At least two BJP candidates and one from the Congress have publicly announced their withdrawal from the urban local body polls in Kashmir. Ghulam Hassan Bhat, who claims to be BJP’s constituency president for Dooru in Anantnag district, Thursday said he has decided to withdraw from the contest and also resign from the membership of the party. “The BJP government has been there for the last 4.5 years but none of the promises made by it have been fulfilled. The people were sold dreams of free (domestic cooking) gas connections and Mudra loans but nothing happened,” Bhat said.
He said his supporters have also resigned from the party and several other BJP candidates for the Dooru Municipal Committee have withdrawn from the polls. Mohammad Maqbool Mir, who had filed his nomination papers as a Congress candidate for the Hajin Municipal Committee in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, came all the way here to announce his withdrawal.
“There is no pressure on me, but I wanted to withdraw from the contest. I went to election office and filled a withdrawal form but the officer there kept delaying me on one pretext or the other. I was then told that my withdrawal form cannot be accepted as the deadline had lapsed,” Mir told reporters here. Mehrajuddin Raina, the BJP candidate for a ward in the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), announced his withdrawal from local bodies polls through a video message.
“I apologise to my people with folded hands and assure them that I will not repeat this mistake again,” Raina said. Militants in the Valley have threatened to target anyone who takes part in the urban local bodies and Panchayat elections, but none of the withdrawing candidates made any mention of these threats.
The threats have had a major impact on the election for the civic bodies in Kashmir as 177 wards had no candidates, while 151 wards each had just one candidate. There are no signs of any campaigning for the polls anywhere in the Valley. Major regional players — the National Conference and the PDP — have boycotted the polls on the grounds that state’s special status under Article 35-A of the constitution was under threat due to the legal challenge to this provision in the Supreme Court.
The boycott by these parties has come as a major boost for the BJP, which has so far seen 60 of its candidates getting elected unopposed. The state government has said it has made elaborate security arrangements for the contesting candidates to ensure smooth, free and fair polls. Besides the existing security forces, including police, additional 400 companies of central paramilitary forces have been brought in to secure the election process.