Renowned educationist Zahida Chaudhary, wife of former minister Lal Mohammad Chaudhary, on Monday joined Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) here.
Hailing from Mendhar in Poonch district, Zahida was a teacher with the Education Department and recently took voluntary retirement from the service, the party said.
She joined the party in the presence of PDP president and MP Mehbooba Mufti at a function here, the party said.
"It is the PDP's pro-people agenda and its performance both in the government and opposition that influenced me to join the party," Zahida said.
She said during its brief stint in the government, PDP not only brought about a new change on the ground, but also restored people's faith in the democratic system.
"PDP has now emerged as a genuine voice and viable alternative for the people across the state," she added.
Meanwhile, a large number of Gujjars from Aragam and Gujjarpati villages of Bandipora district also joined the party at its headquarters here today, PDP said.
PDP chief spokesperson Naeem Akhtar welcomed them into the party fold.
He accused the ruling NC for "systematically exploiting" the "disadvantaged section" of the society, including Gujjars, over the last eight decades for petty political interests.
Akhtar said even though the community had traditionally supported and voted for NC, all key welfare majors, benefiting the community were taken when the party was out of power.
"The tribal status to the community was granted by Janata Dal-led government in 1991 and the NC and Congress were not in power then. Similarly, mega projects like the Mughal Road and the Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University, which are of special significances for Poonch and Rajouri regions having larger concentration of Gujjars, were initiated by the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led government.
"In contrast to this, the present government has failed to construct the model schools sanctioned by Centre for tribal students at every district headquarters. Similar is the fate of Gujjar Bakerwal hostels which are in a mess and the special scholarship schemes offered by Centre to tribal students," he said.
"PDP will ensure that the benefits of every Centrally sponsored scheme reaches them, which so far has not been happening," Akhtar said.