Cover Story Jammu & Kashmir

Apni party aims to head 6-7 DDCs with support of independent candidates

Srinagar:  The Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) is aiming to have its chairpersons in at least six to seven District Development Councils with the help of Independents and members of other parties who are “willing” to cross over, its chief Altaf Bukhari said on Monday.

Elected DDC members will pick the chairpersons in 20 districts — 10 each in Jammu and Kashmir — within three weeks.

The JKAP won only 12 DDC constituencies out of a total of 280 in the first democratic exercise in Jammu and Kashmir after the revocation of its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and its bifurcation into union territories in August last year.

A businessman-turned-politician who was part of the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir between 2015 and 2018, Bukhari said his party had quietly fielded independent candidates. “On Sunday, I have paraded all the 21 (winning) independent candidates at the party meeting. There was no coercion whatsoever,” he said.

Targeting the rival People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), Bukhari said, “They built a false narrative against my party that we are the ‘B team of BJP’ or the ‘King’s party’. We were trying to build a base in the newly carved out Union Territory and were attracting the right kind of people, including intellectuals and well educated.”

“The other political parties made attempts to sabotage our identity and also went ahead in claiming that the elections were for restoration of Article 370, et cetera, et cetera,” Bukhari told PTI here.

Asked about the below-expectation performance of the JKAP, the new entrant in the political space of Jammu and Kashmir, he said, “Please understand that 12 (candidates) won on our ticket while 21 independents were supported by us.”

“Secondly, we were just born a few months back but our vote share is more than that of the PDP which has been in the political arena for more than two decades. We have been moving around and telling people about our party. The cadre base is building and we will only improve from here,” he said.

The JKAP secured 5.3 per cent of votes in the eight-phase elections held between November 28 and December 19. The counting of votes took place on December 22.

The Peoples Democratic Party led by former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had secured only 3.96 per cent votes.

The BJP topped the chart with 24.82 per cent vote share, followed by the National Conference with 16.46 per cent. Independent candidates had a vote share of 13.82 per cent.

The JKAP was contesting against the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) which comprise the National Conference, the PDP, People’s Conference, CPI(M), CPI, JK People’s Movement and the Awami National Conference.

Bukhari said the JKAP has been working towards having its chairperson in as many as six to seven districts in the union territory.

“People have been approaching us and are willing to cross over. The independent winners are willing to join us as the JKAP is not a dynastic political party and there is scope for climbing up the ladder if one performs well,” he said.

While PAGD swept the polls by winning 110 seats, the BJP emerged as the single largest party by getting 75 seats in the first democratic exercise after the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the constitution and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into union territories.

There are 280 DDC constituencies 14 each in 20 districts. The results of two seats — one each in Bandipora and Kupwara districts of north Kashmir — are awaited as the counting of votes has been deferred there till further orders.

State Election Commissioner K K Sharma had last week said the counting in Drugmulla constituency of Kupwara and Hajin-A in Bandipora have been kept in abeyance to clear the citizenship issue of two of the candidates.

Two Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) nationals, who are married to former militants, are among the contestants from the two constituencies.

Among the rest 278 seats, the BJP won 75 DDC segments, followed J&K National Conference 67, PDP 27 and Congress 26, Apni Party 12, J&K People’s Conference eight, CPI(M) five, People’s Movement three, J&K National Panthers Party and PDF two each, BSP one and independents 50.

 

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