Srinagar, Jammu: The Farooq Abdullah-led People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration is heading for a big victory in the first local polls in Jammu and Kashmir since it lost its special status and was turned into a Union Territory last year. In the first-ever District Development Council (DDC) polls in J&K, regional parties surged ahead in Kashmir while the BJP kept an upper hand in the Jammu region.
In the latest leads, the Gupkar alliance — a grouping of seven mainstream J&K-based parties including rivals National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – is ahead in 114 seats; the BJP is leading in 72 seats. The Congress is ahead in 26.
In Jammu Province, the BJP is ahead in 69 seats while the Gupkar alliance is winning in 35. In Kashmir, the regional grouping is leading in a mammoth 79 seats while the BJP is ahead in three.
Voting was held in 280 seats – 14 in each of the 20 districts of Jammu & Kashmir — in eight phases over a period of 25 days. The Gupkar alliance and the Congress are likely to win 13 district councils while the BJP and its allies are set to take six districts.
But there were no celebrations on Gupkar road where Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, all former Chief Ministers, have homes. None of them campaigned for their candidates. They allege that their candidates were not allowed to campaign and confined in security enclosures – an allegation that has been denied by the central government.
Among Tuesday’s winners is PDP youth president Waheed Para, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency for alleged links with militants soon after he filed his nomination papers from Pulwama in Kashmir Valley.
The Gupkar Alliance was formed in protest against the massive constitutional changes on August 5 last year, in which Article 370 on special status to Jammu and Kashmir was abrogated and the state was turned into two union territories. 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. Though these were local polls, the results are seen as a sort of referendum on the changes in Jammu and Kashmir. Against a muted opposition, the BJP drafted central leaders, including union ministers, to campaign aggressively across Jammu and Kashmir.
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.