Irrespective of the outcome, the elections in Jammu & Kashmir marks the restoration of democratic process, a much-needed exercise in a region tormented by prolonged political uncertainty and violence. The polls to the District Development Councils (DDCs), the first-ever held in the Union Territory after the abrogation of the special status in August last year, have thrown up a mixed verdict, largely on expected lines. The BJP has swept the Jammu division and set to secure the control of at least six DDCs in Jammu and none in Kashmir. The People’s Alliance, a conglomeration of seven mainstream regional parties, including the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, has a majority in nine DDCs, all in the Valley. As there is no clear-cut majority in the five councils, the independent candidates are likely to play the role of kingmakers. Expectedly, both the BJP and the People’s Alliance have termed the poll results as their success. While the BJP has termed the outcome and the voter turnout a contradiction to the “idea of Gupkar Alliance”, the People’s Alliance has said that the people have rejected the “unconstitutional” decision to abrogate Article 370. Political posturing apart, the overwhelming participation of the people reflected their faith in ballots rather than bullets. The polling was held for 20 DDCs, each having 14 seats. The Gupkar Alliance, formed to seek restoration of the special status to J&K, has won nine districts and BJP six.
Significantly, the BJP has opened its account in the Valley, securing three seats, while the Congress has once again failed to make a mark in the region. Overall, the National Conference has emerged as the only party to have achieved considerable poll success in both the regions — Jammu and Kashmir — in a polarised election. In fact, it has given a tougher fight to the BJP in Jammu’s Hindu heartland than the Congress. The results come as a big setback to the Centre-backed Jammu & Kashmir Apni Party led by Altaf Bukhari as the party has managed to win just 10 seats. The district councils are ostensibly meant to boost development through direct funding from the Centre. The DDCs, in the absence of an Assembly, will serve as a link between people and the government, with the council chairperson enjoying the status of a junior minister. The directly elected district councils will replace the district development boards originally envisaged as the third tier of local government by the 1989 Jammu & Kashmir Panchayat Raj Act. For the BJP, the DDC election was a litmus test, especially after ending the special status. The saffron party has not been in power in the State, except for a term when it had an alliance with the PDP in 2015.
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