The newly founded People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration will unitedly contest the elections to the 20 District Development Councils in Jammu and Kashmir, People’s Conference leader Sajjad Lone announced on Saturday. Lone said the decision was taken in order to reclaim the political landscape of the Valley from “divisive forces”.

The announcement was made at a meeting of the People’s Alliance held earlier in the day, according to The Indian Express. Lone said that modalities for fielding common candidates will be worked out. However, the list of candidates will be released by National Conference President Farooq Abdullah, who is the head of their alliance, he said.

Lone later made the announcement on Twitter. “The PAGD has unanimously decided to fight the DDC elections unitedly,” he said. “Despite the abruptness of the DDC elections in terms of timing it is important that this sacred space in democracy is not allowed to be invaded and marauded by divisive forces.”

The Jammu and Kashmir poll panel on Wednesday announced an eight-phase election to the District Development Councils in the Union Territory beginning November 28, which will conclude on December 22. This will be the first major electoral exercise in the esrtwhile state since the Centre scrapped Article 370 in August last year.

The government had in October amended the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act to provide for setting up of DDCs in each district which will have directly elected members, fully applying the 73rd constitutional amendment to the Union Territory.

State Election Commissioner KK Sharma had told a press conference that bye-elections to vacant panchayat and municipal seats will be held simultaneously.

The electoral exercise comes a year after all political activity in Jammu and Kashmir had come to a standstill with the dilution of Article 370. Almost all of the Kashmir Valley’s political leadership, including three other former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah, and Mehbooba Mufti – were detained in 2019. Omar Abdullah was released seven months later on March 24 as the Jammu and Kashmir administration revoked his detention order under the Public Safety Act. Farooq Abdullah was released on March 13. People’s Conference chief Sajjad Lone was released in July. Mufti was the last one to be released on October 13.

Two days later, the politicians announced the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration following a meeting at Abdullah’s residence in Srinagar. Under the Gupkar Declaration, regional parties and the Congress resolved to protect Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status and fight against any move to dilute it. On August 22, the six parties reaffirmed their commitment to the declaration and vowed to fight unitedly against the Centre’s decision to alter the region’s status.