- The BJP has won in six districts in Jammu
- First local polls in Jammu and Kashmir since it lost special status
- National Conference, PDP alleged many leaders detained before the results
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 under Article 370 and was turned into two Union Territories. In the first-ever District Development Council (DDC) polls across 20 districts in J&K, the seven-party alliance, along with the Congress, has won in 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 but 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 72 seats, the BJP won three seats. While the alliance will take charge of 9 district councils, Srinagar district remains undecided as independents have won and it is unclear which way they will go. Independent candidates have emerged as big winners with 49 seats, which places them ahead of the Congress and the PDP.
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 BJP, after winning for the first time in Kashmir, said “the lotus has bloomed” in the Valley.
“BJP got over 4.5 lakh votes, which is more than National Conference, PDP and Congress combined. BJP is also the single-largest party. J&K has given a resounding slap to the terrorists, extremists, and separatists,” said Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
“The voter turnout in Kashmir, especially in places known as ‘hotbeds of terror’, has been much higher than in previous elections, before the scrapping of Article 370,” he added.
Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, however, said the results made it clear that the people of Jammu and Kashmir had rejected the Centre’s decision to abrogate 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.
I understand the temptation to over play the 3 seats the BJP has won in the valley but why underplay the 35 wins/leads of the @JKPAGD in Jammu province. We aren’t Kashmir based parties, we are political parties with strong support in both Kashmir AND Jammu.
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) December 22, 2020
“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. Senior PDP leader Waheed Parra, arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in a terror funding case, won from Pulwama.
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. “This election has proved that no matter what you do against National Conference, you can’t put an end to its existence. Only Almighty or public has that power. Spread lies and propaganda but truth will come out someday,” said Omar Abdullah.
The Gupkar Alliance was formed to fight for the 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.