“Will extend support to the Gupkar (PAGD) Alliance in councils where required. The Congress had earlier denied alliance with Gupkar”
Aiming to bloom in Kashmir Valley, the lotus of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has apparently emaciated in some of its strong bastions in the recently concluded District Development Council (DDC) elections, courtesy ‘half-hearted’ campaigning in Jammu.
Two times Legislator and a former Cabinet Minister from Suchetgarh constituency, Sham Lal Choudhary has lost his bastion with a margin of mere 11 votes to an independent candidate Taranjit Singh Tony.
“The party was sure about the mandate in Jammu, owing to Hindu majority, but the results have shaken us all,” said BJP leader, wishing anonymity. He added that the party undoubtedly made a mistake of taking Jammu voters for-granted.
He said that after the abrogation of Article 370, the only focus of the party was to make its ground in Kashmir Valley.
“The BJP fielded central ministers such as Jitendra Singh, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Anurag Thakur, Smriti Irani and Shahnawaz Hussain for campaigning in the eight-phase polls,” said leader, adding that despite such a strong campaigning the party managed to win only three out of 140 seats in Kashmir.
The BJP leader maintained that the defeat of Sham Lal Choudhary was due to the party’s attention towards Kashmir.
According to the figures provided by the State Election Authority (SEA), Sham Lal Choudhary polled 12,958 votes against independent candidate Taranjit Singh, who polled 12,969 votes in Suchetgarh segment of Jammu district.
Sham Lal Choudhary was a Cabinet Minister in the BJP-PDP coalition government.
He won assembly elections from Suchetgarh in 2014 and 2008 and is considered to be a powerful leader in the border belt of R S Pura.
Taranjit Singh, a former NC youth leader, contested the DDC polls as an independent and sloganeered against three new farm laws enacted by the BJP-led central government. It garnered farmers’ support in the Suchetgarh-RS Pura border belt, which is called home of the farming community in the Jammu division as the area is known for its Basmati rice.
Another shocker for BJP in Jammu came from Doda district, wherein despite managing 8 out of 14 seats, former minister in PDP-BJP coalition Shakti Raj Parihar lost both the seats he was contesting from.
In Gundna, Parihar lost to Asim Hashmi of J&K National Conference with the margin of 1336 votes, while as in Marmat, he lost to Mushtaq Ahmed of Indian National Congress with 1330 votes.
The BJP leader, wishing not to be named, targeted top leadership for defeat in strong bastions of the party.
“Constituencies of Sham Choudhary and Shakti Parihar in Jammu division were the strong bastions of the party, but defeat of such tall leaders is an indicator for the party leadership to introspect,” said leader, adding that while the party has led in Jammu region, its performance was not the sweep it might have expected, indicating a drift at the grassroots level.
Anurag Thakur, soon after the results tweeted, “It is important to know that independent candidates have polled more votes than the Congress and the PDP. The same Mehbooba Mufti who’d refused to unfurl the Tricolour has got a befitting reply today. The combined vote share of the Independent candidates and the BJP amounts to a little over 52%. This is a clear indication that the Gupkar Gang has lost its credibility and the trust of the people.”
Former Chief Minister- Omar Abdullah tweeted, “This election has proved that no matter what you do against the National Conference, you can’t put an end to its existence. Only Almighty or the public has that power. Spread lies and propaganda but truth will come out someday. With this defeat, I don’t think the BJP govt will conduct Assembly elections here anytime soon. They would have announced the polls by now had they believed in democracy. So, we have time to strengthen our party: National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on DDC polls results.”
However, the uncertainty continues to loom large over the future of Congress, whose J&K unit spokesperson Ravinder Sharma says it will extend support to the Gupkar (PAGD) Alliance in councils where required. The Congress had earlier denied alliance with Gupkar.
It is important to mention that at least 49 independent candidates have registered their victory in the DDC elections.
Independent candidates are going to play the role of kingmakers in Ramban and Kishtwar districts. They have also emerged as winners and not just kingmakers in Srinagar and Poonch districts.
“In Srinagar, independents have won seven out of 14 seats and another seven out of 14 seats in Poonch district”, official figures stated.
The Farooq Abdullah-led Gupkar alliance won big in the first local polls in Jammu and Kashmir since it lost special status last year under Article 370 and was turned into two Union Territories. In the first-ever District Development Council (DDC) polls across 20 districts in J&K, the seven-party alliance, along with the Congress, has won in 13 districts. The BJP has won in six districts in Jammu.
The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration — a grouping of mainstream J&K-based parties including rivals National Conference of Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – has won more than 100 seats but the BJP has emerged as the single largest party with 74 seats. The Congress has won 26 seats.