by Faheem Mir
SRINAGAR: “Fe Sabeelillah Trewzeowh vote meh, be chus gareeb, Puj keam karaan( For the sake of God please vote for me, I am poor, I am professionally a butcher),” these are the words of a DDC contestant from Baramulla’s Dangiwacha area while he addressed a gathering of five people in a village.
After the J&K administration announced District Development Council (DDC) elections, hundreds of people including political workers and new faces have jumped into the race. Interestingly, this election is first of its kind in India and after abrogating Article 370, it is also the first time election being held in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Rafiabad assembly segment is divided into two constituencies – Rohama and Dangiwacha – Over 20 candidates have filed nomination forms for the DDC. Dangiwacha constituency is reserved for a female seat while as Rohama for a male.
Women who have jumped into the fray are new faces. They include the wives of present BDC Chairman Ghulam Mohammad Mir, Sarpanch and ward member. Except a few who are completely new to participate in any kind of democratic elections. The major mainstream political parties who are part of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) have distributed the constituencies among themselves to defeat the BJP. The Dangiwacha seat has been given to People’s Conference and the party has nominated one Parmeet Kour. Likewise, Altaf Bukhari’s Apni Party has given a ticket to Tasleema Bano, who used to be a life insurance company’s agent. The BJP’s former MLA candidate from Rafiabad Desh Kumar Nehru’s daughter Arti Nehru is contesting as an independent candidate.
Another independent candidate Ruqiya Fayaz, 23, has no political background, nor is she supported by any political party. She is yet to receive her BA, LLB degree from Law College Sopore. “Politics is my passion and I decided to contest the DDC elections myself,” Ruqiya said.
She has been participating in village-level development programs and is also associated with some NGOs. “My father has some fixed deposit in the bank, we are spending the same money on the campaign”.
According to locals, the contest will be neck to neck between Parmeet Kour and Tasleema Bano. “Kour is favourite to win the elections as she is supported by two former cabinet ministers Javid Ahmad Dar and Abdul Gani Vakil,” Sadam Farooq, a resident, said.
Half the candidates are house-wives. Kour has a Masters in Commerce. Bano has completed her college a couple of years ago.
Since the campaign began in the area, the participants have been holding the roadshows and rallies. Most of the candidates use social media for the campaign and spend money on roadshows. “They think more the vehicles they have in their roadshows, more votes they gain,” another resident Mohammad Ibrahim said.
Bano is using her old contacts to make a vote bank. “She is one of the favourites candidates in this DDC elections from Dangiwach, ” said a local Khalid Pir.
All the participants are trying to mock their competitors by referring to them as “uneducated” and” outsiders”.
Some of the candidates are asking people to vote for them for better development. “Some are befooling us by saying they will give us employment. When their bosses failed to do so how can they?” asked one Rizwan Mir. “We don’t expect anything from anyone, we have seen the helplessness of some big political players”.
Former MLA’s Javid Ahmad Dar and Yawar Mir were seen campaigning for their respective candidates. Mir has joined the Apni Party and Dar supports PC’s candidate. The MLAs have started door to the door election campaign for their respective candidates. “The former MLAs are activating their old contacts, their voters and informing them about their candidates,” one Manzoor Ahmad said.
A few of the contestants are believed to be proxy candidates. “Apni Party has some connections with an independent candidate, though they have given the ticket to Tasleema Bano,” a close aid of Yawar Mir said.
Similarly, as there is no BJP candidate from the constituency there are rumors about BJP’s being behind Arti Nehru as her mother is a BDC chairman of the BJP from Rohama Block.
On the other hand, Rohama constituency has 16 candidates in the race. There are some known faces in the list. Altaf Ahmad Malik, a Congress leader, who has been active for many years. “Malik has a significant popular base in the area and might garner a good number of votes,” Mastan Shah, a resident, said.
Khursheed Ahmad Khan has voluntarily retired from police services as Deputy Superintendent of Police in 2013 is an independent candidate from the constituency. Earlier, he had fought the elections as an independent candidate in assembly elections. After losing it Khan joined Sajad Lone’s People’s Conference. The PAGD has given Rohama seat to the NC.
The PAGD has given a ticket to Shabir Ahmad Lone, a close aide of Javid Ahmad Dar.
Abdul Hamid Bhat is contesting the election on BJP’s ticket. Similarly, Apni Party has nominated Zahoor Ahmad Mir for the seat. Mir is the nephew of former cabinet minter and former MLA Rafiabad Dilawar Mir and cousin of Yawar Mir, the former MLA of the constituency, though he himself is not very known among the people of the area.
The Awami Ithad Party(AIP) has given a ticket to Bashir Ahmad War, who has the strong support of traders federation of Rohama. He previously worked with AIRCEL telecom as a distributor in the area. Meanwhile, the founder of AIP, Er Abdul Rashid has been in detention since October last year.
Tariq Ahmad Khan of Braman Village in the area is another participant in the race. “Tariq is a former sarpanch. He may get a good number of votes,” local resident Ishtiyak Ahmad said.