Congress, PAGD to jointly contest J&K district development council polls: Farooq Abdullah
Farooq Abdullah, the chairman of the National Conference (NC), has said that the Congress would jointly contest the upcoming District Development Council (DDC) polls in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) with the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a day after the latter had dropped hints of becoming a part of the new coalition.
Last week, the Congress had said that it would take part in the DDC polls in a bid to prevent the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to record a facile win in the upcoming polls, which are being held for the first time since J&K was declared a Union Territory (UT) on October 31, 2019.
The election to fill up 234 vacant seats of sarpanches, panches and urban local bodies will also be held simultaneously, whose results will be declared on December 22.
The first DDC elections for 280 constituencies will be held in eight phases following the completion of the delimitation process.
The elections will start on December 1 and the polling process will be completed by December 24. Polling will be held from 7am to 2pm.
Earlier on Saturday, the PAGD top brass held a meeting in the winter capital Jammu, where it was decided that the alliance partners would jointly contest the polls.
Sajjad Lone, spokesman, PAGD, announced after the conclusion of the meeting that the members of the coalition have unanimously decided to fight the upcoming DDC polls together.
“It is important that the sacred space in democracy is not allowed to be invaded by divisive forces, despite the abruptness of holding the DDC polls,” Lone said.
Besides the NC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Peoples Conference, the Communist Party of India (Maoist), and the Awami National Conference are part of the PAGD.
The NC and the PDP had stayed away from the panchayat polls in 2018.
On Sunday, Abdullah announced that the Congress would join the PAGD fold and contest the DDC polls together.
“Ghulam Ahmad Mir, president of the Congress’s J&K unit, informed me about his party’s plan to join the alliance (PAGD) and contest the DDA elections together,” Abdullah said.
Mir said that party leadership would hold a meeting on Monday and a decision would be conveyed to the public on Tuesday.
“The party’s central observer will be present in the meeting to take the final decision,” he said.
“I met the NC chairman (Abdullah) and we discussed several issues threadbare,” he added
The Congress top brass’ preoccupation with the three-phase Bihar elections, which concluded on Saturday (November 3), had put a decision on the DDA polls in abeyance, Mir had said.
Many Congress leaders from the UT are in favour of contesting the DDA elections jointly with other parties in a bid to keep the “divisive BJP” at bay.
Abdul Gani Vakil, vice-president of the People’s Conference, said that PAGD’s decision to take part in DDC elections was a sign of political prudence, which would have far-reaching consequences.
“The Congress must join the hands to defeat the evil designs of the BJP,” he said.
However, Shafiq Mir, president, J&K Panchayat Conference, said his party would contest the upcoming polls solo. “These leaders were opposed to the panchayati system for all these years and made every attempt to weaken it. We will contest independently across J&K,” he said.
In a notification, the state election commission had said that November 16 would be the last date for filing nominations; November 17 for scrutiny of nominations; and November 19 for the withdrawal of candidature, an official spokesman said.
Elections to the posts of 39,521 sarpanch and panch were conducted in 2018 of which 13,257 positions are lying vacant due to resignation, removal, election of sarpanch as Block Development Council (BDC) chairpersons, death, and non-availability of candidates at the time of election.
Among them, 1,089 vacancies relate to the office of sarpanch, while 12,168 are posts of panch.
More than 504 panches have resigned for various reasons since elections were held in 2018. The highest number of 129 resignations came from south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, followed by central Kashmir’s Budgam district (81) . In Baramulla and Kupwara districts, 67 and 61 panches submitted their resignations, respectively.
Besides, 12 sarpanches also quit with one each resigning in Anantnag and Baramulla districts. Five sarpanches resigned in Pulwama district, while one each quit in Baramulla, Budgam and Bandipora districts.
Five panchayat members were killed by militants in the past one year and several of them have been taken to the high-security zone after security forces got inputs that these members are on the radar of militants.
The J&K administration wants to hold the polls in a bid to complete the three-tier system of panchayati raj.