Political spotlight has shifted on independent candidates as they won 50 out of 280 seats in the just concluded DDC polls in Jammu and Kashmir finishing third behind the BJP and National Conference (NC) who won 75 and 67 seats respectively.
Barring five of 20 districts, the independents won atleast one seat in all other districts. Among the successful independent candidates, 27 won in Kashmir and the rest in Jammu division. In two districts – Srinagar and Poonch - independent won seven and six seats respectively out of 14 each and are in a position to decide who can be the chairmen of the DDC.
Out of 2,178 candidates, who were in the fray for the DDC elections in J&K, 1238 were independents while BJP had fielded 235, NC 169, PDP 68, Apni Party 166, Congress 157, PC and JKPM 11 each, CPI (M) eight, LJP six, and Panthers’ Party 54.
According to political analysts, it would be interesting to see if they join the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) or BJP - the single largest seat winner. Some of the independents, who won, are dissenters and had left their political parties after they were denied tickets to fight elections due to seat-sharing agreement between PAGD partners. It is highly likely they will join back their fold.
The independents will be the kingmakers in four district development councils (DDCs), where there is no clear majority to either the PAGD or the BJP. The PAGD is an alliance of arch-rivals and regional heavyweights – NC and 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 It was formed on October 15 to work towards restoring the special status of J&K which was revoked last August.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 independents defeated some political heavyweights, including former legislators and ministers. In Sangrama constituency of Kashmir, independent candidate advocate Irfan Lone defeated former MLA Shoaib Lone, a candidate of Apni party and PDP’s spokesperson Suhail Bukhari.
In Suchetgarh constituency of Jammu, independent candidate Taranjit Singh defeated BJP’s two-time MLA and former minister, Sham Lal Choudhary, by a slender margin of 11 votes.
Former MLA Shah Mohammad Tantray, who had resigned from the PDP early this year, was defeated by independent candidate Riyaaz Choudhary in Loran constituency of Poonch district.
Independent candidate Avtar Singh was the luckiest among the contestants as he won by just three votes. Singh polled 246 votes against 243 by his NC rival Ali Mohammad Bhat to become the winner from Dadsara constituency of militancy-hit Pulwama district in south Kashmir. From the same district, BJP’s Minha Latief won by 14 votes against her PDP rival Ruqaya Bano.