DDC polls held in two districts of Kashmir, adjourned in 3 districts of Jammu

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Srinagar/Jammu, Feb 13 (PTI) Elections for posts of chairperson and vice-chairpersons of the District Development Council (DDC) were held in two districts of Kashmir in the final phase on Saturday, while a lack of quorum forced adjournment of polls in three of the four districts in Jammu region.

In the fifth and the last phase of the polls, the chairpersons and vice-chairpersons for the DDCs in Baramulla and Bandipora, both in north Kashmir, were elected on Saturday, the officials said.

They said that People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) won the election for the post of the chairperson in Bandipora district and an independent candidate won from Baramulla.

The PAGD is an amalgam of six parties, including the NC and the PDP, seeking the restoration of the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir which was revoked by the Centre in August 2019.

In Bandipora, the candidate of PAGD, Abdul Gani Bhat from the NC was elected the chairperson, while Kaunsar Shafeeq of the PDP was elected as the vice-chairperson, the officials said.

They said Bhat polled seven votes out of the total 13, while Shafeeq secured eight votes.

One of the 14 DDC seats in the district is vacant as the result has not been declared yet. The counting of the votes in two DDC constituencies has been kept in abeyance to clear doubts over the citizenship of two of the contesting candidates from Bandipora and Kupwara districts.

Two persons hailing from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), who are married to former militants, are among the contestants from the Dragmulla, in Kupwara, and Hajin-A, in Bandipora, constituencies.

In Baramulla, where the election was postponed earlier this week due to lack of quorum, an independent candidate Safina Baig won the poll for the post of the chairperson, while Sonullah Parrey of Peoples Conference bagged the position of the vice-chairperson, the officials said.

They said Baig, the wife of former PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig, polled 10 votes, while her rival got only four.

For the post of the vice-chairperson, Parrey and an independent candidate Irfan Hafiz Lone got seven votes each, they said.

The officials said a draw of lots was then held to determine the winner, by virtue of which Parrey was declared as elected.

The PAGD has won five chairperson posts in the valley after the successes in Kulgam, Ganderbal, Pulwama and Anantnag.

In Jammu, while independents won both the posts in Poonch district, voting could not take place in the three districts of Ramban, Rajouri and Kishtwar where PAGD enjoys the majority and was poised to head the DDCs with support from Congress or independents.

The National Conference which along with the Peoples Democratic Party is the main constituent of the PAGD, which emerged the largest party in Ramban and Kishtwar by winning six seats each, besides five seats in Rajouri district.

Against the requirement of 10 members out of total 14, only nine members each, mostly from PAGD and Congress, attended the meeting in Rajouri, Ramban and Kishtwar districts, prompting the concerned district panchayat election officers to adjourn the meetings citing lack of quorum, the officials said.

They said the date for the second meeting would be notified by the authorities separately but the quorum for the second meeting will be eight as the rules mandate that election will take place if only simple majority is present.

While Kishtwar and Ramban are reserved for women, Poonch is reserved for scheduled tribe woman and Rajouri for Scheduled Tribes.

However, elections were held in Poonch district where independent candidate Tazim Akhtar was elected to the post of chairperson and Mohammad Ashfaq won the post of vice chairperson.

'I will work with passion to ensure development of the border district,' Akhtar said after becoming the first DDC chairperson in Poonch.

Akhtar was among eight independents who had won the maiden DDC elections held in November-December last year from Poonch. Congress had got four territorial constituencies and National Conference (NC) two in the district.

In Kishtwar, NC DDC member from Thakrai territorial constituency, Shareefa Begum along with a sarpanch Farooq Ahmad joined J&K Apni Party (JKAP) on the day of the voting.

Senior National Conference leader from Ramban Sajad Shaheen accused the BJP of using different tactics to pressurize DDC members into submission. 'The DDC members are being offered money and bungalows to change their loyalties. Those who are not ready are being threatened along with their families,' he claimed.

In the earlier three phases covering six districts of Jammu, Kathua, Samba, Udhampur, Doda and Reasi, the BJP had won six DDC chairpersons' and five vice-chairpersons' posts, while one vice chairperson post was secured by an independent candidate in Reasi district. PTI SSB/TAS AAR AAR