Srinagar: A no-holds-barred contest for the Srinagar Mayor post has begun, with Independents being the prime catch. Some of them have been offered money as well, or so they say.
Independent candidates who talked to Kashmir Reader said that party leaders of BJP, Congress and People’s Conference have all been luring them to get their support in the election for Mayor of Srinagar city. Results of elections to wards of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) were declared a week ago.
“They are leaving no opportunity to impress me. I was offered Rs 3 lakh by a top aide of the Congress party recently. I rejected his offer and decided to remain independent. I want to serve people without anyone’s support and I can do that without voting for anyone,” said an Independent candidate who won from downtown Srinagar.
Another winning candidate from the uptown area said that the BJP tempted him through its office bearers. “They offered me top posts in the civic body and bounties as well. But we want to keep the BJP, Congress and PC away from Srinagar. So, we will support our own candidate,” he said.
He added that the Mayor should be from among the Independent candidates or else it would be “disastrous” for Srinagar city. “We have tested all the parties over the years. We will not allow any influence from mainstream parties,” said the elected candidate, who was part of the PDP before the municipal polls were announced.
He hinted at supporting businessman-turned-politician Sheikh Imran for the Mayor’s post.
“All the parties approached me, but I don’t want to support them. Sheikh Imran also approached me. I will think of supporting him as he is one of us,” he said.
Amid allegations and speculations, Junaid Azim Mattu, who quit the National Conference to contest the civic body polls, is being considered to be the top contender for the coveted post. He enjoys support from the Sajjad Gani Lone-led People’s Conference, the BJP, and some Independents including rebels from PDP.
The BJP leadership is confident that the BJP-PC alliance will win the posts of mayor and deputy mayor. The alliance has claimed the support of more than half of the elected candidates in the 74-member civic body.
PDP rebels Abid Ansari and Imran Ansari are also supporting Mattu for the mayor’s post.
As per sources, both the leaders have offered support to Sajjad Gani Lone in a high-level meeting held in Srinagar recently.
BJPs state general secretary Ashok Koul told Kashmir Reader that all the BJP corporators, along with some Independents, will support the People’s Conference nominee.
“PC is our part and we will support its candidate wholeheartedly,” he said.
He refuted allegations that money was offered to some of the winning candidates.
“We talk to candidates with a sole aim to encourage them to serve people,” Koul said.
On the other hand, the Congress has joined hands with some Independents in an attempt to keep the BJP away from power.
“Forty winning candidates are already with us and we are trying to convince more, which will help us grab both the seats,” said a Congress leader.
J&K Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) President GA Mir said, “We are confident of keeping the BJP and its allies away from Srinagar. We are the single-largest party and we enjoy overwhelming support of many independent candidates.”
He said the party would choose the Mayor candidate after the oath-taking ceremony.
He added, “We don’t offer money to anyone because we are a party of principles.”
Sheikh Imran, who as per sources is being backed by the Congress, is also exploring the possibility to contest the mayor’s election independently.
“Congress is a secular party and there can be a possibility of me supporting them against communal forces. But, as of now, I am not in talks with them. I would prefer to contest the mayor’s elections with the support of independent candidates,” he said.
Imran said the independents had shown that they were above party lines and wanted development of Kashmir.
“We are not on sale. No money has changed hands,” he asserted, adding that all the Independents were united against communal forces.
The civic results gave Independents 48 seats out of 74 in Srinagar. The Congress has got 16 seats and the BJP has 4.
The oath-taking ceremony will be held on October 28, after which the dates for the mayor’s and deputy mayor’s election will be declared.