The first-ever District Development Council (DDC) polls in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are set to begin later this month. Consequently, political happenings have started to take place in the region.
The new system divides each district into 14 territorial constituencies which will elect their representatives. These elected representatives will then choose a chairman and vice-chairman among themselves for these councils, which will become the new units of governance in the region.
Besides the DDCs, the new system will include a District Planning Committee (DPC) and will substitute District Planning and Development Boards (DDBs) which were used to prepare and approve district plans and capital expenditure plans in the past. The old system had a cabinet minister of the erstwhile state of J&K heading a DDB. The main feature of the recent system is that the DDCs will have elected representatives from each district of the region.
This new system will ensure that the Panchayat act as a basic unit of the system and each district’s yearly and five-yearly development plans will be finally passed by a three-tier system of Block Development Councils (BDCs), Gram Panchayats and DDCs. This is like having a municipal-type system for the rural areas on a supra-block level template for development activities like the construction of roads and management of utilities like power supply and water. No legislative component will be there.
For the last two years, the BJP has expressed its demand to create a “new leadership” in J&K in opposition to the dynastic parties like NC and PDP, whom they believe are the cause for the rise in militancy, corruption and misgovernance in the region.
Even though political activities in J&K have largely been dull, the BJP has strengthened. The BJP has toned up its organisational structure, especially in Kashmir, a region where it has never won a Parliamentary or Assembly seat. Till the PAGD decided to contest elections, winning the DDC election seemed like an easy task for the saffron party. But now, the chances of the BJP securing any seat in Kashmir Valley or in Muslim-majority areas of Jammu region now seem very low.
The DDC can act like a perfect platform for an experiment for the BJP to choose a leadership in the region before the first Assembly polls of the Union Territory. However, the ultimate reality is that the leadership of any party cannot be invented or manufactured. Those representatives who were elected in panchayats (in 2018) are living in secured places with the fear that they might be killed by militants if they go back to their constituencies.