The decision by the National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, J&K People’s Conference, other regional parties as well as the Communist Party of India (Marxist), that they will contest the upcoming District Development Council polls in the one-year-old Union Territory together as the recently formed People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, is a step in the right direction. It holds potential for melting the ice that had formed over all political activity in the state since August 5, 2019. It could not have been easy to arrive at this decision. After all, the freeze was not of their making, but the fallout of the new arrangements the Centre put in place last year. Mainstream political leaders and their party workers were detained, some for more than a year — many are still in detention — for no other apparent reason except that they would undertake political activity. All of them are mainstream leaders who had partnered political parties at the Centre, including the BJP. After their release, each of the leaders spoke about how let down, how betrayed, they felt by the Centre. But these parties also realise that staying out of the political process, whatever its limits and constraints, is not the solution. Many of their workers have lost their lives to terrorism and the militancy.
It is significant that these parties have chosen to contest these polls as an alliance. Such an alliance between the regional parties — specifically between the PDP and NC — was briefly contemplated after the 2014 election results, before the PDP decided to form a partnership with the BJP. That decision did not go down well in the Muslim-majority Valley, and the government collapsed under the weight of its own ideological contradictions, despite all hopes and expectations to the contrary. The PDP, which had canvassed votes in the name of keeping the BJP out, was seen as having betrayed Kashmir for the sake of power. Six years later, the PDP, as well as other parties, seem to have come around to the view that they need to unite to fight the BJP.
This is the first time that the DDC is being filled through direct election, and as there is no sign of the Assembly election, it is assumed that it is this body, even with its limited powers, that will be at the forefront of development activity. The elections are to be held from November 28. The entry of the People’s Alliance will make it a hard fought contest, one in which neither the BJP nor the newly incubated J&K Apni Party can take anything for granted.
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