A lawyer, former journalist, businessman and career politician are among the candidates for upcoming District Development Council polls. The very first SDC elections are scheduled to start on November 28 and will run in eight phases until December 19.
On the one hand, an alliance of seven parties – the Popular Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), which includes the main parties of Kashmir, the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party – while on the other are candidates presented by the BJP, the J&K Apni party led by Altaf Bukhari, as well as some independents.
Amid the political vacuum at J&K over the past 14 months, candidates say voters are keen to have representatives in place to address the day-to-day issues of bijli-paani as well as the big issues surrounding the removal of special status de J&K, the introduction of the domicile clause and recent changes in land laws.
The Indian Express spoke to some of the candidates in Kashmir: Suhail Bukhari (PDP), Sangrama.
The 37-year-old spokesperson for the PDP is contesting his first election. Before joining the Mehbooba Mufti government as a media advisor in 2016, he was a journalist for 14 years, mainly working for television.
For him, this election deals with the major issues surrounding J & K’s politics as well as the issue of governance. “CDDs will be a whole new system of governance within J&K and will play a key role in shaping future policies. Having said that, we don’t want this space to be taken away by the BJP or its proxies and we will do our best to counter their divisive agenda, ”he said.
Dr Aneesa Gull (BJP), Chadoora
Doctor of sociology, Gull comes from the backward Chopan community of central Kashmir. A top leader of the BJP’s OBC Morcha in Kashmir and an executive member of its Mahila Morcha, Gull began his political career with Congress before switching sides to the BJP in 2014. His father Ghulam Mohammad Chopan was the BJP candidate for the 2014 Assembly polls while her sister-in-law is a BJP sarpanch. “My goal is to uplift people in my community,” she says.
Ulfat Mushtaq (People’s Conference) Ramhal
The 29-year-old lawyer from North Kashmir, who is fighting her first election, is running from Ramhal’s reserved seat in Kupwara. A lawyer, she says that while fighting legally for people’s rights, she realized that she could contribute more by participating in the legislative process. “As a lawyer, you come into contact with a lot of people who are incapable of fighting for themselves. This election gives me the opportunity to do so on their behalf. “
Nasir Lone (National Conference), Sogam
The 33-year-old represents the party’s young political leadership. Her brother, Kaiser Jamsheed Lone, is a former lawmaker from Lola in Kupwara district.
“The bureaucracy ignores the people. They are not accessible and it is important to fill this void. “
A pro-electoral voice within the party, Lone asserts that “if the struggle is greater, democratic institutions cannot remain vacant”.
Abdul Gani Bhat (National Conference), Naidkhai
A former member of the NC executives, the 70-year-old says he has been associated with the party since the days of Sheikh Abdullah. Despite past examples of sarpanches and other members of the public being targeted by activists, he says he’s not afraid to come out because “it was the people of this region who forced me to compete. As long as I am among them, I have nothing to fear.
Abid Khan (BJP), Devsar
BJP District Chairman for Kulgam, Abid Khan worked as a contract lecturer before joining politics. The 34-year-old Kulgam resident, who started his political career in 2010 as a member of CPI (M), joined the BJP in 2014. A graduate in physics, Khan is also a panch from Bonigam village of Kulgam.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click on here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay up to date with the latest headlines