Nazir Ahmad Khan, the chairman of District Development Council (DDC) Budgam, has been twice voted out through a no-confidence motion. He, however, continues to stay put.
In October 2020, the union government amended the J&K Panchayat Act 1989 and introduced the DDC. The DDCs were to be the third-tier governance body under the Panchayat Act after the Halqa Panchayat and the Block Development Council to monitor the overall development of a district.
In December 2022, Prime Minister Modi, speaking at the launch of Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) for J&K, also mentioned about the DDC election and claimed that the “DDC elections in J&K have strengthened roots of democracy and have written a new chapter.” However, it still seems a far cry in the Budgam district of J&K and people have started to question the intentions of the central government once again.
More than a year back, in July 2021, ten members of DDC Budgam submitted a no- confidence motion against the council chairman Nazir Khan who had previously won the election following cross-voting by members of the Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD). Despite the no-confidence motion, Khan continues to remain the council chairman.
Khan, however, blamed the National Conference for the upheaval in the council. “There is no vote of no-confidence for DDC. If there is, then the government shall accept the resolution of members and I am ready to step down,” he said.
As the bulk of the DDC Budgam members seem to be in opposition to Khan, Choudary Nazir Jahara, the vice-chairman DDC Budgam, is also among those who participated in the no-confidence vote. Jahara told Kashmir Newsline that “at least 12 members have openly, time and again, passed resolutions against him (Khan) but no one is accepting it and the only excuse that we are given is that there are no rules on it.”
At least two other members of DDC Budgam told Kashmir Newsline that Khan did not have the support of the majority in the council. Saima Jan, a DDC member from B.K Pora Budgam, said, “Not a single meeting has been called so far, we have been totally ignored.”
She accused Khan of hobnobbing with the bureaucracy. “With the help of officers at the helm of affairs, he makes all attempts to sideline other DDC members,” she said.
Molvi Sheikh Nissar, DDC member from Khag, lamented at the “blatant violation” of rules. “This is not how democracy works. In democracy, the majority has to prevail and when a person is not able to deliver, we should have every right to change him,” he said.
Khan’s continuation as the chairperson despite the no-confidence motion against him now appears to be illegal as the amendment introduced in 2020 to J&K Panchayat Act 1989 under section 45 (A) (14) clearly states that a chairperson or a vice-chairperson shall be “deemed to have vacated his office forthwith if a resolution expressing want of confidence in his favour is passed by a majority of not less than two third of the directly elected Members of the District Development Council at a meeting specifically convened for the purpose in the prescribed manner.”
In July 2022, thirteen DDC members again passed a resolution against Khan and termed his recent formation of the Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC) as “illegal” while seeking action against him.
The members rejected the “illegal” formation of the BMC Budgam as well as the chairmanship of Khan while seeking a fresh election for the chairman through an open ballot. However, no development has so far been noticed and Khan continues to hold the office.
Khalid Majeed, Special Secretary Rural Development Department, said “he is not sure about the issue and can only respond after going through the rules.”
DDC election was the first election in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A. DDC has a jurisdiction over the entire district, excluding municipal areas and each DDC has 14 directly elected members. While DDC comprises directly elected members, it also includes the chairpersons of all Block Development Councils and members of the legislative assembly from the district.
The DDC replaced the District Development Board of the erstwhile state in which a cabinet minister or a minister of state would chair DDBs and the members included MLAs, MLCs and MPs. In DDBs, the planning and execution of development works was mostly done by the district development commissioners.
In the DDCs, however, the Additional District Development Commissioner is designated as the Chief Executive Officer of the DDC and is to be assisted by the district-level heads.
While Khan accuses National Conference of orchestrating resentment against him in the council, the party chief spokesman Tanvir Sadiq described Khan’s continuation as the DDC Budgam chairman as ‘unfortunate’. “It is something that should not have happened. The fanfare which was around DDC was so tremendous that the whole country had eyes on the DDC elections. Now imagine the scenario where 11 members are on one side and 3 on the other, but still the majority cannot choose the chairman,” Sadiq said.
“It is clear there is a certain bias toward certain parties and the administration in power is helping the chairman to stay even as the majority is against him,” he added.