Srinagar: The election boycott by the two main regional parties — National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over Article 35A –and separatists boycott call has become a blessing in disguise for the BJP, which will win at least 60 wards unopposed in the upcoming Urban Local Body (ULB) polls in the valley, where it failed to make an inroad in Assembly polls.
Congress has managed to bag only 26 wards while many independent candidates have also won unopposed in many parts of the valley in the ULB polls.
Due to threat perception the authorities have refused to divulge any details about the candidates who won unopposed or are in the fray. There is no campaigning by the candidates as they don’t want to get exposed, fearing action by militants.
Meanwhile, no candidates has filed nominations in about 150 wards of the 624 wards in the valley, where additional 400 companies of Central Forces will be deputed to provide security for the ULB and panchayat polls in view of boycott called by separatists and militants.
Reacting to the unopposed wins of the BJP candidates in the valley, NC Vice President Omar Abdullah hit out at the Congress and others contesting the polls, saying, “I thought the whole justification of the Congress and others for contesting these elections was to put up a fight against the BJP. Doesn’t seem to be much of a fight at the moment.”
The NC, the PDP and CPI (M) boycotted the panchayat and ULB polls, accusing the centre of not making its stand clear on Article 35-A. The parties said that they will not contest elections till the time centre clarifies its stand on Article 35-A, which is being challenged in the Supreme Court (SC).
“The BJP has fielded over 300 candidates in 600 municipal wards spread across 10 districts of the Valley. Our 60 candidates have won without fighting the elections,” a BJP leader said.
He said the out of these 60 candidates, six are Kashmiri Pandits. “The number of candidates winning unopposed would go up after the third and fourth phases’ details are made public,” he added.
He said BJP will win many more wards in the ULB polls in the valley as there is not much competition.
However, the BJP’s remarkable performance in the ULB polls is due to the election boycott by NC and PDP and inability of Congress to field candidates in the areas where the saffron party has won hands down.
Interestingly, BJP also claims to have won eight wards in Sopore, the hometown of hardline Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, as the area is represented by the Congress in the State Assembly. However, the Congress has failed to field any candidate from these wards.
“There is a fear psychosis in Sopore due to the mysterious killings in the last about a month that’s why we were not able to field a candidate from any of the eight wards in the area,” a Congress leader said.
He further alleged that BJP has fielded ‘parachutes’ candidates in majority of the areas in the valley, particularly in south Kashmir. “There is no point is fielding a candidate who will never visit his ward or work for the betterment of the people. But, the BJP is doing it to portray that they have won in the valley with no intensities what so ever to work for the people,” he added.
Despite a high voltage campaigning by top brass of the BJP including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP, which was banking on migrant Pandit votes to win five seats in Kashmir and three in Ladakh region where the party candidate Thupstan Chhewang won the Lok Sabha elections a few months ago, had failed to secure any seat in the valley in the Assembly elections in 2014.
BJP’s ‘Mission 44-plus’ failed to cut much ice in the valley despite Modi’s rally in Kashmir, where 33 out of 34 candidates of the saffron party had lost their deposit. Following a hung Assembly PDP and BJP forged an alliance to form a government in the state. However, BJP pulled out support from the PDP-BJP coalition government, forcing PDP president Mehbooba Mufti to resign as the Chief Minister of the State early this year. Out of seven seats it contested in Srinagar district in the Assembly polls, BJP managed to secure just 9904 votes.
Meanwhile, a former militant, Farooq Ahmad Khan alias Saifullah, who gave up arms in 2011 under the rehabilitation policy announced by the Omar Abdullah government for Kashmiri militants living in Pakistan, filed his nomination on a BJP ticket from Srinagar.
Reacting to this development, Mr Abdullah, who is the former chief minister of the state, said, “Sadly it’s the same rehabilitation policy that the BJP brought to an abrupt end in 2014. The BJP can get these men to fight elections but can’t work out a way for more of them to come back home.”
The ULB polls will be held in four phases across Jammu and Kashmir on October 8, 10, 13 and 16 in which representatives will be selected in around 1,145 wards.