SRINAGAR: Independents gave the BJP a run for its money after they won 217 of 307 blocks in the first-ever Block Development Council (BDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

The BJP could only manage to win 81 blocks. Interestingly, the party could win only 52 out of 148 blocks in its traditional bastion of Jammu. Over 98 per cent of panches and sarpanches participated in the polls.  
Despite BDC elections being held on party basis, independent candidates swept the polls winning 217 blocks — 109 in Kashmir, 88 in Jammu and 20 in Ladakh.

Interestingly in Kashmir BDC poll result, the saffron party won maximum seats from restive Shopian district where its candidates emerged victorious in eight blocks. In Jammu division, BJP won maximum seats from Jammu and Kathua districts. JKNPP stood second winning eight blocks in Jammu division.

“In Jammu out of 148 blocks, BJP won 52 blocks and Independents 88. In Ladakh out of the 31 blocks, BJP won 11 and Independents 20,” said Shailendra Kumar, Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Jammu and Kashmir.
 Asked if Independents have the support of any party, the CEO said he has no information.“ The candidates who have contested on party tickets have a party symbol. We have no information that any party has supported the Independents,” Kumar said.

The CEO said two candidates from Congress had contested the polls out of whom one in south Kashmir’s Pulwama won.

While National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party and the Congress boycotted the polls, “We had sent officials to political parties to check their mood and mind about the elections. One party said that they would meet their leader and decide. The other party said that they also would meet their leader, but they postponed the meeting. The third party changed their mind at the last minute,” he said.

On the detention of the leaders of political parties, he said he was not aware if the leaders had followed a legal course for their release.

“We all are aware that they are under preventive detention. It is a legal matter. In a legal matter, we can’t say that after releasing a certain number of persons from one party would ensure level playing field. This is unfounded. If the law has taken any course of action, then they have to follow the legal course and get ourselves released. Whether they have done it or not, I have no knowledge,” he said.  

The elections to BDC chairman would put in place the second tier of the Panchayat system, and were held at a time when the Valley is facing unrest following the abrogation of Article 370. The Kashmir BDC poll result becomes important in this contest.

Ishfaq Ul Hassan

An accredited journalist with 22 years of professional experience, Ishfaq-Ul-Hassan has worked as a reporter based in Kashmir for two decades. He has covered various beats including militancy, politics, defence, minorities, social issues, religious groups and women issues in Kashmir. He had previously worked as Special Correspondent in Jammu and Kashmir for DNA (Daily News and Analysis) Newspaper for 13 years. Ishfaq is also associated with the New Delhi- based television company `Asia Pacific Communication Associates’ which produced the famous series “Subah-Bakhar-Kashmir” for satellite Kashmir channel of Doordarshan. In 2004, he was awarded the Charkha-Sanjoy Ghosh Fellowship for Peace and Development for his research on families divided across the LOC in Kashmir.

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