Gupkar Alliance to take a call on district council polls in J&K in this week’s meeting

Gupkar Alliance to take a call on district council polls in J&K in this week’s meeting

Srinagar: The upcoming District Development Council (DDC) elections will be among other issues that will be discussed by the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) in a meeting to be held on 7 November in Jammu.

PAGD is a conglomerate of regional and national political parties fighting for restoration of Article 370, which was scrapped by the Centre last August. It comprises the National Conference, the PDP, CPI(M), CPI, People’s Conference, Awami National Conference and the People’s Movement.

Last month, the central government amended the Jammu and Kashmir’s Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, to establish DDCs in all districts in the Union Territory (UT) for which elections will be held for the very first time.

The DDC elections will also be the first polls to be held in J&K after the scrapping of Article 370. Last year, though the UT had witnessed the Block Development Council elections, only elected panches and sarpanches had participated in it.

The J&K administration order Wednesday specified that every district will be divided into 14 territorial constituencies, which will participate in the DDC elections scheduled to take place between 28 November and 19 December. Counting will be held on 22 December. Elections will take place in eight phases and will be held in 280 constituencies.

Besides the DDC polls, elections will also be held simultaneously in 228 vacant seats in urban local bodies and 13,241 panch and sarpanch seats that remained vacant when the two main regional parties of J&K had boycotted the last elections held in 2018.

Before the announcement of the DDC election dates, regional political parties had either reserved their comments on the polls or had not welcomed the central amendments, with some even calling it a move to disempower the cabinet and MLAs.

‘Polls an important aspect of our political existence’

Regional political parties have maintained that they do not accept the constitutional changes brought about by the Modi government on 5 August last year and the subsequent actions taken by the Centre or the J&K administration, such as introduction of the domicile law and land laws.

While the DDC poll is also a subsequent action of the 5 August move, political parties in J&K are yet to reveal their official stand on the issue.

Senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar said the PAGD will have to take a call.

“It is an important aspect of our political existence and similarly party leadership will take a call on this. There is a pre-scheduled meeting in Jammu as well and party leaders will attend the same. Mehbooba ji has already arrived in Jammu,” he added.

People’s Conference spokesperson Adnan Ashraf also said the issue of DDC polls will be taken up during the 7 November meeting.

A senior NC leader said a final decision will be arrived at after the PAGD holds consultations this week.

‘Likely that we will take part in the elections’

Sources in the PAGD said the situation is “precarious”.

“It is likely that we will take part in the elections, but the modalities have to be discussed. Whether we will fight it as an alliance or as an individual party is something that will be discussed,” said a PAGD source.

Another source in the PAGD said: “We also do not want to go overboard with the campaign.”

“We understand that this is a very precarious situation for us. If we boycott the polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party will have a field day in the elections, but if we do participate, we will appear to legitimise or normalise the post-August 5 situation here. But we will have to take a step that is for the good for the people in J&K, whatever the political cost,” the source added.

The J&K Congress, meanwhile, said due to the Bihar elections, the party has not been able to find time to discuss other issues such as the DDC polls.

“Party leadership has been busy with the Bihar elections. But we will hold a meeting in a day or two and come out with a decision on DDC polls,” said senior Congress leader G.A. Mir.

The Congress, so far, has skipped the first two meetings of the PAGD.

“We have been busy with the national level campaign. Once all that is over, the party leadership will turn its attention to crucial issues in J&K,” Mir added.

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