Last week, in a significant move, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration announced to “unitedly fight” the upcoming District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The reason, as per it was to prevent “too sacred space to be marauded or molested by the invaders.”
Significantly also, the Congress party decided to jointly contest the polls with the People’s Alliance even as it skipped the recent meetings of the grouping.
Whether jugglery of words or otherwise, the decision by the alliance comprising among other major political parties like National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, J&K People’s Conference and Communist Party of India (Marxist), holds the potential for melting the ice that had formed overall political activity in the Jammu and Kashmir since 5 August last year. It could not have been easy to arrive at this decision even as the powers given to the DDCs are vast. In fact, the DDCs have become the kind of mini-assemblies and one way of look at the decision would suggest that the people alliance wants to control them to enhance its political clout. The decision also holds importance in the context that the elections are being conducted in a union territory, something these parties want to be rolled back as also returning the J&K its special status.
The eight-phase polls will start from November 28 and were announced all of a sudden with the constituencies of the districts yet to be delimited. The people’s alliance took many by surprise by its decision given the statements by leaders like Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba that they won’t be personally taking part in the elections unless the statehood was returned. This seemed to indicate that the alliance was loath to fight elections as some quarters had expressed apprehensions that this would normalise the revocation of Article 370. The decision despite odds seems to be in realization that staying out of the political process was not the solution.
Whatever the outcomes—both in terms of final tally as well as participation by the people, the entry of the People’s Alliance will surely make it interesting, even as a hard-fought contest, one in which neither the BJP nor the newly incubated J&K Apni Party can take anything for granted. The coming weeks are going to get interesting.