Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
While Farooq Abdullah’s Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (NC) has retained its monopoly in most of the elections over its fortress of Srinagar in the last several decades, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been sweeping elections in the Jammu district-particularly since 2014.
In the just concluded District Development Council (DDC) elections, however, the NC has suffered a setback as it has bagged only one out of the 14 seats in the summer capital district of Srinagar. On the other hand, NC’s arch rival, the BJP, has retained control over 11 seats and lost not more than 3 in the winter capital district of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The DDC elections were limited to only the rural and the semi-urban neighbourhoods as the urban residents of the two capitals were not entitled to vote. They have such rights in the municipal corporation elections in Srinagar and Jammu which have already been held for a 5-year term in 2018.
Of the 14 seats on the outskirts of Srinagar, the NC has won only one. Its allies in the Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), namely the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the J&K Peoples Movement (JKPM), have also taken one each. With this, the PAGD has scored victory on just 3 seats and lost as many as 11 in Srinagar.
The BJP has got one seat from Khonmoh where its senior youth leader Aijaz Hussain Rather has been declared elected. This is the first seat the BJP has ever won in any elections in Kashmir. (The party got two more seats in the DDC elections in Kashmir, each from Tulail in Bandipora district and Kakpora in the militant-infested Pulwama district).
BJP retains monopoly with 11 seats in Jammu; NC loses control over Srinagar, gets only 1 seat
Altaf Bukhari’s Apni Party (AP), which was not in an alliance with the BJP but is perceived to be BJP-friendly, bagged 3 seats in Srinagar. Remaining 7 seats went to different independent candidates. Getting just 3 seats in Srinagar is perceived to be a setback for the PAGD, particularly the NC.
With the exception of the Lok Sabha and the Assembly elections of 2014, the NC has retained monopoly in almost all the elections in Srinagar district after 1975. In the interim Lok Sabha elections of April 2017, the NC reclaimed its base in Srinagar. It got maximum votes in all but one segment in the Lok Sabha elections of 2019 when the NC swept all the three seats in Kashmir.
It was only due to the NC’s and the PDP’s boycott of the Panchayat and the Urban Local Body elections of 2018 that the Peoples Conference (PC), the BJP, the Congress and many independent candidates won most of the seats in the 74-ward SMC.
In the winter capital district of Jammu, the BJP has forfeited only 3 seats to the opposition and retained control on 11 seats. The NC candidate Shameem Begam polled 15,012 votes while defeating BJP’s Nasreen Akhtar in Dansal. Nasreen polled 14,268 votes.
Of the 2 independent winners in Jammu, Balbir Lal with 15,056 votes was returned from Marh, the rural area represented in the Assembly in the past by veteran Ministers like NC’s Ajay Sadhotra and BJP’s Sukhnandan Choudhary. Balbir defeated BJP’s Vandana Kumari who polled 14,331 votes.
Independent candidate Taranjit Singh, who polled 12,969 votes, defeated BJP’s former MLA and Minister Sham Lal Choudhary from the border constituency of Suchetgarh.
Brother of a local media baron, Choudhary polled 12,958 votes and lost to the independent candidate with a tiny margin of 11 votes.