The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is confident of winning 90 percent block development council seats in Kashmir valley in the polls to be held on October 24, as the party starts a major reach out to panchs and sarpanchs, who contested as independents or were proxies of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC).
“The campaigning has started. It’s yielding results too. We expect 90 percent BDC seats to fall in the BJP kitty. We have 1,267 panchs ans sarpanchs in Kashmir valley. It will bring a change on the ground,” BJP spokesman Altaf Thakur told The Hindu.
The campaigning has become easy as most panchs and sarpanchs have been put up in the hotels in Srinagar due to the security threat from militants. “Our maximum number of panchs and sarpanchs are in hotels in Srinagar,” Mr. Thakur.
Sources said the BJP leaders have approached many grassroots leaders affiliated to the PDP and the NC in these hotels located in Boulevard, Rajbagh and Jawahar Nagar areas. “The BJP has offered us support on many BDC seats as independent candidates. We have no other but to support the BJP this time, as no regional party is in the fray,” a PDP grassroots leader from Pampore said, on the condition of anonymity.
The BJP has already issued mandate to 122 candidates for the BDC polls, as it will contest on 131 seats in Kashmir out of 137. “We had suggested three names for each seat to the party high command. They finalised the list,” said the BJP leader. Two Sikh candidates and six Pandits are among the candidates fielded in the Valley.
The BJP has sharpened its focus on the Kashmir valley to sow seeds of the party at the grassroots level. “We already have 1267 panchs and sarpanchs in Valley who won the elections last year. We have been able to win maximum seats in south Kashmir’s Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian and Kulgam,” said Mr. Thakur.
With threat of militants looming large again after a PDP activist was shot at and injured in Anantnag on Sunday, Mr. Thakur said, “The election is meant for poor man’s development. This will help in getting ₹.16 to ₹ 20 lakh rupees directly into the account of sarpanchs. This will benefit people. There was fear factor last year too but people contested and won,” said Mr. Thakur.
Due to the boycott of both the urban local bodies and panchayat elections by the NC and the PDP last year, the BJP is fast emerging as the main contender in the BDC polls, which will create a new layer of political class which will implement schemes and spend money for the developmental projects. Around 60 percent, a total of 12,565 panch and sarpanch seats remain vacant in Kashmir valley after the regional parties stay away from the process.
Meanwhile, the NC spokesman on Monday said the visiting party delegation, which met party president Dr. Farooq Abdullah and vice president Omar Abdullah on Sunday, have reiterated there will be no political process until and unless all political leaders, traders, civil society members are released.
“All students, children that have been arrested and put under detention in various jails or police stations are released immediately and unconditionally. All the communication channels (mobile telephony, internet) should be restored,” the spokeman said.
The spokesman said people have voiced their disapproval of the revocation of the special status and bifurcation of the state by protesting in a peaceful manner.