THE Jammu and Kashmir administration has placed recently elected District Development Council (DDC) chairpersons at serial number 26 in the new warrant of precedence which among others includes Divisional Commissioners, Inspector Generals of Police, joint secretaries to the union government and officers of equivalent rank besides the administrative secretaries and officers of the rank of Major General or equivalent rank. The DDC vice-chairpersons have been placed at serial number 27, equivalent to the vice-chancellors of universities.
Similarly, the DDC members along with Block Development Council members and president of municipal councils and municipalities will enjoy the protocol like that of district magistrates, officers of the rank of Brigadier and equivalent, major heads of departments and district and session judges.
With the warrant of precedence being set, the DDCs are bound to take centre stage in J&K even as Assembly polls and statehood remain elusive. The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, a grouping of Kashmiri parties seeking restoration of J&K autonomy, won 110 out of 280 seats in the DDC elections. This made it a favourite to gain power in 12 districts. But it ended up controlling just eight districts – five in Kashmir Valley and three in Jammu. On the other hand, the BJP won the posts of chairpersons in six districts, the BJP allied Apni Party in two and the People’s Conference in one. The other three districts were won by the independent candidates. Among the PAGD’s eight seats, the NC candidates won six and the PDP and the Communist Party won one each.
Congress has been the biggest loser. It controls no district despite winning 26 seats. It, however, managed to win the vice-chairperson posts in Kishtwar and Rajouri districts with the support of the PAGD. This is a sad turn of events for a party that was a major political player in J&K before 2014. It was a part of the two successive governments, one with the PDP and another with the NC.
Be that as it may, the DDCs are all that J&K has in terms of democratic governance in the absence of assembly elections. With the J&K administration extending the time of the Delimitation Commission by one more year, there is no way elections will be held in the next one and a half. So, people will have to make do with the DDCs only. But their function will be strictly developmental in nature. They have no political role. This makes the DDCs an extension of the bureaucracy. For a real democracy to work it has to give voice to the political aspirations of the people. And for that to happen the government should work towards holding assembly elections in right earnest.
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