J&K DDC Elections: How Gupkar Parties Won the Battle, BJP the War
Gupkar parties are way ahead of the BJP and the JKNC performed better than JKPDP within the alliance.
The results of the District Development Council in Jammu and Kashmir were announced on Tuesday, 22 December. The People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) took a healthy lead over the BJP in the first major election since the bifurcation and the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's statehood.
The PAGD is basically an alliance of the "mainstream" parties such as Jammu and Kashmir People's Democratic Party, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, Jammu and Kashmir People's Conference, Awami National Conference and the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The elections are an important victory for them especially after many of their leaders such as former CMs Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah were under detention for a long period since the revocation of Article 370.
There are four major aspects to the election results.
1. Important Win for Gupkar Parties
The revocation of Article 370 and the incarceration of its top leaders is supposed to have marked the end of "mainstream politics" in the Kashmir Valley.
But clearly that hasn't happened with the Gupkar parties winning a majority of seats in the Kashmir division and doing well in the Muslim concentration areas of Jammu as well.
Despite their traditional rivarly, the JKPDP and JKNC managed to co-ordinate well on the ground level and their alliance managed to nullify any advantage the BJP may have had due to its control over the administration.
Within the Gupkar alliance, the JKNC performed better than JKPDP, indicating that it has retained its cadre strength to a much greater extent than the latter.
The results would embolden the Gupkar Parties and give them additional voice to bargain with the Centre.
2. Average Electoral Performance by BJP
Electorally, the BJP's performance wasn't all that great. In both the 2014 Assembly elections and 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the party had swept Jammu but this time it failed to win even 50 percent of the seats. However, making inroards in the Kashmir Valley was a major achievement. The party is also arguing that the Kashmiri parties had to come together in order to compete against it.
The PAGD did well in the Muslim areas as mentioned earlier and several Independent candidates also won.
The Congress, the BJP's traditional rival in Jammu, put up a lacklustre performance and was far behind the BJP and even Independents.
It faced defeats at the hands of BJP in the Hindu-dominated seats and PAGD in Muslim-dominated ones.
3. Political Win for Centre
The political win for the Centre outshone the electoral performance for the BJP. The fact that the Gupkar parties contested the elections with full force, despite the revocation of statehood and Article 370, is itself being considered as an achievment by the Centre. Even the turnout of slightly over 30 percent in the Valley is being seen as a sign of "normalcy".
The BJP may also draw solace from the fact that the win of several Independents and Altaf Bukhari's Apni Party challenged the monopoly of the JKNC and JKPDP in the Kashmir Valley. Political competition between Kashmiri parties has always been seen as a positive sign by New Delhi.
4. Legitimacy of the Election
The Centre would no doubt claim that this has been a free and fair election, but for many in Kashmir this may be open to debate.
Even if one sets aside the criticism by separatists, who maintain that the DDC elections are as illegitimate as Assembly and general elections held in Kashmir, parties which contested the polls have also criticised the Centre. Just a day before the results, senior JKPDP leaders Naeem Akhtar and Mansoor Hussain were detained by the police.
Party chairperson Mehbooba Mufti termed it as an attempt to influence the electoral process.
What is clear in the entire process is that irrespective of the strength of political actors, be it separatist or "mainstream", the opening up of political space in Kashmir will solely be based on the will of the Centre.
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