The Congress on Friday formally joined deliberations for seat-sharing among members of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) as the group met to discuss the eight-phase District Development Council (DDC) elections.
The NC, the PDP and the People’s Conference (PC) are likely to take the majority of seats, with the others in the alliance contesting in select areas.
DDCs will form the third tier of governance in J&K with directly elected members to the councils. The elections to elect 280 council representatives — 14 in each district — will begin on November 28 alongside bypolls for over 13,000 vacant panchayat and urban local body positions.
The decision to participate in electoral politics was taken following discussions both internally and then through joint consultations, according to PAGD leaders. People’s Conference chairman and PAGD spokesperson Sajad Lone told The Indian Express that the decision was unanimous and necessary “to protect sacred spaces in democracy”.
On contesting the elections, Lone said: “The considered opinion was that this is a sacred space and we cannot leave this vacant. (It is) not wise to stay away, irrespective of the outcome of the polls and the conditions in which these polls are being held. This space deserves to be occupied by talented, skilled people, who know what they are fighting for.
“So there was unanimity amongst us on the need to protect this political space.”
PDP’s youth wing president Waheed-ur-Rehman Para said the idea of boycotting elections is antithetical to mainstream politics, and that “boycott as an act of resistance will not work in J&K anymore.” Stating that preservation of political space is perhaps the most important aspect of these polls, he said, “It is important to regain control of institutions. If the system is assaulting us, then we have to become part of the system to fight this.”
NC provincial president (Kashmir) Nasir Aslam Wani said that reading the results of panchayat and ULB polls, which it boycotted, the party realised that “institutions cannot be left to those who do not understand it – they are not connected to the ground, and they are not accountable to the people.”
Lone said the big question is whether these institutions will be given space to function. “I do not mean space when an MLA is elected in future, but space that has to be shared with the bureaucracy and these newly elected members,” he said.
Stating that the polls will see a mix of newcomers and established politicians of the erstwhile state, the leaders also said this as a chance to support their second- and third-rung leadership.
A senior PDP member, who did not wish to be named, said the BJP was counting on a boycott by mainstream parties, and “contesting elections is our checkmate to them”. Party members also said that in the face of an unapproachable bureaucracy, it is important to have “workers from among communities represent them.”
While seat-sharing arrangements between the parties are being worked out, they concur that this will largely be an election bereft of much campaigning. The results will be declared on December 22.