by Malik Nauman Feroz
PULWAMA: The penultimate phase of the District Development Council (DDC) elections in Pulwama will take place in the single constituency of Kakapora I on Wednesday. For an electorate of 20,384 (10,568 males and 9,816 females), ten candidates are in the fray for the seventh phase.
The Wednesday contest sees several veterans of the area like People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) Abdul Qayoom Mir, Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party’s (JKAP) Syed Showket Gayoor Andrabi, and Indian National Congress’s (INC) Umar Jaan facing off for a place on the district’s DDC. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has given its mandate to Syed Mohammad Lateef. Others in the fray are Manoj Pandita, Arsheed Ahmad Bhat (also contested for the Pulwama II constituency), Ishtiaq Ahmad Ganie, Ali Mohammad Wani, Ghulam Qadir Sheirgojri, and Mohammad Ismail Dar.
Talking to Kashmir Life, PDP’s Abdul Qayoom Mir, who unsuccessfully contested the 2008 and 2014 assembly elections, expressed disappointment with the way the authorities have treated candidates contesting the Sarpanch/Panch by-elections and the DDC elections.
“Ever since filing my nomination for the DDC elections, I have been confined to my house. The authorities have barely provided any opportunity to campaign for the elections,” he said. He complained that authorities have literally consigned some contestants to detention. “A woman I know who filed her nomination for the Panch by-election has been confined to the Central High School Pulwama for a month. She can’t even meet her family.”
Echoing similar grievances, the JKAP’s Syed Showket Gayoor Andrabi, son of the politician Syed Ghulam Rasool Andrabi, said that he had barely campaigned for nine hours since filing his nomination. “Every time we submitted our campaign programme to the PCR, the response was always that the SSP had declined permission for conducting it.” However, he added that the authorities had allowed some candidates from other parties to campaign. INC’s Umar Jaan — a member of the party for almost 19 years now — on the other hand, said that he had campaigned through social media, door-to-door meetings, and roadshows but, at the same time, also added that the time afforded for campaigning was insufficient.
Speaking about the voter turnout in the Pulwama, which has been the lowest of all the districts in the first six phases of the DDC elections, Gayoor, who also previously served as the District President of National Conference (NC) from 2005 to 2008 and General Secretary PDP Youth Wing from 2009 to 2019, said that a mixture of the abrogation of the Article 370, disappointment with previously elected officials, and barely any campaigning has resulted in a situation where most people are oblivious of both the candidates and elections.
Abdul Qayoom Mir blamed authorities and the police for working for appreciation that they conducted elections successfully and peacefully in the region. “The reason the voter turnout is so low is because of the lack of campaigning. Campaigning creates an atmosphere ripe for people’s mobilization and participation in the elections which are important components of the election process,” he said. In the past, he said, when Kashmir was in the throes of more violent situations, elections were held with lesser restrictions on candidates than now. “Honestly, with each passing day, I have been regretting my choice of filing nomination for the DDC elections.”
All the three candidates whom Kashmir Life talked to said that they were fighting for the welfare and development of their constituency. Umar Jaan, who has already successfully contested elections for Sarpanch and Block Chairman added that the claims by some parties and independent candidates that they are contesting the DDC elections for issues like Article 370, the Kashmir dispute, or stopping communal forces from gaining a foothold in the region was fooling no one.
“The people know what happened when they voted for certain parties in the 2014 elections who had promised them that they would fight to ensure zero space for communal forces in the region,” Jaan said. He added that the people have had enough and can discern the person deserving of their vote. “The DDC elections are for development. Promising other things which are beyond the scope of DDC is just dishonest.”