Srinagar’s Mayor and His Deputy Reconcile, Direct Ire Against State and Centre

Corporators are upset that their basic needs including salaries, security and accommodation haven’t been taken care of by the state administration.

Srinagar: While the Congress party and Sajad Lone-led Peoples Conference continue to be on the opposite sides of Jammu and Kashmir’s political spectrum, a rare camaraderie has emerged between the two in the Srinagar Municipal Corporation offices.

After sparring with each other for weeks, Srinagar mayor Junaid Azim Mattu and deputy mayor Sheikh Imran, seem to have decided to hold the Centre, the state administration led by the governor and the state bureaucracy accountable for the crisis that the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) finds itself in. This is after the basic needs of the elected corporators including salaries, security and accommodation, haven’t been taken care of by the state administration.

Several corporators while speaking to The Wire said that the Centre and the state administrations so far had failed to keep up the promises made to them before the urban local body(ULB) elections, held in October this year.

As a result, difference between the mayor and his deputy seem to be put on hold as the duo direct their ire against what they called “the system”.

“We are fighting over issues that we shouldn’t be fighting for in the first place. Safeguarding and empowering the elected representatives are things the system should do on its own. Yet we are the ones who have to fight the rights and empowerment of our corporators,” mayor Mattu told The Wire.

Imran used his words more carefully and hoped that the state and Centre would deliver what they had promised. He however did show a sign of urgency and said, Srinagar “was in its last stages of cancer” owing to prevalent corruption and slow paced bureaucracy.

Background

Holding urab local body (ULB) and panchayat polls was touted as a major challenge for the government forces posted in J&K owing to the growing militancy. If the security threat wasn’t enough, Kashmir’s two regional powers, National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) decided to boycott the polls till the Centre cleared its stand on abrogation of article 35 A of the Constitution which grants special status to J&K. There have been multiple petitions filed in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of 35 A.

Meanwhile, the People’s Conference (PC), Congress and BJP decided to fight the elections. The Congress won 16 seats and the BJP won in four wards in the 74-member body. The lion’s share went to independent candidates, who bagged the 53 seats.

Despite a low voter turnout, the newly elected Srinagar corporators were administered the oath on October 29 and subsequently mattu, who was previously with the NC, was chosen as the mayor and Imran as his deputy.

Signs of trouble

An independent corporator who wished not to be identified, said the sparring between Junaid and Imran started almost immediately after the duo took office. However, the corporator added that the sparring was not based on party lines.

“Definitely there were tensions between them because they belong to different political camps, but mostly the hostilities were about establishing their writ and demarcation of their territories. Once the two created their own spaces, issues regarding functioning of SMC, or rather its non-functioning, saw the mayor and his deputy at loggerheads,” said the corporator. The situation between the duo deteriorated in the last week of November

Imran’s directions vs Mattu’s directions

The Wire is in possession of communication between the mayor and his deputy’s office. They indicate hostility between the two.

For instance, in a letter dated November 26, Imran wrote to the divisional commissioner of Kashmir that the corporators were facing acute problems with their accommodation.

Imran wrote that the due to the security situation in the Valley , corporators were feeling unsafe and had asked the divisional commissioner to allot MLA hostels to the newly elected corporators . However, Imran allegedly excluded some corporators from the list.

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