BJP will control the municipal corporation in militancy-infested Shopian district of south Kashmir after 13 of its candidates won the civic body polls unopposed with most people preferring to maintain a distance from the electoral exercise following threats by terror groups.
The Shopian district, which has been the battleground of numerous encounters between militants and the security forces, has a 17-member municipal corporation. The BJP fielded candidates for 13 wards while no nomination was filed for the remaining seats.
“We had only one nomination each for 13 wards while no nominations were received for four other wards of the Municipal Committee, Shopian,” an election official said Wednesday.
The state BJP claimed it was a “historic win”. Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief Ravinder Raina said “our motto is development of all and we will do justice to all kinds of people. We are extremely happy”.
However, political observers do not read much into the BJP’s ‘victory’ and feel that these elections were ‘meaningless’ after the state’s major political parties — National Conference and PDP — decided to boycott the elections over the legal challenge to Article 35-A of the Constitution in the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, fear of terror groups pushed the state electoral machinery into the secrecy mode to ensure that the names of the winning candidates or those who filed nominations were not leaked.
BJP state president Raina, meanwhile, lashed out at the National Conference and the PDP for making a “mockery of the democratic process” by boycotting the urban local polls.
“The National Conference with the Congress formed the Hill Development Council in Kargil recently but in Kashmir they are running away from the democratic process,” he said.
Asked if there was any Kashmiri Pandit among the elected candidates in Shopian, Raina said all the 13 were local Muslims.
Overall, of the 598 wards in the Kashmir valley, 151 candidates were declared as unopposed winners. The number of such candidates may go up as election authorities are compiling the data of valid nominations for the third and fourth phases of the polls.
There were no candidates in 177 wards in the Kashmir valley, an official said.
In contrast, in the Jammu region only five seats were won uncontested, three of these belonging to the Banihal Municipal Committee.
Elections will not be held for the Municipal Committees of Khrew in Pulwama district and Frisal in Kulgam district as no candidates filed nomination papers, officials said.
There were only two candidates in the 13-ward body at Seer Hamdan in Anantnag district while three candidates each filed papers for the 13-member bodies in Pulwama and Awantipora towns.
Interestingly, 330 candidates are in the fray for the 74 wards of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC). Result for only one ward in SMC was declared uncontested.
The first phase of polling will be held on October 8, followed by the second phase on October 10, third phase on October 13 and the fourth and final phase on October 16. The counting of votes will be taken up on October 20.
Around 17 lakh electors are eligible to vote in the four-phased local body and municipal polls in Jammu and Kashmir, an election department official said.
Out of the total 1,145 wards of municipality and local bodies, 90 wards have been reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and 38 for Scheduled Tribes (ST), which include 31 and 13 wards reserved for SC and ST women, respectively. In addition to this, 322 wards have been reserved for women belonging to the open category.
The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has the highest number of 6,63,775 electors with 74 wards followed by the Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) with 75 wards and 4,00,301 electors, the official said.