Independents step into political spotlight

Representational Photo

With 50 independent candidates emerging as winners in the District Development Council elections in Jammu and Kashmir, political spotlight has set on them.

According to political analysts it would be interesting to see if they join People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) or BJP- the single largest seat winner.

In all 2,178 candidates were in fray for the DDC elections in J&K; of them 1238 were independents. BJP had fielded 235 candidates across J&K, 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 pundits, the independents who wrestled 50 seats will be the “kingmakers” in four DDCs in Jammu and one in Kashmir where there is no clear majority to either PAGD or the BJP.

Among the successful independent candidates, 27 won in Kashmir and the rest in Jammu division. “Some of the independents who have won are dissenters who 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,” a senior leader said.

As per the results, PAGD will have their chairmen in nine district councils in Kashmir region. Only Srinagar district is up for grabs where out of 14 DDC seats, independents won seven followed by Apni party which got three seats. NC, PDP, PC, BJP won one seat each.

In Kashmir region among independents who won DDC elections include Advocate Irfan Lone who defeated one time MLA Shoaib Lone and now Apni party member, in Sangrama constituency. The PDP’s spokesperson SuhailBukhari who was also in the fray bagged over 300 votes.

Former deputy chief ministers, MuzaffarBeigh’s wife SafeenaBeigh also won the DDC election as an independent candidate from Baramulla district.

Among the big independent wins is Taranjit Singh defeating BJP’s two-time MLA and former minister Sham LalChoudhary in Suchetgarh in Jammu region by a slender margin of 11 votes.

Another major defeat for the BJP was Parihar losing to his NC rival AsimHashmi from Gundana segment and Congress opponent from Marmat seat Mushtaq Ahmad, both falling in Doda district, as the day-long counting witnessed a see-saw battle between him and his opponents.

Former MLA Shah Mohammad Tantray, who had resigned from the PDP early this year, was defeated by independent candidate RiyaazChoudhary, who polled 3,829 votes against 2,898 by him in Loran constituency of Poonch district.

Independent candidate Avtar Singh was the luckiest among the contestants as he won by just three votes. Avtar Singh polled 246 votes against 243 by his NC rival Ali Mohammad Bhat to become the winner from Dadsara constituency in Pulwama district of south Kashmir.

From the same district, BJP’s MinhaLatief won by 14 votes against her PDP rival RuqayaBano. Lateef polled 364 votes, while Bano got 350 votes. The BJP has won three seats from the Kashmir Valley for the first time.

Among other low margin wins, independent candidate Bilqees Jan defeated her nearest rival Gull Iqbal (Independent) by 11 votes from Zainapora constituency in Shopian district. Jan polled 146 votes and Iqbal 135.

It may be mentioned that DDCs will act as ‘mini assembly’. DDCs will oversee the functioning of HalqaPanchayats and block development councils. The DDCs, which are expected to prepare and approve district plans and capital expenditures, will replace the District Planning and Development Boards in all districts across the region.

Earlier, the District Development Boards looked after the planning, approval or implementation of centrally sponsored schemes. The board functioned under an elected MP, MLA and an MLC and the deputy commissioner and was headed by a cabinet minister. Under the new system, the DDCs will be headed by a chairman from an elected representative.

Each DDC will have 14 directly-elected members and five standing committees will be constituted for finance, development, public works, health and education and welfare.