October 2019 News

BJP's Poll Focus Is On Volatile South Kashmir

13 October 2019
The Hindu
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is fielding more candidates in militancy-affected south Kashmir and supporting Independents in the relatively calm north and central Kashmir in the Block Development Council (BDC) election. Other mainstream parties have decided to stay away. 'We are fielding more candidates in south Kashmir as we have won more Panch and Sarpanch seats in the region [last year],' BJP spokesperson Altaf Thakur said. The party has fielded 218 candidates. In the other 62 seats, it will support Independents. Compared with south Kashmir, very few nominations have been filed in north and central Kashmir. According to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Pulwama has just 11 candidates in the fray for the election of chairpersons, Shopian has four, Kulgam has 18 and Anantnag has 55. A total of 1,065 candidates are in the fray for the second tier of elections being held in 310 Blocks on October 24. This election, unlike the panchayat elections, is being held on a party basis. 'A total of 853 candidates are contesting as Independents, and 239 are from different political parties,' the CEO said. Of the 239 candidates, the majority are from the BJP. Of 27 chairpersons declared winners unopposed, the highest number of six is in Shopian followed by four each in Baramulla and Pulwama, three in Budgam, and two each in Bandipora and Anantnag. Sources said the BJP had decided to support Independent candidates in north Kashmir to dent the traditional vote base of the National Conference (NC), Sajad Lone's Peoples Conference and Engineer Rashid's Awami Ittehad Party - the parties that saw a quantum jump in vote share in the recently held Lok Sabha election. A party worker of the AIP said that since the party's patron 'is lodged in Delhi's Tihar Jail for the past two-and-a-half-months, a communication to all party leaders is to decide locally'. To keep the BJP at bay, Kupwara in north Kashmir is witnessing a multi-corner contest with 101 candidates in the fray - 90 candidates in Baramulla and just 26 in Bandipora. In Srinagar, where there are four councils, just five candidates are contesting the polls. The Congress recently decided to stay away from the polls, citing the 'jailing of mainstream leaders' as the reason. The election is being touted to empower grassroots institutions in Jammu & Kashmir and deliver development at the people's level. The third-tier election will see polls for members of the District Development Boards, which will be the main interface to address public grievances in the absence of MLAs and a functional Assembly in J&K. It will also throw up a new layer of politicians in a State mired in conflict for over three decades. A total of 26,629 electors, of which 8,313 are females and 18,316 are male, will vote across the 22 districts of J&K. The election shall be held through secret ballot, officials said. In the Kashmir valley, 61% Panch and Sarpanch seats remain vacant, chiefly because the NC and PDP stayed out last year.

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