The Bharatiya Janata Party has made a headway in the urban local body election in the Kashmir Valley by winning 60 municipal wards unopposed, mainly in the volatile south Kashmir, while the Congress has won only 26 wards.
Of the 624 wards scheduled to go for the four-phase polls from October 8 to 16, the BJP claimed to have won at least 60 unopposed in the three phases and expects the tally to cross 70 when the fourth phase details are made public by the Chief Electoral Officer in Srinagar.
“It is heartening that for the first time we have started winning wards in the urban local bodies in Kashmir. The edge is that we have started winning them in the hotbed of militancy in south Kashmir such as Kulgam, Pulwama and Anantnag,” BJP spokesman Altaf Thakur told The Hindu .
The initial tally suggests that the BJP has won 60 seats, which include eight of Devsar’s 13 wards, four of Qazigund’s 11 wards, nine of Pahalgam’s 13 wards, eight of Ashmuqam’s 13 wards and four of Tral, all falling in militancy-dominated districts in south Kashmir. In north Kashmir, the BJP claimed to have won eight wards in Sopore, the hometown of Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani.
Six Kashmiri migrant Pandit candidates, of the total 30 fielded in south Kashmir, have been declared winners unopposed, Mr. Thakur said. The BJP has fielded 325 candidates in the Valley, the highest ever in the electoral history of the State. “We hope to continue the winning streak,” said Mr. Altaf.
Most regional parties, including the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party, have boycotted the polls, accusing the Centre of not clarifying its stand and defending the Article 35A and Article 370 in the Supreme Court. However, Sajad Lone’s Peoples Conference, an ally of the BJP, has decided to contest the polls.