Sensing defeat, BJP trying to bar other parties’ candidates from campaigning in the name of ‘security’
Candidates of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration vying for District Development Council seats are being lodged in cluster accommodations for ‘security reasons’, denying them access to voters
Raja Abdul Waheed, a government school teacher-turned-politician is vying for a District Development Council seat from Shopian on the ticket of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a principal constituent of People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD).
Raja gave an undertaking with the local police that he himself is responsible for his security and started organising public meetings.
Raja says that under the guise of security, the government would have quartered him in some heavily guarded government building and not allowed him to campaign for himself.
"This way I'm free to meet people, give an ear to their grievances and seek their support," says Raja, who filed his nomination papers for Shopian II seat, which is slated to go to polls on December 4 during the third phase of polling.
The eight-phase elections for 280 DDC slots across the newly-carved out union territory of Jammu & Kashmir will begin from November 28. The polls for filling up around 13000 vacant posts of panch, sarpanch and municipal seats will also be conducted simultaneously. The elections will be the first democratic process since 2018. For nearly past four years, Jammu and Kashmir is without a popular government.
Following a militant attacks on BJP workers, the government moved many candidates to guarded enclosures in Srinagar as well as in various district headquarters. However, the candidates from PAGD, an alliance of seven political parties – NC, PDP, ANC, CPI, CPI(M), PC and JKPM – allege that they have only been cooped up indoors and are not allowed to meet people in their respective constituencies while the candidates from BJP with good security details have been moving freely through the length and breadth of their constituencies.
It is not that Raja does not have a threat perception against him, but being put up in a heavily-guarded location would have meant a restricted or no canvassing at all. "I gave an undertaking; otherwise I would not have been permitted to visit my constituency and hold public meetings freely," said Raja.
He added that he had requested the government to provide him some personal security guards, but thus far he had received mere assurances.
Making similar allegations, former Chief Minister and president of PAGD, Dr Farooq Abdullah, last week sent a missive to state election commissioner K K Sharma. "I am taking the liberty of writing to you about the upcoming DDC elections. A strange and unique feature has come to the fore. Candidates put up by the PAGD are immediately whisked away to "secure locations" in the name of security and confined to those 'secure locations'. They are not allowed to canvass, they are completely out of touch with those from whom they are supposed to seek votes," the letter reads.
On Monday, Sharma in a press conference said that no candidate had been barred from campaigning. He said that candidates were lodged in cluster accommodations because of security reasons.
Ali Mohamamd Shah, another DDC contestant from Kellar II, Shopian was whisked away by security forces immediately after he filed his nomination paper and was taken to a hotel in Srinagar in a bunker vehicle. He was forced to stay in the hotel for three days and was not allowed to move out.
"Even on the day of scrutiny of papers, I was not allowed to visit the DC office," said Shah, another PAGD candidate. He was allowed to move freely only after he signed an undertaking.
A copy of such government undertakings accessed by National Herald says that a candidate is not willing to shift to a secured cluster accommodation offered by district/ police administration or does not need any security, and "if anything untoward happens, he will not blame anyone".
An independent candidate, who declined to be quoted, said that BJP was misusing power to win the elections.
"After sensing defeat, BJP is now trying to win polls by barring the candidates of other political parties from campaigning," he said.
A senior police official, however, said that the decision to move the candidates to secure cluster accommodations was made due to the sensitive security situation of the Valley.