THE outcome of the District Development Council election has been along predictable lines. The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration has done well in Kashmir Valley and the Muslim majority parts of Jammu while as the BJP has done well in Hindu majority areas of Jammu. Going by the number of seats the PAGD has won, it can take control of around 14 DDCs. The PAGD can now also claim the outcome is a vote for restoration of Article 370. The BJP, on the other hand, claims it has won more votes in its core constituency, so the decision to abrogate Article 370 has public support.
The BJP had deployed its major leaders to the region to campaign – Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Shahnawaz Khan, Smriti Irani, Anurag Thakur traveled far and wide to address election rallies. The home minister Amit Shah also weighed in by framing the election as a battle between nationalist and anti-national forces, the BJP’s favourite electoral trope. He called the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) “a gang”, a label that is since being reiterated by the BJP leaders.
The eight-phase polls which began from November 28 were announced all of a sudden. But the Gupkar alliance was quick to declare its participation taking many people by surprise as earlier the utterances of its top leaders like Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti had indicated they won’t be taking part in the exercise. This seemed to indicate that the PAGD was reluctant to fight polls as some quarters had expressed apprehensions that this would normalise the revocation of Article 370. But the PAGD decision has belied such expectations.
The PAGD rationalised its decision to participate as a bid to reclaim the political space, cautioning that doing otherwise would enable the BJP and its allied parties to fill in the vacuum and control the levers of power. The grouping also argued that strengthening its political presence at the district level will add force to its position that Article 370 was revoked without consulting people of J&K.
Given the powers the DDCs have been given, they have become the kind of mini-assemblies and it has thus become important for Gupkar alliance to control these to enhance its political clout.
These huge stakes make the role of the DDCs profoundly significant. For one, the campaigning and the polling associated with them has brought back the political activity to J&K after a hiatus of sixteen months. This, in turn, also confronts the BJP with its biggest political challenge in the region. The PAGD dominated DDCs are expected to assert. But primarily the DDCs are for the development of the former state and their performance will be judged by how they deliver on the ground.
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