JAMMU TAWI, May 24: Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), which is presently ruling the state of Jammu and Kashmir in a coalition government with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is now eyeing urban local bodies (ULB) and Panchayats in the state, for which elections are likely to be held in August this year.
To garner the maximum possible support for the coming elections, the BJP has introduced the system of public Darbar in all the three regions of state, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. The party has designated 10 ministers for 10 districts of Kashmir valley, who will be holding Darbars after every 15 days to strengthen the party at the grassroot level.
The idea of public Darbars was first introduced in the winter capital Jammu, and it turned out be a grand success, and from 11 May, BJP ministers held public interactions in six districts of Kashmir. BJP won 25 seats in the 2014 Assembly elections and the highest vote share of 23 percent for the first time in the electoral history of the state.
However, in the Muslim majority region of Kashmir, it failed to open an account, securing a vote share of just 2.2 percent. But just two years after that remarkable election, it has come to represent, like any other political party in the state, particularly Kashmir valley, where it was considered to be a pariah.
“We are preparing for the local bodies and Panchayat elections, but that is not entirely the purpose of these darbars. We had promised to take governance at the doorsteps of people and that is what we are doing,” said a BJP minister. He has been tasked with the responsibility of Srinagar, where he recently presided over a meeting that saw participation by several top officials of the district.
He said that ministers will be holding public Darbars in all the 10 districts of Kashmir once in a month. The state government headed by Mehbooba Mufti is likely to hold both urban local bodies and Panchayat elections any time after the completion of Amarnath Yatra, and the final call is likely to be made during the budget session of the legislature in Srinagar.
The Panchayat elections held in early 2011 after a gap of 37 years in Kashmir, witnessed the killing of many aspiring candidates and elected ones, allegedly by militants. The municipal elections were held in early 2005, after a gap of 26 years. When the state came under the Governor’s Rule from 8 January to 3 April, the administration had finalized arrangements for holding municipal elections.
Governor N.N.Vohra has decided to hold urban local body polls in April-May and the Panchayat elections in June. However, before the election schedule could be announced, the PDP-BJP revived its coalition government but it issued no order to the State Election Commission (SEC) to hold ULB elections.
The municipalities have already completed their five-year term long back in March 2010, and elections haven’t been held since then, while the Panchayats would cease to exist on completion of their five-year term on 16 July. BJP state spokesman Khalid Jehangir said his party has registered more than three lakh members in the Valley and it was for the first time in the history of state that the BJP has a district president and a sizeable base in every district of the Kashmir Valley.
“I am taking care of Ganderbal, along with Minister for PHE and Irrigation, Sham Lal Choudhary. Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh is in-charge of Bandipora, the first meeting that we held which saw massive response,” Jehangir said. “This is an initiative by the BJP to get as much close to the people of Kashmir as any political party can. At the same time, we would like to mobilize the cadres for the upcoming ULBs and Panchayats polls too, in the state,” he added.