Anti-Modi alliance sweeps local polls in occupied Kashmir

Published December 23, 2020
Salman Sagar, National Conference candidate for the state Urban Local Bodies (ULB) polls celebrates after he won a ULB seat outside a counting center in Srinagar on December 22. — AFP
Salman Sagar, National Conference candidate for the state Urban Local Bodies (ULB) polls celebrates after he won a ULB seat outside a counting center in Srinagar on December 22. — AFP

NEW DELHI: An alliance of Kashmiri parties opposed to the state’s annexation by India last year was poised to sweep local body polls against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, and claimed it was a verdict to reverse New Delhi’s arbitrary rule in the region, reports said.

The Farooq Abdullah-led People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, which was heading for a big victory in the local polls, has favoured talks between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

In the first-ever District Development Council (DDC) polls in held Kashmir, regional parties surged ahead in the valley while the BJP kept an upper hand in the Jammu region.

In the latest leads, the Gupkar alliance — a grouping of seven mainstream J&K-based parties including rivals National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) — was ahead in 114 seats; the BJP was leading in 72 seats. The Congress was ahead in 26.

In Jammu region, the BJP is ahead in 69 seats while the Gupkar alliance is winning in 35. In Kashmir, the regional grouping is leading in a mammoth 79 seats while the BJP is ahead in three.

Voting was held in 280 seats — 14 in each of the 20 districts of the union territory — in eight phases over a period of 25 days. The Gupkar alliance and the Congress are likely to win 13 district councils while the BJP and its allies are set to take six districts.

But there were no celebrations on Gupkar road where Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, all former Chief Ministers, have homes. None of them campaigned for their candidates.

They allege that their candidates were not allowed to campaign and confined in security enclosures — an allegation that has been denied by the central government.

Among the winners is PDP youth president Waheed Para, who was arrested by the National Investigation Agency for alleged links with militants soon after he filed his nomination papers from Pulwama in Kashmir Valley.

Farooq Abdullah is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate for money-laundering allegations linked to the Jammu and Kashmir Cricket Association. The agency recently attached his properties, including two houses in Srinagar and Jammu.

The Gupkar Alliance was formed in protest against the massive constitutional changes on August 5 last year, in which Article 370 on special status to Jammu and Kashmir was abrogated and the state was turned into two union territories.

Many of its leaders, like Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and others were detained soon after the changes as part of the centre’s unprecedented security crackdown in the held valley. The Abdullahs were released in March while Mehbooba Mufti was freed after over a year in October.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2020

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