As J&K waits for polls, 2 DDC seat results are reality check for parties

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The results of the two District Development Council (DDC) seats that went to polls on December 5 were declared on Thursday. The re-polling for these two seats — Dragmulla in Kupwara and Hajin in Bandipore — was conducted two years after the State Election Commission stopped the counting of votes, following complaints that two women from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) had stood as candidates.

Over these two years, the politics and political structure in Kashmir have seen some major changes, including the birth of new political parties, the changing loyalties of political leaders, and an effort to dismantle the traditional electoral politics in Kashmir.

In this backdrop, the results of these two seats may not seem significant, but there is a lesson for each political party and alliance in the outcomes — from the National Conference, to the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), from Sajad Lone’s Peoples Conference to the political grouping named People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), now a fractured alliance of National Conference, PDP, CPI(M) and the Awami National Conference.

In Kupwara’s Dragmulla seat, Shabnum Lone, the candidate backed by the Peoples Conference two years ago, was seeking votes this time for pen and inkpot — the election symbol of the PDP, while the National Conference was rallying behind an Independent candidate.

At the end, the National Conference-backed Independent, advocate Sheikh Aamina defeated the Peoples Conference candidate by a razor-thin margin of 39 votes.

For the Peoples Conference that considers Kupwara as its stronghold and has presence in only few other places beyond the frontier district, it was a reality check — that future elections will not be a cakewalk for its candidates, even in a district where it has its strongest presence. The result also shows that the kind of fractured mandate that the two seats have witnessed would open opportunities for every party or a local leader to score in the coming elections.

This has been amply showed by the results of the Hajin seat. Though a stronghold of National Conference and Peoples Conference, the seat was won by a candidate backed by Altaf Bukhari’s Apni Party.

For the PAGD, there is a lesson too — that if the alliance failed to put up a joint front, smaller parties backed by the BJP could very well eat into their vote banks, making it difficult for them to form a government on their own.

Over the last two years, Jammu and Kashmir has seen the birth of several new political parties, including Ghulam Nabi Azad’s Democratic Azad Party (DAP). As and when these new political parties jump into the electoral fray, it would further fracture the mandate and provide opportunity for local leaders and smaller parties to spring a surprise.

The message from these results is also that the people have not forgotten the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status by the Centre in August 2019. They have rallied behind local parties that bank on the sentiment of the restoration of the special status. The BJP crucially failed to leave a mark, despite a favourable administration.



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