The horse-trading for Srinagar Mayor has gained momentum in the last few days as Peoples Conference (PC) and Congress are fast approaching independent candidates, offering them “profitable deals” to support their nominee.
Talking to Kashmir Post, many independent candidates, who emerged as the single-largest group in Srinagar Municipal Committee (SMC) alleged that they were approached by various political parties that included Peoples Conference (PC), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress to join hands with them in return of greater benefits.
An independent candidate, who won from the outskirts of Srinagar, alleged he was recently approached by the PC to support its candidate Junaid Azim Mattu for the post of Mayor post.
“They offered me incentives and much more,” the candidate said.
Another independent candidate, who won from Sriangar downtown, also alleged that one of the members from the BJP contacted him to join their party fold in nominating the Mayor for Srinagar.
Separatist-turned-mainstream politician, Sajad Gani Lone-led PC declared former National Conference (NC) chief spokesman, Junaid Azim Mattu as the party’s candidate for SMC Mayor.
Mattu, who started his political career with the PC, and later switched to NC, participated in local bodies polls as an independent candidate.
Being the close ally of PC, BJP has thrown its weight behind Mattu.
Talking to Kashmir Post, BJP state chief Ravinder Raina said the party is backing the PC candidate as Srinagar Mayor.
However, Raina rejected reports of any “freebies” being offered by BJP to lure independent candidates to support their nominee for the Mayor.
“I don’t know about other parties. However, as far we (BJP-PC) are concerned, we already have required numbers, and so there is no point of offering people any perks,” Raina said.
PDP rebels Abid Ansari and Imran Ansari, who despite party’s official boycott had put up their candidates as independents, are also supporting Mattu for the Mayor’s post.
Meanwhile, another independent candidate, who won from a posh locality in the city, accused Congress of offering him “profitable deals” for supporting them in the selection of the Mayor for Srinagar.
The candidate alleged that he was also offered to officially join the party to gain “larger benefits” in the future.
State Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir said, “As a single-largest party, we enjoy an overwhelming support of many independent candidates.”
Mir rejected reports about reaching out to independents through “illegal means” and said they were only appealing Independent candidates to join hands with them on the basis of keeping the “communal party like BJP” at bay.
In the 74-seat Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), independents won 48 seats, Congress 16 and BJP four.
After days of suspense, the rightwing Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) Tuesday said they would extend their support to Peoples Conference (PC) backed candidate Junaid Mattoo for the post of Srinagar’s Mayor.
Talking to Kashmir Post, State BJP chief Ravinder Raina confirmed the development and said they were going to support Sajad Lone’s party for the selection of Mayor for Srinagar.
“Five of our candidates won the polls from Srinagar, besides we supported seven independent candidates. But the Mayor should have the support of at least 38 candidates,” Raina said.
He said PC had 30 candidates in Srinagar and BJP would lend support to them.
Raina said the Deputy Mayor for Srinagar would be from BJP.
According to the party insiders, Raina held deliberations with BJP National General Secretary, Ram Madhav about lending their support for the Mayor’s post.
“Junaid will be elected as the Mayor. After two days, his name will be announced,” one of the party insiders said.
Even before the Urban Local Bodies (ULB) polls were held in the State, Governor Satya Pal Malik had declared Junaid Mattu as the Mayor of Srinagar, putting a question mark on the credibility of the election process.
Even before a single vote had been cast, the Governor, while referencing to Mattu, declared that a foreign-educated person would become the Mayor of Srinagar.
Soon after the Governor’s assertions, questions were asked as to how could the Governor predict victory of a particular person in the fray and then even say that he was becoming the Mayor of Srinagar.
NDTV’s Political Editor Sunetra Choudhury tweeted, “Incidentally the Governor told @ndtv a foreign educated person is becoming Srinagar mayor. Viewers and Kashmir friends ask how Satyapal Malik knows who will be Srinagar mayor #JammuKashmirElection I should have pinned him down on this.”
Former chief minister and National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah was quick to retweet Choudhury’s tweet, which evoked mixed reaction from his followers and other netizens, many criticising the Governor over his remark.
Mattu quit NC where he served as the chief spokesman and would often criticise the rightwing BJP and term it as an anti-minority party.
Now his political career depends on the same BJP’s support.
The State BJP chief said while the rightwing party would throw its weight behind Mattu for being the Mayor of Srinagar but suggested two names for the post of Deputy Mayor.
“Arif Raja, who won from the Nawa Kadal constituency, and Arsalan Lone, who won from Lal Chowk constituency, will be elected as the Deputy Mayor,” he said.
On the other hand, Congress, as well as Janata Dal United (JDU), is also claiming the support of independents but seem to be short of the majority mark.
State Congress chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir said Congress was the single-largest party in the recently-concluded ULB polls and most independent candidates were supporting them.
“There are a very few independent candidates who said that they don’t want to join any party. Nobody is forcing them to support any party. But maximum independent candidates think that Congress is the single-largest party and they should support the party,” Mir said talking to Kashmir Post.
He said Congress trusts the word of the independent candidates who are willing to support them.
“Let BJP claim anything, but we trust those who have given us their word,” Mir said.
He said Congress would declare their choice of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor on Friday.
“We have a meeting on Friday in which we will select the elected member as a councillor. There are rumours that the Mayor will be from outside the State, which is wrong. He will be a pure Kashmiri and from Srinagar. Sajad Lone’s PC is BJP-sponsored. Imran Reza Ansari is also supporting them,” Mir said.
“We had already sought support from the independents to form an adjustable group or committee in Srinagar. On the one side there is BJP, PC and their supported independents. We have given an open platform for those who do not support them and are hopeful that independents will support Congress to form a committee in Srinagar for the next 5 years,” he said.
Mir said things would be clear soon.
“Everything will be disclosed on the day of counting of votes for the Mayorship,” he said.