Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 23
Independent candidates have emerged as key players in the maiden District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir, winning 50 of the 280 seats.
They finished third after the BJP and National Conference in the overall DDC poll results announced this evening. They got more votes than the Congress and PDP. The BJP got 4.87 lakh votes, NC 2.82 lakh, Independents 1.71 lakh, Congress 1.39 lakh and the PDP 57,000.
Although the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) secured a clear majority to form DDCs in Kupwara, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Pulwama and Anantnag, Independents will play a key role in the power equation in Srinagar where they have bagged seven seats followed by the J&K Apni Party (3) and the NC, PDP and BJP (1 each).
In Jammu region, the BJP is comfortably placed in Kathua, Samba, Udhampur, Jammu, Doda and Reasi districts, but the Independents will matter in Poonch where they have won eight seats.
The PAGD has an edge in Baramulla, Shopian, Bandipora, but here again Independents will determine which way the council formation goes.
Initial signals suggest that the Independents could back the JKAP in the Valley and BJP in Jammu. Union Minister Anurag Thakur hailed the performance of Independents, saying the combined vote share of the BJP and Independents in the UT was over 52 per cent and “this is the rejection of the PAGD agenda against abrogation of Article 370”.
In Anantnag, Independent Peer Shahbaz Ahmad defeated Naseer Ahmad Mir, son of J&K Congress president Ghulam Ahmad Mir. Shahbaz was a Congress rebel.
The Gupkar alliance, BJP and JKAP are all wooing Independents to form DDCs in areas where they are short of majority. Ali Mohammad Sagar, general secretary, National Conference, said he was confident that the PAGD would form DDCs in all 10 Kashmir districts and three-four in Jammu where it had done well in Chenab region of Ramban, Kishtwar and won 35 seats in all in the Jammu region.
Independent observers, however, said the PAGD was at a disadvantage in Srinagar and would find the going tough in Bandipora, Baramulla and Shopian where Independents would play a role.