The Farooq Abdullah-led People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) took a big lead over the BJP as votes were being counted till late in the night in the maiden district development council (DDC) polls in Jammu and Kashmir.
Out of total 280 DDC seats, the PAGD had either won or were leading on 112 seats while the BJP had emerged victorious or were leading on 73 seats. Congress party had won or were leading on 27 seats while the newly floated J&K Apni Party, believed to be the proxy of the BJP, had won 10 seats. Others, mostly independents, were declared winners on 56 seats. Counting on two seats had been deferred.
As expected, the BJP won substantial (70) out of 140 seats in Jammu division while the PAGD bagged 92 out of 140 seats in Kashmir valley. However, the state election commission had not released the final figures till 11:25 pm when this report was filed.
The counting for all 280 DDC constituencies – 14 each in all 20 districts of the Union Territory (UT) - began at 9 am at all district headquarters across J&K and the process took longer than usual because ballot papers were used instead of electronic voting machines or EVMs. The polling was held from November 28 to December 19 in eight phases with 51% voters exercising their franchise in the elections, which were largely peaceful.
The PAGD is an alliance of arch-rivals and regional heavyweights - National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) - besides five other parties. It was formed on October 15 to work towards restoring the special status of J&K which was revoked last August. The Congress was initially a part of the PAGD but distanced itself from the alliance as the BJP targeted the opposition party for being in league with the ‘anti-national Gupkar Gang.’
Three former chief ministers - Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti did not campaign even once for their candidates. Reasons for them not campaigning is unknown.
The DDC polls mark the Centre’s first attempt at restoring democratic processes in the region, following the revocation of its special status and bifurcation in August 2019. In the absence of an elected government in the UT, these Councils are set to become a new unit of governance in Jammu and Kashmir.
J&K has been under the central rule since June 2018 when the BJP pulled out of the alliance government with the PDP. The special status of the erstwhile state under Article 370 was revoked in August 2019 by the Parliament and it was bifurcated into the UTs of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
The results of the election may be used as a sort of referendum by both political ideologies - for and against the major constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir.