With the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) staying away from the municipal elections in Jammu and Kashmir, at least 70 BJP candidates have been elected unopposed in the Valley and the saffron party is set to lead at least seven municipal bodies in Kashmir.
In a first, the BJP has fielded 325 candidates on 598 municipal seats of the Valley, outnumbering the Congress.
While the BJP has bagged 13 out of 17 municipal seats in Shopian — no candidate filed nomination for the other four seats — it is already leading in seven municipal bodies. These include six in south Kashmir — Shopian, Qazigund, Devsar, Pahalgam, Ashmuqam and Tral — besides Sopore in north Kashmir.
In Devsar, all eight candidates elected unopposed belong to the BJP, while in Qazigund only four candidates have filed nomination on seven seats, and they are affiliated to the BJP. In Tral, all four candidates for the 13 wards are associated to the BJP. In north Kashmir’s volatile Sopore Municipal Council, seven out of eight candidates belong to the BJP. Sopore has 21 municipal wards, and there is no candidate for 13 seats. An Independent candidate is in the fray.
Most areas where the BJP has won unopposed are militant strongholds — areas where even the Congress failed to get candidates. Of 70 candidates elected unopposed, 58 have been elected from the militancy-stronghold districts of south Kashmir’s Kulgam, Shopian, Anantnag and Pulwama.
“Most of our candidates have won unopposed from south Kashmir,” BJP spokesperson Altaf Thakur told The Indian Express. “We have fielded 325 candidates across Kashmir…only on seats where we expected to put up a good show.”
Of 325 BJP candidates, 36 are Kashmiri Pandits, living in Jammu. These candidates flew to Kashmir, filed their nomination papers, and flew back to Jammu. Thakur, however, said they will return to the Valley and work for the development of their respective wards.
The Congress, meanwhile, said the BJP’s unopposed victories in many seats has put a question mark on the credibility of the entire election process, “They (BJP) couldn’t win a single Assembly seat in the Valley and here they are leading. It puts a big question mark on the credibility of the polls,” state Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir said. “We have said at the outset that if you want a credible election here… you have to bring in all political parties.”
Mir said the NC and the PDP’s poll boycott decision also left the field open for the BJP and alleged that the saffron party used money to get candidates. Rejecting the allegations, BJP’s Thakur said, “We have not distributed any money. We believe in good governance and transparency.”