DDC Elections have come as a ray of hope in J&K

    27-Dec-2020
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Farooq Wani
 
 
 
 
 

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There is a good scope of a new breed of dedicated politicians emerging in every district in this scenario. Some of them will contest the assembly elections in the future. Most probably, many of them might succeed in replacing those veteran politicians who have been neglecting the masses. Undoubtedly, regional parties will have to face the tough challenge afoot in the changing political scenario of J&K
Jammu & Kashmir has been bearing the brunt of militancy since the late 1980s. The people suffered tremendously for more than three decades. Many have acquired an indifferent outlook about the future. Thus, on August 5, 2019, when the Union Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, announced the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two union territories (JK and Ladakh), the public response was muted. It was largely believed that this move would not lead to any meaningful improvement in the prevailing condition, particularly in the Kashmir Valley.
 
After the abrogation of Article 370, several changes in-laws were incorporated to authenticate all procedures pertaining to the Union Territory (UT) of J&K and District Development Council (DDC) polls was amongst the main features of these constitutional changes. The UT administration had amended the J&K Panchayati Raj Act in October 2019 so as to facilitate the setting up of DDCs in each district, which would have directly elected members. The move marked the implementation of the entire 73rd Constitutional Amendment in the UT.
 
With the maiden DDC polls, J&K witnessed its first elections since being reorganised as a UT. This election was held in a phased manner from November 28 and culminated on December 18. With 2,178 candidates contesting for 280 seats, public aspiration of the democratic process in J&K is more than evident.
 
The Gupkar Alliance, an amalgam of six regional parties, came into being due to a series of meetings held at the residence of National Conference (NC) chief Farooq Abdullah on the high-profile Gupkar Road in Srinagar. PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti too has her residence in the same locality; after her release in October, the Gupkar Declaration was formalised as the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), the main motive for its formation was to seek restoration of Article 370 and statehood as well as to keep Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) away from Kashmir Valley politics.
 
However, despite its weak standing in Kashmir, the BJP showed no sign of relenting and left no stone unturned in its attempts to create a strong base. The coming of traditional political rivals on a single platform created history in J&K politics and sent shock waves within political circles all over. Political pundits are of the opinion that this formidable alliance could well become a major political front in the future.
 
Congress was earlier part of the PAGD but after facing severe criticism from its senior leaders in Delhi, was forced to part ways with the alliance. But this decision didn’t cause much harm to the PAGD as all the Congress could bag a measly 26 seats in the DDC polls. Son of star JK Congress leader GA Mir tasted defeat in elections. The performance of independent candidates has been very impressive.
 
Though the Gupkar Alliance emerged as the frontrunner with 110 seats, it was the BJP with 75 seats that became single largest seat garnering party in J&K. However, while its landslide victory in the Jammu region was expected all along, no one ever believed that it could win even a single seat in the Kashmir Valley. But the BJP surprised political analysts by successfully making inroads in the Kashmir Valley by winning three DDC seats-one each in Srinagar, Pulwama and Bandipora. Reacting to this win, BJP National spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain said that “the first lotus has bloomed in Kashmir.” Such has been the impact that national daily Hindustan Times carried news of BJP’s Srinagar win under the caption “DDC election: BJP’s Aijaz Hussain wins from Khonmoh-II, gives party first victory in Srinagar!”
 
Though the Gupkar Alliance emerged as the frontrunner with 110 seats, it was the BJP with 75 seats that became single largest seat garnering party in J&K. However, while its landslide victory in the Jammu region was expected all along, no one ever believed that it could win even a single seat in the Kashmir Valley. But the BJP surprised political analysts by successfully making inroads in the Kashmir Valley by winning three DDC seats-one each in Srinagar, Pulwama and Bandipora 
Asserting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision has won his party three maiden seats in the DDC elections, Hussain feels that this victory ‘marks a change of wave’ in the Valley. This win speaks of two stories -- one of a conquest by the BJP, marking the beginning of a new era in Valley, and the other, a strong message to Gupkar’ Gang’ that the end of divisive and dynastic politics as well as playing with public emotions to garner votes is near.
In this back-drop, assets worth Rs 11.86 crore of NC president Farooq Abdullah have been attached by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association (JKCA) money laundering case. PDP youth leader, Wahid Para who won from his home town Pulwama, was also briefly detained by the NIA in the DSP Davinder Singh case.
 
This election makes it absolutely clear that everyone participated enthusiastically to strengthen democracy at the grassroots level for the development and taking the UT to new heights so that welfare schemes can reach every household.
 
There is a good scope of a new breed of dedicated politicians emerging in every district in this scenario. Some of them will contest the assembly elections in the future. Most probably, many of them might succeed in replacing those veteran politicians who have been neglecting the masses. Undoubtedly, regional parties will have to face the tough challenge afoot in the changing political scenario of J&K.
 
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, who is at the helm of affairs, has handled the prevailing volatile situation very well. It stands proven that his administrative acumen is very high. He must impress upon the DDC representatives that they should work wholeheartedly to live up to the people's expectations by delivering on the ground so that the damage caused by successive governments in the past is undone and J&K sees new dawn of development and prosperity.
 
(The writer is Editor - Brighter Kashmir, columnist, political analyst and TV Commentator)