Home Minister Amit Shah. (PTI)
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on December 23 thanked the people of Jammu and Kashmir for supporting the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) which emerged as the single-largest party in the first District Development Council (DDC) polls in the Union territory.
While the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an alliance of regional parties, swept the polls by bagging 110 of the 280 seats, the BJP bagged 75 seats, the highest by any party in the fray.
"Congratulations to the people of J&K for such great turnout in the DDC polls. I applaud the efforts of our security forces and local administration for successfully conducting these multi-phased elections. This will further boost the morale and trust of people of J&K in democracy," Shah said in a tweet.
The BJP leaders were particularly upbeat for the party’s performance in Jammu division besides the victory on three seats, for the first time, in Kashmir division.
Of the 75 seats that the BJP won, 72 were from Jammu division. The party, however, was more jubilant over bagging three seats in Kashmir division where, otherwise, the multi-party Gupkar alliance swept the results by winning 84 of the 140 seats.
The three wins, one each in Srinagar, Bandipora, and Pulwama , are the BJP's first-ever victory in an election from any seat in Kashmir division while facing regional heavyweights like the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“We never claimed that we would win many seats in the Valley. But the fact that all other parties were united against the BJP is an admission that we are a force,” said Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, BJP leader who campaigned in the polls.
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The mainstream political parties in the Union territory, including the PDP, NC, Jammu and Kashmir People's Conference (PC), and the Awami National Conference (ANC) contested the polls as part of the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), making it a tough fight for the BJP.
The alliance was formed just ahead of the polls as a united front against the BJP to collectively fight for the restoration of Article 370, making it a direct contest between the BJP and other political parties in Jammu and Kashmir.
For the saffron party, the DDC elections were a litmus test and a referendum on scrapping of Article 370 in 2019. The party has not been in power in the state, except for a term when it had an alliance with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s PDP in 2015. In June 2018, the BJP pulled out of its coalition government with the PDP.
The party leaders said it got 4.8 lakh votes, more than 38 per cent of the total votes polled and more than any other party which contested the elections.
“With 75 seats and 38.74 per cent votes, the BJP has emerged as the single-largest party in the elections. This shows that people of Jammu and Kashmir have faith on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his policies," BJP MP and the party’s election in-charge Anurag Thakur told reporters.
Jammu division has largely been a BJP stronghold for many years now. The party had won both Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and 2019 in the region.
READ: Explained | All you need to know about the first-ever DDC polls in Jammu and Kashmir
In the 278 seats of which the results have been announced, the PAGD has won 110, while the BJP has bagged 75 of them. In the PAGD, the NC won 67 seats, PDP 27, JKPC 8, and the CPIM 5. The independents have won 50, and the Congress 26 seats, among others. The Centre-backed JK Apni Party has won 12 seats. The counting for two seats has been put on hold because of a row over the nationality of one candidate in each seat.
While the PAGD has secure control of at least nine of the 20 district development councils (DDCs) of Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP has won a majority in 6 district councils in Jammu division.
The opposition, however, had a different point of view.
The PAGD won majority in Kupwara, Baramula, Budgam, Pulwama, Anantnag, Bandipora, Ganderbal, Shopian, and Kulgam. All these districts are in Kashmir division. The BJP has won Doda, Udhampur, Kathua, Jammu, Reasi, and Samba district councils.
Though the BJP has not won majority in Reasi by bagging seven of the 14 seats, the two winners of the JKAP are expected to support it in the council.
Many BJP leaders said more than the parties, the polls were a win for "democracy" and the process of conducting polls.
“The DDC election result is a victory of the policies of the Govt of India, and of the Jammu & Kashmir administration in successfully conducting the polls. The greatest win is for the locals who have endorsed the country's democratic system,” BJP general secretary Ram Madhav was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.