The duplicity of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) has been exposed as both the parties have fielded proxy candidates from a majority of the 247 wards of 15 urban local bodies going to the polls in the first phase across the Jammu region.
This has happened despite the PDP and NC announcing a boycott of civic bodies elections in the state over Article 35A of the Constitution.
While second-rung leaders of the two parties are contesting elections as Independents in most wards, some top leaders have fielded their close relatives from prestigious seats.
Rajesh Bhagat, who is contesting as an Independent from Ward No. 68 of the Jammu municipal corporation (JMC), is a son of PDP state general secretary FC Bhagat.
“The welfare committee of the locality (the ward) has fielded my son as a candidate for the civic elections. He is contesting as an Independent. He has nothing to do with my party,” FC Bhagat said.
PDP state secretary Rashid Malik and senior party leader Manmohan Choudhary have fielded their wives as proxy candidates from JMC Ward Nos. 74 and 42, respectively.
Although the party has suspended its Poonch district president Hamid Manhas for contesting elections in the Surankote municipal committee, proxy candidates have been fielded from all 17 wards of the Poonch municipal council.
“It is all due to the pressure of the people that I am contesting the civic elections,” Subash Chander, former councillor from the NC, told Kashmir Post. Subash is in the fray as an Independent from Ward No. 62 of the JMC. Ashok Singh Manhas, another former councillor belonging to the NC, is also contesting the election.
A large numbers of NC workers accompanied Vijay Suri, party’s block Kalakote president, when he filed his nomination. Former NC councillor Rashida Begum’s husband Omar Din is contesting as an Independent from the Gujjar Nagar ward in Jammu.
“For the last couple of months, we had been projecting candidates for the urban local bodies and panchayat elections across the Jammu region. Due to some political compulsions, the party decided to boycott the elections. Now, we have to field proxy candidates to stop other parties from making inroads into our strongholds,” said a senior NC leader.
In ‘face-saving exercise’, NC expels 8 workers
Even as the National Conference on Wednesday evening expelled eight workers for contesting elections from different wards of the Jammu municipal corporation, the party has not taken any action against leaders who have fielded their relatives from seats in different civic bodies across the Jammu region. “Expelling eight office-bearers is just a face-saving exercise because rivals have accused the NC of fielding proxy candidates,” a source said, adding, “already a large number of proxy candidates have filed their nominations with the consent of senior leaders.”