November 2018 News

BJP Ally's Man Is Srinagar Mayor, Congress's His Deputy

6 November 2018

Srinagar: Junaid Azim Mattu, the former National Conference (NC) spokesperson who quit his party to contest the Urban Local Body (ULB) polls in Jammu and Kashmir, was elected as Mayor of Srinagar Municipal Corporation on Tuesday, with support from People's Conference and BJP. Mattu secured 40 votes while Congress candidate for the mayoral post Ghulam Rasool Hajam got 26 votes in the 74-member SMC, Commissioner of the civic body Peer Hafizullah said. Mattu resigned from the primary membership of the NC in September after the party decided not to contest the urban local body polls till the Centre made clear its position on Article 35-A of the Constitution, which has been challenged before the Supreme Court. Mattu contested the SMC election as Independent from four wards, winning from three of them. He was announced as the mayoral candidate by Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone hours after the election results were declared on October 20. Meanwhile, Sheikh Imran, an independent corporator backed by Congress was elected Deputy Mayor Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC). Officials said that Sheikh Imran bagged 35 votes, while as the opposite candidate has bagged 34. The Congress emerged as the single largest party in the SMC with 16 seats but fell way short of 38, the number of seats required to take control of the corporation. While the Peoples Conference had four, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had five candidates elected to the corporation. There are 53 Independent corporators. Lone, who was a minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir from the BJP quota, is seen as instrumental in garnering support for Mattu's election, along with rebel PDP MLA and influential Shia leader Imran Raza Ansari. However, Mattu's election as Mayor of the SMC has been clouded by remarks of Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik during an interview to a private TV channel last month. Malik had, without naming Mattu, said Srinagar was getting 'foreign educated mayor' which would send jitters among the regional parties such as the NC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which did not take part in the elections. The political parties had said the Governor's remarks had put question mark on the credibility of the whole election process. In the results of the urban and local body elections BJP swept the Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) elections and made some advances in Kashmir, by winning 100 wards in the valley, majority of them unopposed, in the four-phased Urban Local Bodies elections in the state that were marred by boycott by the NC and PDP. However, Independents emerged as the single largest group in the elections in Kashmir by winning 178 wards across 42 municipal bodies in Kashmir division, including Leh and Kargil, elections authorities said. The Congress overcame the BJP in the valley by bagging 157 wards, while saffron party won in 100 wards. The NC and the PDP boycotted the election over the issue of Article 35-A, which according special powers to the state legislature with regard to permanent residents of the state. Junaid Azim Mattu, who left National Conference to contest Municipal election and then become Mayor of Srinagar with the support from BJP and its ally People Conference, on Tuesday said sought to defend his allying with the saffron party. 'I'm nobody to go against BJP. If you have right to ask this question here, those of BJP corporators who have been elected have right to be here. This holier than thou moral narrative has been created. Omar Abdullah (National Conference vice president) remained BJP's External Affairs Minister (MoS) and Mehoobaji (President PDP and former Chief Minister) was part of them till yesterday,' Mattu said while responding to a question by a scribe seeking his comments that while he was opposing BJP till yesterday and now he was walking with the saffron party. 'Do ask this question to them (Omar and Mehbooba) first as to what moral narrative they are talking today and then this small man Junaid Mattu will respond,' he added. Later addressing another presser while being flanked by Peoples Conference Chairman Sajad Lone, Mattu rejected that he ever called 'an alliance with the BJP was a poison.' 'Show me once where I have said it,' charged up Mattu said, while responding to a question. 'Omar Abdullah aligned with the BJP when there was no compulsion to form a government. If he had 20 seats in assembly elections, he would have been at their (BJP) door too. Mehbooba Ji was with them till she was thrown out a few months ago. BJP is a reality, you might take a moral high stand and not like it but Jammu is a part of the state.' On being asked if low turnout in the elections had any relevance in the results, Mattu said that low turnout is a phase. 'There was good voter turnout in many parts, if you want focus on low turnout, then focus on Dr. Farooq Abdullah. Ask him why you are sitting in the parliament with 2.19 percentage of votes,' Mattu said. Adding that voter turnout is not the responsibility of the candidates, Mattu further told reporters that these are spells and phases, 'same happened with parliamentary elections and assembly elections. Mainstream is relevant, low or high turnout is a phase, if you like it or not.' 'Those who are traditional exploiters had kept the mainstream as their electoral asset, but the change was inevitable and it has come to Srinagar, which is not confined to Srinagar as there is change in politics too,' he said. He said that a new beginning has just started. 'Those who were in illusion that there will be no change without them has proved hoax as the change has begun in Kashmir,' he added. Mattu said that there are developmental plans for Srinagar city. 'There is need for Srinagar's development and we will contribute in developing it in every aspect. The dignity of common citizen has to be increased. I will work with all the corporators and our team will make changes in Srinagar,' he said. He also said that the proxy candidates were fielded by the parties who boycotted the elections. 'The parties who boycotted the elections were focusing on Mayoral elections, if they boycotted the elections then why they campaigned for Mayoral elections,' he said, adding that they fought the elections honestly. Asked about security to corporators, He said that he will be meeting Governor in this regard and request him to provide security cover to the corporators as well as to those who lost the elections. 'I will try to make changes on the ground and we are committed to provide better facilities to the people,' he said.