Srinagar: Elections for posts of chairperson and vice-chairpersons of the District Development Council (DDC) were held in two districts of Kashmir in the final phase on Saturday, while a lack of quorum forced adjournment of polls in three of the four districts in Jammu region.
In the fifth and the last phase of the polls, the chairpersons and vice-chairpersons for the DDCs in Baramulla and Bandipora, both in north Kashmir, were elected on Saturday, the officials said.
They said that People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) won the election for the post of the chairperson in Bandipora district and an independent candidate won from Baramulla.
The PAGD is an amalgam of six parties, including the NC and the PDP, seeking the restoration of the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir which was revoked by the Centre in August 2019.
Independent candidate Safeena Baigh wife of former Deputy Chief Minister of PDP Muzaffar Hussain Baigh was elected chairperson for the post of District Development Council (DDC) Baramulla.
She won by the support of Peoples Conference led by Sajjad Gani Lone, the party which contested the elections as part of PAGD and parted ways with the amalgam constituted for Article 370 restoration soon after the election results were declared.
Muzaffar Hussain Beigh is officially associated with the PDP and his wife Safeena Beigh contested the elections as an independent candidate. Interestingly, Safeena defeated PDP candidate advocate Quratul Bashir for the post. While Safeena got ten votes, Quratul Bashir got only four votes.
On the other hand, the election for the post of vice chairperson went down to the wire with the winner from People’s Conference ultimately decided through a draw of lots. The PC candidate Sanullah Parray as well as independent candidate Irfan Hafiz Lone got seven votes each. The tie between the two prompted the election authorities to go for a draw of lots and Parray emerged victorious to be formally elected as the vice chairperson.
In Bandipora, the candidate of PAGD, Abdul Gani Bhat from the NC was elected the chairperson, while Kaunsar Shafeeq of the PDP was elected as the vice-chairperson, the officials said.
They said Bhat polled seven votes out of the total 13, while Shafeeq secured eight votes.
One of the 14 DDC seats in the district is vacant as the result has not been declared yet. The counting of the votes in two DDC constituencies has been kept in abeyance to clear doubts over the citizenship of two of the contesting candidates from Bandipora and Kupwara districts.
Two persons hailing from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir (PcK), who are married to former militants, are among the contestants from the Dragmulla, in Kupwara, and Hajin-A, in Bandipora, constituencies.
The PAGD has won five chairperson posts in the valley after the successes in Kulgam, Ganderbal, Pulwama and Anantnag.
In Jammu, while independents won both the posts in Poonch district, voting could not take place in the three districts of Ramban, Rajouri and Kishtwar where PAGD enjoys the majority and was poised to head the DDCs with support from Congress or independents.
The National Conference which along with the Peoples Democratic Party is the main constituent of the PAGD, which emerged the largest party in Ramban and Kishtwar by winning six seats each, besides five seats in Rajouri district.
Against the requirement of 10 members out of total 14, only nine members each, mostly from PAGD and Congress, attended the meeting in Rajouri, Ramban and Kishtwar districts, prompting the concerned district panchayat election officers to adjourn the meetings citing lack of quorum, the officials said.
They said the date for the second meeting would be notified by the authorities separately but the quorum for the second meeting will be eight as the rules mandate that election will take place if only a simple majority is present.
While Kishtwar and Ramban are reserved for women, Poonch is reserved for scheduled tribe women and Rajouri for Scheduled Tribes.
However, elections were held in Poonch district where independent candidate Tazim Akhtar was elected to the post of chairperson and Mohammad Ashfaq won the post of vice chairperson.
“I will work with passion to ensure development of the border district,” Akhtar said after becoming the first DDC chairperson in Poonch.
Akhtar was among eight independents who had won the maiden DDC elections held in November-December last year from Poonch. Congress had got four territorial constituencies and National Conference (NC) two in the district.
In Kishtwar, NC DDC member from Thakrai territorial constituency, Shareefa Begum along with a sarpanch Farooq Ahmad joined J&K Apni Party (JKAP) on the day of the voting.
Senior National Conference leader from Ramban Sajad Shaheen accused the BJP of using different tactics to pressurize DDC members into submission.
“The DDC members are being offered money and bungalows to change their loyalties. Those who are not ready are being threatened along with their families,” he claimed.
In the earlier three phases covering six districts of Jammu, Kathua, Samba, Udhampur, Doda and Reasi, the BJP had won six DDC chairpersons’ and five vice-chairpersons’ posts, while one vice chairperson post was secured by an independent candidate in Reasi district.
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