The first universal suffrage in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has laid interesting battlefields as a number of the prominent political families with traditional affiliation to different parties have jumped into the fray in the elections for the District Development Councils (DDCs). Those contesting directly or supporting a candidate of their personal or family choice include a number of the former Ministers and Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs).
The eight-phased DDC elections, for the first time in J&K, are being held between November 28 and December 22.
Choudhary Taj Mohiuddin, one of the senior most Congress leaders, who has served several terms as Minister and MLA, is the same party’s candidate in the DDC elections from Uri in Baramulla district. Mohammad Shafi Uri, the third highest profile leader in the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (JKNC) after Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, who has served several terms as Minister, MLA and Member of Parliament, harnessed his son, Dr Sajad, from Boniyar (Uri). However, his candidature was not accepted as the authorities maintained that he was registered as a voter in Uri, not in Boniyar.
Taj is not the only senior Gujjar leader in the fray.
Choudhary Zulfikar, the Peoples Democratic Party’s two times MLA and former Minister, is one among the 20-odd senior leaders and ex-legislators who have quit Mehbooba Mufti’s organisation and joined Altaf Bukhari’s Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) early this year. He has fielded wife, Zubeda, as JKAP’s candidate in the DDC election from Budhal old-B (Koteranka) in Rajouri district. Zulfikar is simultaneously supporting the JKNC candidate Choudhary Naseem Liaquat from the adjoining constituency of Budhal-A (Peeri).
Interestingly, Zulfikar has defeated Naseem’s father, Choudhary Liaquat, a veteran Gujjar leader, twice in the past in the Assembly elections from Darhal, Rajouri. And more interestingly, Zulfikar’s nephew, Javed Iqbal Choudhary, is posing a tough fight to the maternal uncle’s favourite, Naseem, in Peeri and his wife Shazia Javed has directly locked horns with Zulfikar’s wife Zubeda in the reserved for women seat of Budhal old-B.
Zubeda comes from an influential Gujjar family in Gool-Arnas area of Reasi district where her father, late Haji Buland Khan, and brother, Aijaz Khan, have represented as MLAs and Ministers several times.
Shazia Javed has lately resigned as a teacher at the Government High School Sunjwan in Jammu and joined the Mamu-Bhanja political arena in Darhal area of Rajouri.
Zulfikar’s father, late Choudhary Mohammad Hussain, had served six terms as JKNC’s MLA and once as Minister before his death. Zulfikar’s nephew, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, an IAS officer, is currently Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar. Second nephew Zaffar Choudhary is a senior journalist. Third nephew Javed has a Masters in Environmental Science. He jumped accidentally into politics as his father, Choudhary Aslamuddin, a retired Assistant Commissioner of Revenue, died of cardiac arrest while contesting the Panchayati election in 2018. After his death, Javed contested and won, first as Sarpanch and later as Chairperson of Block Development Council (BDC).
Mohammad Iqbal Malik, retired Deputy Commissioner, who has unsuccessfully contested three Assembly elections, is now the Congress candidate against Javed Choudhary and Naseem Choudhary in Peeri. Interestingly again, BJP has not fielded a candidate in Peeri or Budhal as the party is reportedly supporting Javed Choudhary in Peeri.
In Jammu’s Rajouri district, yet another interesting battlefield is coming up in Manjakot where a senior Congress leader and former Minister and MLA, Shabir Khan, is trying his truck for the DDC. Unlike a large number of the star contestants—mostly the Gujjars—in the Muslim-dominated Rajouri-Poonch belt, Shabir Khan is an ethnic Pahari. Among others, he is fighting his own relatives Nisar Khan (a retired executive engineer), Tassaduq Khan and Amjad Khan. While Nisar and Tassaduq are contesting as independent candidates, Amjad is holding a ticket from J&K Peoples Movement.
However, Shabir Khan’s real competition in Manjakot is apparently with JKNC’s Shafayat Ahmad Khan.
In Rajouri, where the nomination process is still underway, a retired Chief Engineer, Qasim Choudhary, is likely to be the JKNC candidate. Senior Congress leader and Gaddinasheen of Ziarat Ganji Sahab, Sain Abdul Rashid, has filed nomination papers as the Congress candidate and a prominent surgeon, Dr Nisar Choudhary, has got the BJP ticket. Master Tassaduq Hussain, who has unsuccessfully contested three Assembly elections, has got PDP’s mandate. PDP’s ex-MLA, Qamar Choudhary, is all set to be the JKAP’s nominee in Rajouri.
Qamar Choudhary’s nephew, Mohammad Ali Choudhary, is JKAP’s candidate in Rajouri’s Thanamandi. His other nephew, Maqsood Choudhary, is contesting as an independent candidate against his brother from the same constituency. Nizamuddin Choudhary, a retired Army captain, and Master Hanief Choudhary, uncle of the IAS officer and DC Kargil, Baseerul Haq, are also contesting as independent candidates from Thanamandi.
In Jammu’s Poonch district, ex-MLA Javed Rana’s son, advocate Zeeshan Rana, is JKNC’s candidate from Mendhar. He is also the nephew of the former Congress leader, a retired Additional Director General of Police and the former Vice Chancellor of Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, Choudhary Masood.
In Surankot, Poonch, an interesting battlefield is unfolding between the Congress party’s official candidate, Choudhary Akram, and the same party’s dissident, Choudhary Shahnawaz. Akram happens to be the son of the former veteran Congress leader and ex-Minister and ex-Speaker, Choudhary Aslam, besides the nephew of the senior JKNC leader and former Minister Mian Altaf Ahmad. While continuing to call Rahul Gandhi as his leader, Shahnawaz has failed to get the ticket from Congress. Without quitting Congress as a member and a General Secretary in J&K, he is contesting as an independent candidate.
Former JKNC MLA Ghulam Mohammad Jan’s wife, whose son Aijaz Jan has also served as MLA of the same party, is now JKNC’s candidate from Mandi, Poonch. Former MLC, Dr Shehnaz Ganai, who has resigned from JKNC, is now contesting for DDC as an independent candidate from Mandi. Former PDP MLA Shah Mohammad Tantray is contesting as an independent candidate from Lorian, Poonch.
BJP’s former MLA from Doda, Shakti Raj Parihar, is the same party’s candidate for DDC from Gundana, Doda. JKNC’s former Minister and MLA from Gulab Garh, Abdul Gani Malik, is also seeking mandate as the same party’s candidate for DDC from the same area of Reasi district of Jammu.