SRINAGAR: Buoyed by its performance in the recently concluded district level local body polls in Jammu and Kashmir, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) has now stepped up efforts for control over the District Development Councils in those districts where no party or alliance has gained a majority.
The PAGD has got a clear majority in six districts, followed by the BJP in five in the first-ever DDC election. However, the alliance of seven mainstream regional parties has got an edge over the saffron party in six other districts as it is just short of one or two seats for the majority, while the BJP is in the driver’s seat in one district.
Independent candidates, who have won 50 seats across the Union Territory, hold sway in the rest of the two districts — Srinagar and Poonch — where they have won seven and eight seats, respectively.
Congress, on the other hand, can play the role of king-maker in the districts where there is no majority for any party even though it has ended up with only 26 seats across 20 districts – 10 each in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu division — and has already indicated that it is committed to ‘checkmate’ the BJP wherever possible.
There are 280 DDC constituencies 14 each in 20 districts and so far the results for 278 have been declared. The results of two DDC constituencies are awaited as the counting of votes has been kept in abeyance to clear doubts over the citizenship of two of the contesting candidates from north Kashmir’s Bandipora and Kupwara districts.
“The counting of votes was deferred in Drugmulla constituency (Kupwara district) and Hajin-A (Bandipora) in view of a question that has arisen on the eligibility of one each contesting candidates from the two seats,’’ J&K State Election Commissioner, KK Sharma had said.
Two persons hailing from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), who are married to former militants, are among the contestants from the Dragmulla and Hajin-A constituencies.
With the focus shifting on the selection of DDC chairpersons among the 14 elected representatives for each district, sources said hectic activities have started as both rival camps – PAGD and BJP — are trying to garner the support of Independents to wrest control over maximum districts through their own chairpersons.
The PAGD, which among others includes regional heavyweights National Conference and PDP, swept the DDC polls by winning 110 seats, while the BJP emerged as the single largest party by getting 74 seats including three in the Kashmir valley. J&K Apni Party has won 12 seats, PDF and National Panthers Party (NPP) two each and BSP one.
Congress Chief Spokesperson Ravinder Sharma said no formal talks have been started with PAGD with whom it had entered into a seat-sharing agreement before the DDC elections.
“The Government is yet to issue a notification as some seats have to be reserved for women, Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribes. The process is to be completed within a month after the declaration of results,” Sharma said.
He, however, added, “As far as Congress is concerned, it is committed to checkmate the BJP wherever possible. But other non-BJP parties and independents, who are opposed to BJP’s policies, have to work simultaneously in that direction to prevent any horse trading or use of their party and government machinery by the ruling party.”
Sharma said the BJP has got clear majority only in five out of 20 districts whereas in rest of the 15 districts it’s non-BJP parties like Congress and others or Independents who can form the DDCs.
The DDC will become a new unit of governance in the Union Territory, replacing the earlier district planning and development boards which used to be headed by a cabinet minister in the erstwhile state to oversee the functions of the Halqa Panchayats and the Block Development Councils in tandem with the line departments.
The central government brought legislation on October 16 through an amendment to the J&K Panchayati Raj Act, which includes the formation of DDC and a district planning committee. The Centre said by doing so it was paving the way for strengthening grassroots-level democracy.
The J&K administration has also amended the J&K Panchayati Raj Rules, 1996, to provide for the establishment of elected DDCs in J&K, thus fully implementing the 73rd and 74th amendment of the Constitution in the erstwhile state which was stripped of special status under Article 370 and bifurcated into two union territories last year.
The eight-phased DDC elections were held from November 28 to December 19 and the counting of votes took place on December 22.
(With PTI inputs)