DDC polls: Some very interesting facts

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Prof Hari Om

JAMMU: The 8-phase first-ever electoral exercise to elect 20 District Development Councils (DDCs) in the UT of J&K’s 20 districts ended on December 19. Jammu province witnessed almost 70% voter turnout, as against Kashmir’s about 30%. Jammu witnessed 64% voter turnout in the first phase of poll, 65.5% in the second, 68.88% in the third, 69.31% in the fourth, 66.7% in the fifth, 68.56% in the sixth, 71.9% in the seventh and 72.7% in the final phase. As for Kashmir, it witnessed 36% voter turnout in the first phase of polls, 33.3% in the second, 31,61% in the third, 31.95% in the fourth, 33.57% in the fifth, 31.55% in the sixth, 39.52% in the seventh and 29.91% in the last phase of polls. These figures peak for themselves as far as the participation of Jammu province and Kashmir in the electoral exercise was concerned.
It’s time to catalogue some of the very interesting and significant facts concerning the just-concluded electoral exercise. The elections were held in a most peaceful environment across the UT. They voters ventured out of their houses on their own. There was no coercion. Poonch district and a couple of territorial constituencies both in Jammu and Kashmir did witness some violence. There were a couple of complaints of booth capturing also and these incidents took place both in Jammu and the Valley. All in all, the election authorities deserve kudos for the manner in which they conducted the electoral exercise.
It needs to be noted that Pakistan and PoJK-based terror outfits didn’t even once give poll boycott call. Similarly, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the in-Tihar Jail Yasin Malik-led JKLF, known for disrupting electoral processes in the Valley, also didn’t order the Kashmiri Muslim voters to hold themselves aloof from the electoral exercise.
The question to be asked is: Why they refrained from urging the Kashmiri Muslims to stay away? Was it a part of the larger and devious game plan? Did they want the Kashmiri Muslim voters to vote in large numbers for the seditious Gupkaris? Everyone knows that the Farooq Abdullah-led Gupkaris had sought to tell the Kashmiri electorate that the victory of the Gupkari candidates in Kashmir would be a sort of mini referendum against the August 5, 2019 abrogation of Articles 35A and 370 and J&K’s separate status? It’s a different story that a whopping 70% Kashmiri Muslim electorate didn’t exercise the right to franchise.
That 70% Kashmiri Muslim electorate didn’t participate in the electoral exercise was a significant aspect of the whole exercise. Even far more striking was the virtually no participation of internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus and the Kashmir-based Hindus in the electoral exercise. Only about 3% internally-displaced Kashmiri Hindus exercised their right to vote. Their non-participation could be construed as an utter failure of the political class in the UT in general and J&K BJP in particular. It could also be taken to mean their no-confidence in J&K BJP in the sense that its general secretary (Organization) is a Kashmiri Hindu, that it had elevated two Kashmiri Hindus to the status of MLC and that a number of other Kashmiri Hindus occupy important positions in the party. No wonder then that the local BJP leadership has considered their no-participation “a very serious matter”.
What did the main players in Jammu province and the Valley do to motivate voters to vote for their respective parties and formations? Convinced that the local BJP leadership had betrayed, humiliated and harmed and hurt the people of Jammu province and that it was at the receiving end, the party high command sent almost two dozen central leaders, including many Union Ministers, to the UT to woo the electorate. Theirs’ was an intense campaigning by any yardstick. They left no stone unturned to convert the electoral exercise into a battle between “nationalists and anti-nationals”. They used each and every opportunity to tear into the Gupkaris and the Congress, also a part of the Gupkaris.
As for the Gupkaris consisting of the Kashmir-based owners of the Kashmir-centric and one-community dominated NC, PDP, CPI, CPI-M, PC, JKPM, ANC and Congress, they hardly campaigned. Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti didn’t address even a single election rally. Of course, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah accused the Army and state machinery of “rigging polls in favour of BJP”. Indeed, a spurious charge. They story of Sajad Lone, MY Tarigami, Muzaffar Shah, to mention only three, was no different. They too didn’t campaign. Why? JKPCC chief GA Mir did address a couple of election rallies in Kashmir and visited Jammu twice to participate in anti-agrarian laws rallies. J&K Apni Party was in the poll fray but only in name. Its chief Altaf Bukhari addressed only a couple of conventions of party workers in Kashmir and he simply tried to dispel the impression that his was a party of the “agencies” and “B-team of the BJP”. Of course, he used the opportunity to expose the Bukharis.
As far as campaign in Jammu province was concerned, the Gupkaris and JK Apni Party left everything to the care of their Jammu-based supporters. Only three to four Jammu-based followers of the Gupkaris campaigned for the Congress and the Gupkari candidates and two to three Jammu-based supporters of Altaf Bukhari campaigned for a few days in a few selected territorial constituencies.
Interestingly, many followers of the Gupkaris, who were denied the mandate by the Gupkari leadership, contested against the official Gupkari candidates across the UT. And what was most significant was the admission of the Jammu-based JKPCC chief spokesperson that the Gupkari leadership “violated the seat-sharing agreement and fielded its candidates against the Congress candidates, particularly in Rajouri district. He, in fact, called the AICC bluff. The AICC had said that it had nothing to do with the Gupkaris despite the fact that GA Mir was a signatory to the break-India Gupkar Declaration.
Not just this. Bulk of the Gupkari/Congress candidates didn’t seek votes in the names of Sonia Gandhi, Abdullahs and Mehbooba Mufti. Nor did they flaunt the NC, the PDP and the Congress flags. More importantly, hardly any Gupkari/Congress candidate talked about Article 35A, Article 370 and J&K special status during the election campaign in Jammu. They plus the JKNPP only targeted the BJP and termed its policies “communal”, “divisive”, “non-secular” and “anti-people”. The IKKjutt Jammu was only political group which contested the polls on the Jammu-specific planks. Its other poll planks were: “Demographic invasion on Jammu, discrimination with Jammu, Roshni land scam, statehood for Jammu, deportation of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis and minority rights for the minority communities in the UT”.
It was clear from the election campaign that it was all versus the BJP. Who will win and who will lose? Wait till December 22, when the counting of votes will take place.

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