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Gupkar Alliance faces setback in DDC polls, NC bastion Srinagar breached by Apni Party

Apni Party bags the chairperson and vice-chairperson in Srinagar and Shopian, despite winning just 12 seats across Kashmir in last year's DDC polls.

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Srinagar: Even though the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration(PAGD) registered a thumping victory in Kashmir division during the maiden district development council elections (DDC) last December, the conglomerate suffered major setbacks Saturday when it lost the chairperson posts in two districts to the Apni Party. 

The Apni Party has emerged as the main opposition to the alliance, which is demanding restoration of Article 370.

Senior Apni Party leader Usman Majid told ThePrint that not only have they made inroads in the troubled Shopian region of Kashmir but have also “breached” Srinagar, a bastion of the National Conference.

Srinagar district, which has eight assembly constituencies, now has a mayor and the DDC chairman from Apni Party. 

The elections

Each of the 20 districts of J&K are divided into 14 constituencies each represented by DDC members.

On Saturday, the J&K administration held elections to appoint DDC chairpersons in three districts — Srinagar, Shopian and Kulgam. Winning candidates of the 2020 DDC polls, or DDC members, had to elect a district chairperson and vice-chairperson.

In Kulgam, DDC member from the CPI(M) was elected as the chairperson and the NC’s DDC member was elected as the vice-chairperson. Kulgam, considered a bastion of the CPI(M), was one of the districts where the Gupkar alliance had emerged victorious.

In Shopian and in Srinagar, however, it was the Apni Party that snatched victory on all four posts.

Apni Party, which had fielded 166 candidates, won just nine seats in Kashmir and three in Jammu for a total of 12. Even though the party had only 12 seats, its chief Altaf Bukhari in an interview to ThePrint had claimed that his grouping would be able to secure top posts in four to five districts of Kashmir and two districts in Jammu.

Also read: 12 J&K districts to get youth centres with amphitheatres, auditoriums, libraries

Charges of horse trading

Bukhari’s party has been accused of horse trading after multiple DDC members from the NC, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as well as independent victors joined the Apni Party following the election results.

In Srinagar, seven independents had emerged victorious while three seats had gone to the Apni Party. The NC, PDP, the BJP and the People’s Movement had won a seat each. The Apni Party has now won the chairperson and vice-chairperson posts here.  

At Shopian, the PDP had won four seats, NC had three, the Apni Party had won two seats, the Congress one while independents had secured four seats. Here too, the Apni party has won both top posts.

Over at Kulgam, the NC and CPI(M) had both won five seats each while the Congress and PDP won two each. The DDC members here unanimously elected their chairperson and vice chairperson.

Also read: Don’t be surprised with ‘my praise for PM’ — Ex-IAS officer & Kashmiri politician Shah Faesal

Apni Party punches above weight

Even though the Apni Party had won only four of the 28 seats in Srinagar and Shopian, its victories today have opened the doors for the party in Kashmir.

“People have voted for the politics of truth. The Gupkar Alliance has for 72 years been lying to the people and doing politics of emotions. Saturday’s result has proved that people have rejected politics of emotion,” said senior Apni Party leader Usman Majid. 

BJP leader and DDC member from Srinagar, Aijaz Hussain, who voted for the Apni Party candidate, said, “Both BJP and Apni Party maintain that Article 370 will not come back unlike the alliance that has resorted to giving false hopes to people of Kashmir. Both BJP and Apni Party are working on the slogan of development and that is why our party supported their candidate. We will continue to support anyone who does not lie to the people.”

Majed, however, said that the only reason the BJP supported the Apni Party candidate was because the party was in majority in Srinagar.

‘Democracy destroyed’ — NC & PDP

Both the NC and PDP, the main regional powers of Kashmir, took potshots at the victors. 

NC MP Justice Hasnain Masoodi (retd)  said, “The victory in Srinagar was only possible because of an understanding between these two parties. It was an alliance and this has been made clear today. 

“Shopian is a different story. The alliance had won the district but after results, the candidates defected thus making a mockery of the mandate given to them by the people. What happened in Shopian was not in tune with the spirit of democracy and constitution. I have spoken to the State Election Commissioner K.K. Sharma and brought to his notice how democratic values were undermined.”

Senior PDP leader Nizamudin Bhat said the defections to the Apni Party shows a “weakness in personal character and conviction”.

“No party should be blamed for this, only individuals who got votes on our symbols and yet chose to join other political outfits,” he said.

There is also growing concern within the Gupkar Alliance over its future course of action, especially after one of its constituents, the Peoples Conference, quit the group. 

A PDP source said that the party had been trying to approach the NC to hold a meeting to take stock of things.

“We were supposed to have a meeting to discuss the DDC chairperson elections and that did not happen. Now a party which won only four seats has taken two districts,” the source said.

When asked to comment, NC’s Masoodi said, “No, it is not true. We are continuously talking to all alliance partners at appropriate levels. We had decided to give our district leadership the decision making power to elect their own chairpersons. Unfortunately the result hasn’t turned out as we expected but alliance or NC is not to be blamed.”

Also read: ‘People have been terrorised into silence. But you can’t buy peace through threats’ — Mehbooba



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