PAGD sees J&K DDC poll result a ‘referendum’ against BJP-RSS stance

Election results and trends suggest that the PAGD and the Congress would emerge victorious with a comfortable margin

Key Kashmir commentators believe that even after holding the DDC election in a ‘militarised and choked atmosphere,’ the BJP has failed in its mission Kashmir. Photo PTI FIle

The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a newly formed political conglomerate which seeks restoration of semi-autonomy and statehood for Jammu and Kashmir, is comfortably leading in 112 wards in the District Development Council (DDC) elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is leading in 70.

As this report was being filed, the Indian National Congress (INC) was leading in 25 DDC wards even as the independent candidates and Apni Party were ahead in 56 and 12 DDC seats respectively.

Election results and trends suggest that the PAGD and the Congress would emerge victorious with a comfortable margin, lending a blow to the BJP’s narrative on Kashmir. 

Professor Siddiq Wahid, former Vice-Chancellor of the Islamic University of Science and Technology and noted political commentator, said, by holding the DDC elections, the BJP-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) combine wanted to ‘test the  waters’ in J&K.


“And, the move has backfired. The BJP-RSS had to eat a humble pie,” Prof. Wahid told The Federal. According to him, the fourteen DDC representatives in each district have no role beyond recommending certain things related to local grievances. “The

DDC leadership has no powers. Its role is pretty much limited,” he added.

Overall, there are 280 DDC wards in all 20 districts of J&K. In each district, there are 14 DDC wards. Eight DDC members are required to win the post of the DDC chairman/president in each district.

Omar Abdullah, vice-president of the National Conference and former Chief Minister, said the election results had shown that the people of J&K rejected the decisions taken on August 5, 2019. According to Abdullah, the trends of the DDC polls are an ‘eye-opener’ for the BJP and its ‘proxy political party.’ “The results are an important milestone for the PAGD as they endorse our view that revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and downgrading it into a union territory was unacceptable for the people,” he told PTI. 

“Now, if the BJP and its proxy political party (a reference to the Apni Party headed by PDP dissenter Altaf Bukhari) believe in democracy, they should immediately reverse their decision and respect the verdict of the people of this region,” he added.

Najmu Saqib, PDP’s spokesperson, told The Federal that the ‘landslide victory’ is proof to the massive swell of public support for the PAGD’s agenda. “This has not only unnerved the bonsai leadership which post August 5 used all might to inflict damages on traditional mainstream, but also exposed the rightwing ecosystem which peddled the propaganda that the regional parties had lost public support,” he said. 

The DDC elections were the only political event in J&K since June 2018 when the BJP formally withdrew its support to the coalition government headed by the PDP. The poll process but witnessed heavy military deployment, suspension of civil liberties, ban on high-speed 4G internet service, political detention and unprecedented curbs on media.

Meanwhile, as the trend shows that the PAGD would eventually register an emphatic win, the political amalgam sees the results as a ‘referendum’ on the stance that it had taken on August 5, 2019. Several leaders of the PAGD told The Federal that the BJP’s ‘propagandist narrative’ and ‘argument of power’ were defeated by the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

The eight-phased DDC election exercise in J&K remained largely peaceful without any major untoward incident, but the south Kashmir districts such as the volatile Pulwama and Shopian witnessed dismal voter turnout. The turnout was mostly in single digits in each phase.

In Pulwama, the PAGD won a majority of seats with PDP winning seven DDC wards; NC two; independent candidates four; while the BJP managed to open its account by winning one ward in the district.

Waheed Parra, PDP’s youth leader who is currently under judicial custody in connection with an alleged militancy case, won the DDC ward comfortably from his home district.

Former Chief Minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “Couldn’t be prouder of PDPs @parawahid who won his maiden election by a huge margin of votes. Despite being arrested on baseless charges right after filing his nomination, people have shown their love & trust for Waheed. Hope justice prevails.”

Key Kashmir commentators believe that even after holding the DDC election in a ‘militarised and choked atmosphere,’ the BJP has failed in its mission Kashmir. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in a series of tweets, had taken a dig at the PAGD, describing J&K’s regional unionists jointly as ‘the Gupkar Gang.’

“The election results have proved otherwise and exposed the false narratives of the ‘Jumla Jokers,” said a PAGD leader.

Consolation for BJP in Kashmir

The BJP managed to open its account in the Kashmir Valley by winning three DDC wards, most significant of these in the summer capital Srinagar. Aijaz Hussain, BJP’s candidate from Balhama ward on the outskirts of Srinagar, won. However, winning three seats out of 140 wards in the Kashmir Valley is inconsequential electorally.

The BJP received a blow of sorts in Jammu province, which was considered its stronghold. In the 2014 elections for J&K Legislative Assembly, the BJP had won all its 25 constituencies from the Jammu province while drawing a blank from both the Kashmir Valley and the Ladakh region. Among 140 wards in ten districts of the Kashmir Valley, the BJP did open its account in the maiden DDC polls. But the saffron party suffered a setback in the Jammu province. Losing the DDC seats in its bastion Jammu should worry the BJP.

As much as 51% of the 57 lakh eligible voters participated in the election process. K.K. Sharma, the State Election Commissioner (SEC), told journalists that the DDC results would decide the fate of 2,178 candidates for 280 DDC seats. The counting for the DDC elections began at 9 am on December 22.

Political detention 

A day before the counting, the PDP alleged that its leaders including former cabinet minister Naeem Akhtar, and Sartaj Madani and Peerzada Mansoor Hussain were detained by the police. At least 20 political leaders, mostly belonging to the PDP, have been either detained or placed under house arrest ahead of the results for the maiden DDC elections held in Jammu and Kashmir in eight phases.

Mehbooba Mufti alleged that the police and the administration were kidnapping and detaining senior members of her party, including her uncle Sartaj Madni.

In a series of tweets, Mehbooba alleged that there was ‘Goonda Raj’ in Jammu and Kashmir. 

The DDC elections were seen as a battle between the BJP and the PAGD. The elections to this third tier of Panchayati Raj system were held for the first time in Jammu and Kashmir and were the first polls since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.

Seven Kashmir-centric mainstream political parties, including the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party, contested the polls in an alliance under the banner of the PAGD. The Congress was very much a part of the PAGD but distanced itself from the alliance as the BJP targeted the opposition party for being in league with what it then described as the ‘Gupkar Gang’. Although Congress went alone in the last seven phases, it is widely perceived that its understanding with the PAGD remains intact.