The Farooq Abdullah-led People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration took a considerable lead over the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday as votes were counted for the District Development Council elections in Jammu and Kashmir, reported NDTV.

In late evening trends, the People’s Alliance, a coalition of regional parties, including the National Conference and Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party, was ahead in 114 seats, while the BJP was leading in 72 seats. The Congress, on the other hand, could establish a lead in only 26 seats.

The BJP surged past others in Jammu Province as it was ahead in 69 seats, while the Gupkar alliance led in 35. In Kashmir, the regional coalition was leading in 79 seats, with the BJP was trailing far behind at three.

In terms of seats for which the results have been declared, the BJP has so far emerged as the single largest party, according to ANI. The saffron party had bagged a total of 65 seats, while the National Conference had won 54 seats, according to data from the state election commission.

Counting of votes for the eight-phase elections began at began at 9 am at the district headquarters. A total of 2,178 candidates were contesting in these elections – the first since the erstwhile state lost its special status under the Constitution on August 5, 2019.

Peoples Democratic Party leader Waheed Parra, who was remanded to 15 days of National Investigation Agency custody in connection with a terror case, won his debut election “by a huge margin of votes”, party chief Mehbooba Mufti said. The former chief minister congratulated Parra and said she hoped that justice prevails. “Despite being arrested on baseless charges right after his nomination, people have shown their love and trust to Waheed,” Mufti wrote.

Meanwhile, PDP leader Rehan Pervez, who won from Eidgah Srinagar in the urban local body elections, said she was expecting her victory. “People have shown their support,” she told ANI. “I will be working for development in the area.”

In Jammu, Deputy Commissioner Sushma Chauhan told ANI that restrictive and prohibitive measures were imposed in the region ahead of the results. “No victory processions will be allowed by political parties and independent candidates without permission,” she added.

DDC polls

Elections for the 280 seats – 14 in each of the 20 districts of the Union Territory – began on November 28 and concluded on December 19. “Responsibility of counting is given to returning officers of the constituencies,” Jammu and Kashmir Election Commissioner KK Sharma said.

However, the counting of votes may take longer than usual because the state election commission opted for paper ballot instead of electronic voting machines or EVMs.

The eight phases of voting held on November 28, December 1, December 4, December 7, December 10, December 13, December 16, and December 19 registered voter turnouts of 51.76%, 48.62%, 50.53%, 50.08%, 43.27%, 51.51% and 57.22%.

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A day before the counting, three Peoples Democratic Party leaders – Sartaj Madni, Mansoor Hussain and Naeem Akhtar – were held by the Jammu and Kashmir administration, the outfit’s President Mehbooba Mufti said.

During campaigns for the elections, members of the Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration had alleged that they were not being allowed to campaign freely. The primary aim of the Gupkar Alliance is to restore Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

The elections are a step to setting up district development councils, a new addition to Jammu and Kashmir’s panchayati raj system. The directly elected district councils will replace the district development boards originally envisaged as the third tier of local government by the 1989 Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act. The boards were to consist of the block council chiefs, local MPs, MLAs and municipal council members. But Jammu and Kashmir’s legislative Assembly was dissolved after August 5 last year.

The jurisdiction of the district development councils, which have a five-year term, will not extend to those areas notified as municipalities. So elections will only be held in areas falling outside municipalities. There are reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women.

Each district council will have five standing committees – one each for finance, development, public works, health and education, and welfare. While they might look after the day to day and developmental needs of the district, members of the council have no say on larger political issues such as special status, land laws and industrial policy.