With just three days left for the first phase of polling in the urban local bodies elections, a good number of Independents with a clean image are turning out to be a potential threat to candidates from the mainstream political parties in the region.
In the first phase, over 54 per cent of the candidates are Independents. Candidates of the BJP and Congress are feeling the heat as these Independents along with the rebels of mainstream parties are changing the poll dynamics.
Interestingly, in some municipal wards of three districts — Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch – in Jammu division nearly 80 per cent of the contestants are Independents, and a good number of them are well educated and professionals.
Out of the total 1,145 municipal wards in 79 urban local bodies of the state, at least 422 municipal wards (149 wards in Kashmir, 26 in Ladakh and 247 wards in Jammu) will go to the polls in the first phase on October 8. There are 1,010 candidates in Jammu division while nine of them have been declared elected uncontested. According to official sources, at least 413 of 741 candidates are contesting the elections independently in 8 municipal bodies, including Jammu Municipal Corporation, of the Jammu district. Of the 413 Independent candidates, 274 are contesting for 75 wards of the JMC alone. A total of 447 candidates are contesting for JMC wards.
There are 87 candidates for the Poonch Municipal Council and Surankote Municipal Committee. Out of them, 56 are Independents, who are giving a tough fight to the candidates of mainstream parties. In five municipal committees of Rajouri, at least 78 of the 178 candidates are Independents.
“There are municipal wards in the JMC where Independents have outnumbered mainstream parties’ candidates. For instance, in Ward No. 71 five of the six contestants are Independents, and in Ward 16, eight of the 11 candidates are Independents,” a source said.
The source attributed such a large number of Independents to the poll boycott call by the NC, PDP, BSP and CPM, which have fielded proxy candidates.
Arjun Sharma, a young voter of Ward No. 2 of the JMC, said: “We will vote for the candidate and not for the party. Out of six candidates, four Independents are contesting from our ward. Our priority would be the candidate’s commitment and image.”
Pertinently, the BJP and Congress have been facing an internal revolt with many of their rebels joining the electoral race as Independents. Feeling the heat, the BJP has so far expelled 23 leaders for contesting the elections against its official candidates.