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Who will fill the political vacuum in Kashmir? – by Zaffar Iqbal

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Srinagar, Sep 30, 2019 –

Rifat Subhan, BJP Panch from Panzinara Sumbhal in North Kashmir, camping in a Srinagar hotel says she is ready to fight Assembly elections for ending ‘dynastic rule’ in the valley. She says associating with the saffron party in Kashmir is fraught with risk but nothing can deter her from fighting elections on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket.

“I will contest elections for ending the dynastic rule and nepotism in Kashmir,” said Rifat Subhan.

At a time when the entire leadership of Kashmir-based mainstream parties has been detained after the abrogation of Article 370, the BJP Panchs and Sarpanchs in Kashmir say they will fill that void by taking part in the Assembly polls even as the party has never won a single Assembly seat from the valley in the past.

Shabir Ahmad Gojjar, a BJP Sarpanch from Tral in Pulwama says the new leadership of Kashmir that the Prime Minister spoke of in his address after the abrogation of Article 370 will emerge out of the Panchayat members.

“We are the new leadership of Kashmir. We will emerge as a force against those who have looted Kashmir; we will definitely contest elections to end corruption,” said Shabir Ahmad Gojjar.

Hamza Mir, another Panch from Tral says it is not the BJP that is responsible for the abrogation of Article 370, but the state leadership in the past which facilitated its dilution in exchange for power.

“Article 370 took a major hit when Sheikh Abdullah returned to power as Chief Minister after he was dismissed as the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and that didn’t happen during the BJP rule,” said Hamza Mir.

It is not just the BJP, but some political workers from other parties are also readying to contest the Assembly elections.

Maulvi Tariq quit the BJP to join Sajad Lone led People’s Conference. He heads J&K Panch Sarpanch local bodies Association, an organisation floated last week to highlight the problems faced by panchayat members.

He says if his party Peoples Conference decides not to contest Assembly elections he will fight as an Independent candidate.

“Till the time the old ruins are dismantled new buildings cannot come up. We should not just talk about new India but new Kashmir also. Today the youngsters are sure that the new leadership will come out,” said Maulvi Tariq.

But with most of Kashmir’s political leadership detained after the abrogation of Article 370 how significant is BJP panchs and sarpanchs participation in Assembly elections. It may be pointing towards a churn going on in the Jammu and Kashmir’s politics for filling the political vacuum but the role of traditional mainstream political parties of Kashmir remains crucial for determining the future direction of politics in the Valley.

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