Having eroded its substantial percentage of traditional vote share in the recently held municipal elections, the BJP is engaged in poaching Congress’ and independent councillors to form municipal councils and committees in Jammu and Kashmir.
BJP secured a majority in the prestigious Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) but has been wiped out of the Ladakh region where it failed to show its presence in the Leh Municipal Committee as the party was accused of having made the false promise of granting Union Territory (UT) status to Ladakh. All 13 seats of the municipal committee of Leh have been won by the Congress. There were reports that the BJP was trying to indirectly capture the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) by involving the former separatist, Sajjad Lone, who was a minister in the Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government from the BJP quota.
It is being alleged that the elections of the civic body chiefs have been delayed by the authorities to provide an opportunity to the BJP to do the poaching.
In a bid to secure a clear majority in the 21 member Kathua Municipal Council, the BJP on Monday poached 4 of the 5 councillors who have been elected on the Congress symbol while BJP had bagged only 8 seats.
Similar attempts were being made in Udhampur where the BJP was desperately trying to lure back an independent MLA Pawan Gupta whom the party had denied ticket in the last Assembly election but he won the seat as a rebel. Senior RSS and BJP leaders have made trips to Udhampur to seek his support as his men have won a majority of the seats in the 21 member municipal council. It is learned that the BJP leadership has promised his “honourable” return into the party fold if he supports the BJP in the municipal council.
Gupta told the SNS over the phone that certain senior BJP leaders have told him to form the council but without the support of the Panthers Party. Of the total 21 seats in the Udhampur council, BJP won just 4 while independents supported by Gupta got around 9 seats. The Panthers Party won 6 and there were initial reports that Gupta might tie-up with the Panthers Party. Interestingly, Kathua and Udhampur are part of the parliamentary constituency that is represented by Jitendera Singh, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Independents have won the highest number of 363 seats in the municipal bodies throughout the state as a result of which they were being seen potential poaching targets by the BJP to show its strength for the first time in the state.
State BJP chief, Ravinder Raina, claimed that the party has secured a landslide victory in the Jammu and Kashmir region.
However, the fact is that the BJP gained due to the boycott of these elections by the National Conference and PDP and the half-hearted contest by the Congress. Most seats in Kashmir were won unopposed by BJP candidates.
Terrorist infested Shopian in South Kashmir, where the BJP won 12 of the 17 seats unopposed in the municipal committee as not even a single nomination was filed also for the remaining 5 seats, the office of the municipality was set ablaze on Monday evening even before the BJP councillors could occupy it.