By Anwar Nizami
21 Dec 2020
For the first time since the amendment of Jammu & Kashmir Panchayat Raj Act, 1989 last year, the District Development Council elections were held in Jammu & Kashmir. The DDC works jointly with each district’s Block Development Council and District Planning Committee.
Its primary motive is the election of members from both rural and urban areas for the District planning Committee for economic upliftment and speedy development of each district.
The DDC polls mark the end of political inactivity in the union territory of Jammu & Kashmir, with candidates contesting for the 280 constituencies. There has been an eager participation by the voters, with the turnout crossing 50 percent in most of the phases, with Kulgam district recording the highest voter turnout of 64.45 percent in the valley. Going by the reports, each phase saw an eager participation by women candidates as well.
Back in 2018, the panchayat and municipal elections were boycotted by the PDP and
NC as they wanted the Centre to take steps to protect Article 370 from legal challenges. But
now, they have realised that bringing any kind of change needs one to win elections. With
the main contestants being the Gupkar alliance and the BJP, the voters are being seen to be
highly differing in their choices, especially as one moves across the Pir Panjal Ranges. Akash
Singh, a first time voter says, “My vote will go to the party that promises better roads, power,
water supply and jobs”. The youth of Kashmir today has realised that development must take
precedence over and above any other associations. The elections also marks the first time that Pakistani refugees, valmikis and gurkhas who were earlier denied citizenship and right to vote,
are voting post abrogation of article 370, which had denied them domicile. For many like
them, the elections are being seen as an opportunity for them to participate in a political
process in a state which has been stagnated by violence, militancy, curfews and lockdown.
The elections have also ensured strict Covid-19
protocols being followed, with Sanitisers, thermal scanners and face masks being arranged at the polling stations and social distancing being strictly followed.
Thus, the valley which was left in a state of turmoil, uncertainty and distrust post abrogation of article 370, experiences a fresh breathe of life and hope, with development and a better life as its main agenda post the DDC polls. The polls thus mark the beginning of a new chapter in the electoral process in Kashmir