New sons & daughters rise in Jammu in DDC polls

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Stalwarts of all parties suffer setback as greenhorns end their monopoly on politics

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU: With their victories in the recently held District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir, a new breed of young political aspirants-particularly females-has overturned the decades old monopoly of the traditional leaders over politics and development in Jammu’s Muslim belt.
Bordering Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), the Muslim-dominated districts of Poonch and Rajouri wrote a new political history as it was arguably for the first time in an election that individuals mattered more than parties.
In Poonch, independent candidates demolished the traditional politicians and established parties in as many as 8 of the 14 constituencies. The Congress and the National Conference (NC) had to be content with 4 and 2 seats respectively. Even in the established political parties, voters preferred new, unfamiliar faces.
The most interesting electoral battle was played between the District President of the Congress, Choudhary Abdul Ghani, and the District President of the BJP, Mohammad Rafiq, in 11-Poonch and their daughters, namely Dr Nazia Ghani and Sehrish Rafiq, in 10-NSSB. Ghani (Congress) defeated Rafiq (BJP) with a margin of 3,669 votes. Nazia (Congress) defeated Sehrish (BJP) with a margin of 3,170 votes. Thus two seats were bagged by one family.
Ghani has served over 25 years in Congress but never became MLA, MLC or Minister. In the 2014 Assembly elections, he polled around 15,000 votes but lost to PDP’s Shah Mohammad Tantray. Ghani’s 32-year-old daughter, Nazia, who works at a clinic after completing BDS from Institute of Dental Sciences, Sehora, Jammu, is a greenhorn in politics. She is hopeful of her father becoming Chairperson of the DDC with the support of some independent winners.
“As our home constituency was declared reserved for women, I emerged as a consensus candidate of the people and the party. I took this challenge. Now I will be full time in politics but wouldn’t hesitate to serve my people as a dentist if I get some time”, Nazia, still unmarried, told STATE TIMES. In future, she has her eyes on Assembly.
Contractor Choudhary Masood fielded daughter-in-law, Rukhsana Kousar, on the Congress ticket in Lasana and another daughter-in-law, Tazeem Akhtar, as an independent in Sathra. Both returned victorious. Both Rukhsana, who has completed her Masters in English from the University of Jammu, as well as Tazeem, who has done B.A. from Degree College Poonch, are now aspiring for ‘bigger roles’ in politics. Either of them, for sure, would be contesting the next Assembly election.
“Self-styled leaders from Poonch used to exploit the local populations and settle in Jammu, 225 Km away. They never used to be available to redress grievances and day-to-day problems of their electors as they all live like princes in palatial houses in Jammu. Contrarily, I came from Jammu to Poonch. I am married here and this is my permanent home. I will serve my people all my life”, Rukhsana said in an interview with STATE TIMES.
Like in Poonch, two members of a family have won the DDC elections in Rajouri and two more in Doda district.
In Kalakote (Rajouri), BJP’s former MLA and Minister Abdul Gani Kohli has suffered a setback as his candidate Vipan Kumar lost to NC’s Rameshwar Singh in 5-Dhangri and BJP’s Sushma Thakur lost to NC’s Anita Thakur in 7-Kalakote. Kohli, an influential Gujjar leader and son-in-law of the most popular Gujjar leader Mian Bashir Ahmad, who was BJP’s only Muslim MLA and Minister in the PDP-BJP government, had put his entire weight behind the BJP candidates who were defeated.
The political bigwigs who were defeated by new faces in Poonch included NC’s former MLC, Dr Shehnaz Ganai, whose father has in the past served as a Minister and MLA. She lost to NC’s former MLA Ghulam Mohammad Jan’s wife, Ateeqa Begam, whose son Aijaz Jan was returned as NC’s MLA in 2008 from Poonch. Shehnaz, who has resigned from the NC, contested as an independent candidate.
Senior NC leader Javed Rana’s son, Zeeshan Rana, lost to an independent candidate, Mohammad Ashfaq, from 9-Mendhar-C (Poonch). Javed Rana has served several terms as MLA and MLC. Former Congress stalwart Choudhary Aslam’s son, Choudhary Akram, lost to a rebel Congress candidate Mohammad Shahnawaz from 13-Surankote-A with a big margin. Akram’s father had served as MLA, Minister and Speaker of Assembly. Shahnawaz’s victory is seen as a huge setback for the Congress and its senior leaders in Jammu.
While the BJP District President Mohammad Rafiq lost to the Congress District President Choudhary Ghani, ex-MLA Shah Mohammad Tantray, who has joined Apni Party after his resignation from the PDP, has lost to an independent candidate, Riyaz Choudhary, in 4-Loran (Poonch).

In Rajouri district, retired Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Iqbal Malik achieved the distinction of becoming the BJP’s first candidate in any election across India who has won in a 100% Muslim voter constituency. Malik, who contested but lost two Assembly elections after his retirement as an officer of the Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS), was returned on the BJP ticket from 4-Darhal with an impressive margin. He defeated Parvez Rashid, the grandson of the NC stalwart Mirza Abdul Rashid. Mirza has served as Speaker of Assembly and Member of Rajya Sabha.
Interestingly, in 10-Nowshera, the home constituency of BJP’s J&K President, Ravinder Raina, PDP’s Manohar Singh has defeated the BJP candidate Mohinder Singh with a substantial margin.
In 6-Doongi (Rajouri), veteran politician Choudhary Talib Hussain’s son-in-law Asif is among the candidates defeated by NC’s new face Khalid Hussain. Talib Hussain was NC’s Lok Sabha member from Jammu-Poonch and also a Cabinet Minister in GM Shah’s government in 1984-85.
PDP’s former MLA of Darhal and ex-Minister Choudhary Zulfikar, who has joined Apni Party, cut a sorry figure in Budhal Old-A. An independent candidate Shazia Kousar defeated and pushed Zulfikar’s wife Zubaida Begum to the slot of 2nd runner-up. Shazia contested her maiden election after resigning as a government school teacher in Jammu. Interestingly, she is the wife of Choudhary Zulfikar’s nephew Javed Iqbal.

Zulfikar’s stake among the bigwigs in Rajouri was the highest as he ran a concerted campaign for his wife. Son of four-times MLA and ex-Minister late Choudhary Mohammad Hussain, Zulfikar was returned as PDP’s MLA from Darhal in 2008 and 2014. In the PDP-BJP Government in 2015-18, he served as a Cabinet Minister. After quitting PDP, he has joined Apni Party and is currently its Vice President for Jammu

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