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BJP lotus blooms in Kashmir amid civic poll boycott by other parties

BJP candidates have won several seats unopposed in areas that were witnessing brutal terrorism and where no other candidates filed nominations; the saffron party is set to control at least six municipal committees in the nerve centre of terrorism in South Kashmir, including Shopian, Kulgam, Devsar, Qazigund, Ashmuqam and Pahalgam

SP Sharma | Jammu |

The poll boycott call given by Pakistan-backed terrorist outfits and separatists has helped the BJP’s lotus bloom for the first time in the Kashmir valley. Party candidates have already won several seats unopposed in the Jammu and Kashmir civic body polls scheduled to be conducted in four phases starting from 8 October.

The BJP’s gains are in the areas that were witnessing brutal terrorism as a result of which no other candidates filed their papers.

The BJP is set to control at least six municipal committees in the nerve centre of terrorism in South Kashmir, including Shopian, Kulgam, Devsar, Qazigund, Ashmuqam and Pahalgam.

Poll boycott by the National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the Congress not fielding its candidates on several seats in Kashmir has turned into a windfall for the BJP that is the biggest gainer despite lack of cadres in the Valley. The party had failed to win even a single seat in Kashmir during the last Assembly elections.

There were reports of a couple of Kashmiri Pandit migrants contesting these elections in Kashmir as BJP candidates while sitting in Jammu.

Eight BJP candidates are reported to have won unopposed in the 17-seat Sopore municipal council, while no nomination was filed for the remaining nine seats. Sopore in north Kashmir is hometown of top pro-Pakistan separatist Syed Alishah Geelani.

Election authorities are keeping secret the identity of candidates who won unopposed because of security concerns.

Shadow of the boycott call was visible as more than half of the 624 civic body seats in the Valley have either won unopposed or not even a single person has filed nomination. According to official figures, 215 seats have gone uncontested and not a single nomination was filed for 177 seats. Polling for these municipal councils, municipal committees and the lone municipal corporation of Srinagar will be held in four phases from 8 October.

A total of 930 candidates have filed papers for 624 civic body seats in the valley. The worst terrorism hit Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian districts of South Kashmir are not seeing any electoral challenge.

However, in the 13-seat Hajin municipal committee of North Kashmir, which in the recent past saw several incidents of beheading of innocent persons by terrorists, eight seats have been won unopposed and not a single nomination has been filed for two seats. As many as 11 candidates are contesting the remaining three seats.

Of the 17 seats of the Shopian municipal committee, 13 have been won unopposed and no nomination was filed for the four remaining seats. Shopian had recently witnessed abduction and killing of four policemen and also the brutal killing of Army soldier Aurengzeb.

The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) if the only civic body in the Valley for which enthusiasm was being seen. As many as 305 candidates have filed papers for the 72 seats of the SMC where seven seats have been won uncontested.

The position is a sharp contrast to the Jammu division where 2,136 candidates have filed papers for 534 seats. Only 13 seats have been won uncontested in the Jammu, Rajouri, Poonch and Ramban districts.