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ULB polls: Who’ll wrest seat of power in Srinagar?

In the electoral battle for the prestigious Srinagar municipal body, independents are likely to play a crucial role in deciding who will stake claim to the powerful position of the mayor.When the counting for the recently-held municipal election will begin on Saturday morning, all eyes would be on outcome for the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, spread over 74 electoral wards.

After the National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party stayed away from the electoral exercise owing to differences with the government of India over protection of J&K state subject law, the Bharatiya Janata Party—which has never won an election in Kashmir—is hoping to break the jinx and make inroads into the Valley, particularly the summer capital.

The party had fielded candidates on 72 of total 74 electoral wards in the city, said BJP’s state spokesperson Altaf Thakur. “We have already won four wards uncontested and are hoping to get 30 to 35 municipal wards in total. We will emerge as a single-largest party and the city will this time get a mayor from BJP.”

The party, Thakur said, has already geared up for celebrations. “There was a time when we would yearn for a single lotus to bloom in the Valley but now there is a full bloom,” he asserted.

On October 17, BJP’s state president Ravinder Raina had said that Srinagar will have the next mayor from his party.“This time, lotus will not only bloom in Jammu but in Kashmir as well. BJP will have its mayors in both capital cities,” Raina had told media in Jammu.

A few days later, the Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone—an ally of BJP—claimed that the next mayor of Srinagar will be from his party.“All set inshallah to have the first mayor from PC. Expecting very good results. Time to give Srinagar what it deserves. A set of hardworking people who work there on the ground,” Lone wrote on Twitter.

On the other hand, J&K Congress claimed it would emerge as the single largest party in Srinagar city. “We will get around 25 to 30 wards,” said party chief Ghulam Ahmad Mir.

The party had fielded candidates on 66 municipal wards in Srinagar and has won four segments uncontested, said Mir.While almost all parties in the fray are claiming they would emerge single largest, none is however sure to cross the magic figure of 38 wards.

In such a scenario, the independents, some of them backed by different parties, would hold the key to the outcome of the election, since independents were in fray for most of the 74 wards.The debate over the next mayor of Srinagar city was started by Governor Satya Pal Malik who had said in an interview to a New Delhi-based news channel that next mayor of the city will be a “foreign educated person”.

His remarks had triggered a political storm, with both the National Conference and Congress questioning the credibility of the polls in light of the Governor’s statement. The Raj Bhavan however later clarified that the Governor’s views had been “distorted.”

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