The Altaf Bukhari-led Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party managed to win over Independents to its side and take hold of the District Development Councils in Srinagar and Shopian on Saturday, with its candidates getting elected to the posts of Chairperson and Vice Chairperson in both the districts.
Launched six months after the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was split in August 2019, Apni Party contested the DDC elections against the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) constituents (PDP, NC, People’s Conference, JK People’s Movement and CPI-M).
Its candidates won just three seats in Srinagar and two in Shopian out of 14 in each of the two districts. Elections to 280 territorial constituencies across 20 districts (14 in each district) in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir were held in November-December 2020.
In Srinagar, 10 of the 13 DDC members voted for Apni Party candidate Malik Aftab. Bilal Ahmad Bhat, also of Apni Party, was elected Vice Chairperson with nine votes. Of the 14 elected members in the Srinagar DDC, seven were Independents.
District Election Officer Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said that an elected member from Harwan-IV constituency Rizwana Bano, an independent, could not take part in the meeting “due to health concerns”.
Similarly, in Shopian, Apni Party’s Bilquees Bano was elected Chairperson with eight of the 14 votes. The post of Vice Chairperson landed in a draw with seven votes each cast for the JKAP and the PAGD candidates. In a draw of lots, Apni Party’s Irfan Manhas was eventually declared winner.
Taking exception to defection of DDC members in Shopian, the National Conference urged State Election Commissioner KK Sharma to examine the issue “as it violates the people’s mandate and spirit of democracy.”
The party’s Provincial President Nasir Aslam Wani and South Kashmir MP Hasnain Masoodi said if members elected to DDC from a particular party ticket, manifesto and symbol, defect post elections, they should be disqualified.
In the DDC in Kulgam district, the CPI(M)’s Mohammad Afzal Parray was elected Chairperson, and Shazia Jan of National Conference was elected the Vice Chairperson. Both CPI(M) and NC won five seats each in Kulgam, of the total 14.
Addressing mediapersons, Apni Party chairman Altaf Bukhari expressed gratitude to the people for electing the party’s candidates and said a “new generation of leadership” has emerged from the DDC elections.
“Apni Party believes in real empowerment of the people of J&K and that is why I am happy that this new leadership has been given a chance to bring a paradigm shift in the local politics,” he said.
In the DDCs in both Jammu and Kathua districts, BJP candidates were elected Chairperson and Vice Chairperson on Saturday. While former MLA Bharat Bhushan and Colonel (Retd) Mahan Singh were unanimously elected Chairpersons in Jammu and Kathua, respectively, Suraj Singh and Raghunandan Singh alias ‘Bablu’ were elected Vice Chairpersons.
In Jammu DDC, the BJP had won 11 of the 14 constituencies, and in Kathua, it’s candidates won in 13 constituencies.
Taranjit Singh Tony, an independent candidate, who had defeated BJP’s heavy weight and former Cabinet Minister Sham Choudhary, proposed the names of both Bharat Bhushan and Suraj Singh. “We all have to work together for the welfare of our people and development of the district,” he said.
For Samba and Udhampur districts, in which BJP candidates had won in 11 and 13 constituencies, respectively, the party has already announced Keshav Dutt Sharma and Lal Chand as candidates for the post of Chairperson. The elections for the Chairperson and Vice Chairperson in Udhampur and Samba DDCs have been fixed for February 8 and February 10, respectively.
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