The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making progress in the urban local body polls in Kashmir Valley by winning 60 municipal wards unopposed, mainly in volatile South Kashmir. In Shopian distict alone, all Kashmiri Pandit candidates fielded by the BJP have been elected .
This comes after most regional parties, including the National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), decided to boycott the polls accusing the Centre of not clarifying its stand on Article 35A of the Constitution, which grants special rights and privileges to the residents of the state.
In Shopian district, BJP fielded candidates in 13 out of 17 wards and won unopposed. Out of the 13 candidates who won, 11 are Kashmiri Pandits. No nominations have been submitted in the remaining four wards.
In Devsar Municipal Committee, the BJP won all eight seats unopposed.
BJP General Secretary Ashok Koul says the party has won all wards unopposed from Qazigund Municipal Council and Devsar area.
Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra said the Congress party and the BJP have won unopposed from several wards.
The highest number of unopposed winners, 43, are from Budgam district of central Kashmir. In volatile South Kashmir, 31 candidates have won unopposed from Anantnag district and 16 from Kulgam district.
At least 143 candidates have been elected unopposed in the first two phases of the Urban Local Body polls.
However, officials say things will become clear on October 5, which is the last date of filing nominations.
“National Conference and the PDP have committed a blunder by not being part of the democratic exercise. If due to their blunder something good is happening and new faces are coming up in Kashmir, it is an achievement,” says Arun Gupta, BJP state spokesman.
Gupta says candidates who will emerge after the elections would give a new shape to Kashmir politics. “For long, only two families have ruled Kashmir. Now, real democracy will flourish from the grassroots level,” he says.
The local body elections for 422 municipal wards-175 in Kashmir and 247 in Jammu- will be held in four phases between October 8 and October 16. In J&K, there are 79 municipal corporations, councils and committees.
A total of 16.97 lakh voters will be eligible to cast their votes.
Panchayat elections will be held in nine phases between November 17 and December 11.
The last elected municipal body had completed its five-year term in March 2010 and since then no election was conducted. Officials say around 58 lakh electorate will be eligible to vote in the 35,096 panchayat constituencies.