In J&K Local Polls, Gupkar Alliance Wins Big In Kashmir, BJP In Jammu

The Farooq Abdullah-led Gupkar alliance has won big in the first local polls in Jammu and Kashmir since it lost special status last year and was turned into a Union Territory. In the first-ever polls to District Development Council (DDC) polls across 20 districts in J&K, the seven-party alliance, along with the Congress, has won 13 districts. The BJP has won in six districts in Jammu. The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration — a grouping of mainstream J&K-based parties including rivals National Conference of Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – has won more than 100 seats; the BJP has emerged as the single largest party with 74 seats. The Congress has won 26 seats. Voting was held in 280 seats – 14 in each of the 20 districts of the union territory. Results have been declared for all but two seats. As expected, the alliance scored in Kashmir while the BJP won most seats in Jammu. In Kashmir, the Farooq Abdullah-led alliance scored win in 72 seats, the BJP in just three seats.  While Alliance is forming its government in 9 district councils, Srinagar district still remains undecided as independents are leading in the district and it’s unclear which way they will go. In Jammu province, the BJP won 71 seats, scoring in Jammu, Udhampur, Samba, Kathua, Reasi and Doda.  The National Conference and Congress have won 45 seats, securing a victory in the Poonch, Rajouri, Kishtwar and Ramban districts. The National Conference and PDP alleged that many of their leaders had been detained before the results. Senior PDP leader Waheed Parra, arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in a terror funding case, won from Pulwama. The BJP, after winning for the first time in Kashmir, called it a “wave of change” in the Valley. Three of its candidates won in their seats against the National Conference and PDP. Senior BJP leader and Union minister Jitendra Singh said, “Three BJP candidates have won from Srinagar. It is testimony to the fact that people of Jammu and Kashmir believe in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for the development of the Union Territory.” But Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti said the results made it clear that the people of Jammu and Kashmir had rejected the Centre’s decision to end special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 in August last year. “I understand the temptation to overplay the three seats the BJP has won in the valley but why underplay the 35 wins/leads of the (Gupkar alliance) in Jammu province,” Omar Abdullah tweeted. “The people of J&K have given their decision on what they think about 2019. They do not support it. They have overwhelmingly rejected BJP’s propaganda,” the National Conference leader told NDTV. The alliance said it had fought against many odds. Its leaders barely campaigned for the polls. They alleged that their candidates were not allowed to campaign and were confined in security enclosures. The National Conference and PDP also alleged that many of their leaders had been detained before the results. Farooq Abdullah is also battling investigations by the Enforcement Directorate for money-laundering allegations linked to the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association. His properties, including two houses in Srinagar and Jammu, were recently attached by investigators. The Gupkar Alliance was formed to fight for restoration of special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Many of its leaders, like Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and others were detained soon after the changes as part of the centre’s unprecedented security crackdown in J&K. The Abdullahs were released in March while Mehbooba Mufti was freed after over a year in October. When the polls were announced , the Gupkar alliance announced it would field joint candidates and even issued a list of “unanimous” choices for the first few rounds of voting. The unity was short-lived because of the tussle over seat-sharing. The allies ended up fighting each other by fielding proxy candidates. In some seats, the parties openly fielded candidates against each other. The district councils are meant to drive development through direct funding from the Centre. The DDCs, in the absence of an assembly, will be the link between the people and the government in Jammu and Kashmir and each council chairperson will enjoy the status of a junior minister.

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