of DDC chairman in Budgam was “fiddled” with is an “indictment of the aversion the ruling dispensation nurtures for due democratic values”.
“What is more alarming is the manner in which the J&K administration benefits a particular candidate. The entire exercise has already been brought to light by nine DDC members of Budgam district with the media the other day. Out of the nine members, 8 belong to NC and one to PAGD. Such inequitable occurrences will discredit the entire election process and will prove counter-productive,” he said.
“The mechanism framed for the selection of DDC chairman, it goes without saying, is to facilitate horse-trading and defections,” Abdullah added.
The NC vice-president said the party would challenge the “undemocratic action” in the court of law.
The party MPs raised the issue in the lower house of the parliament; in addition to that the dubious mode and manner in which the elections for DDC chairman were held at Budgam was also brought to the notice of the J-K SEC KK Sharma.
The party has also brought the issue in public domain through the media. We will take a legal recourse as well and challenge the undemocratic exercise in the court of law,” he said.
The National Conference (NC) has already taken up the issue with State Election Commissioner K K Sharma.
The party’s Member of Parliament Hasnain Masoodi had raised the issue of “unfair mode of selection” of DDC chairman Budgam with Sharma, terming the entire exercise a “clear violation of law and rules”.
“It is the betrayal of people”s mandate. The mode and manner in which the entire exercise was conducted has already been brought to light by nine DDC members of Budgam district with the media,” he said.
The group of nine elected DDC members from Budgam had held a protest here on Tuesday, demanding re-election for the post of chairperson.
Earlier this week, Nazir Ahmad Khan — an independent DDC member — was elected as the chairperson, while Nazir Ahmad Jahara of NC was elected as the vice-chairperson of the council.
The PAGD is an amalgam of six parties, including the NC and the PDP, seeking the restoration of the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir which was revoked by the Centre in August 2019.
In Bandipora, the candidate of PAGD, Abdul Gani Bhat from the NC was elected the chairperson, while Kaunsar Shafeeq of the PDP was elected as the vice-chairperson, the officials said.
They said Bhat polled seven votes out of the total 13, while Shafeeq secured eight votes.
One of the 14 DDC seats in the district is vacant as the result has not been declared yet. The counting of the votes in two DDC constituencies has been kept in abeyance to clear doubts over the citizenship of two of the contesting candidates from Bandipora and Kupwara districts.
Two persons hailing from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), who are married to former militants, are among the contestants from the Dragmulla, in Kupwara, and Hajin-A, in Bandipora, constituencies.
In Baramulla, where the election was postponed earlier this week due to lack of quorum, an independent candidate Safina Baig won the poll for the post of the chairperson, while Sonullah Parrey of Peoples Conference bagged the position of the vice-chairperson, the officials said.
They said Baig, the wife of former PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig, polled 10 votes, while her rival got only four.
For the post of the vice-chairperson, Parrey and an independent candidate Irfan Hafiz Lone got seven votes each, they said.
The officials said a draw of lots was then held to determine the winner, by virtue of which Parrey was declared as elected.
The PAGD has won five chairperson posts in the valley after the successes in Kulgam, Ganderbal, Pulwama and Anantnag.
In Jammu, while independents won both the posts in Poonch district, voting could not take place in the three districts of Ramban, Rajouri and Kishtwar where PAGD enjoys the majority and was poised to head the DDCs with support from Congress or independents.
The National Conference which along with the Peoples Democratic Party is the main constituent of the PAGD, which emerged the largest party in Ramban and Kishtwar by winning six seats each, besides five seats in Rajouri district.
Against the requirement of 10 members out of total 14, only nine members each, mostly from PAGD and Congress, attended the meeting in Rajouri, Ramban and Kishtwar districts, prompting the concerned district panchayat election officers to adjourn the meetings citing lack of quorum, the officials said.
They said the date for the second meeting would be notified by the authorities separately but the quorum for the second meeting will be eight as the rules mandate that election will take place if only simple majority is present.
While Kishtwar and Ramban are reserved for women, Poonch is reserved for scheduled tribe woman and Rajouri for Scheduled Tribes.
However, elections were held in Poonch district where independent candidate Tazim Akhtar was elected to the post of chairperson and Mohammad Ashfaq won the post of vice chairperson.
“I will work with passion to ensure development of the border district,” Akhtar said after becoming the first DDC chairperson in Poonch.
Akhtar was among eight independents who had won the maiden DDC elections held in November-December last year from Poonch. Congress had got four territorial constituencies and National Conference (NC) two in the district.
In Kishtwar, NC DDC member from Thakrai territorial constituency, Shareefa Begum along with a sarpanch Farooq Ahmad joined J&K Apni Party (JKAP) on the day of the voting.
Senior National Conference leader from Ramban Sajad Shaheen accused the BJP of using different tactics to pressurize DDC members into submission.
“The DDC members are being offered money and bungalows to change their loyalties. Those who are not ready are being threatened along with their families,” he claimed.
In the earlier three phases covering six districts of Jammu, Kathua, Samba, Udhampur, Doda and Reasi, the BJP had won six DDC chairpersons’ and five vice-chairpersons’ posts, while one vice chairperson post was secured by an independent candidate in Reasi district.