September 2002 News

Hectic campaigning for third phase of J&K polls

25 September 2002
The Hindu

Kathua: With the end of the second phase of elections to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly, the Kathua district of Jammu today witnessed hectic campaigning for the third phase of polling on October 1. Both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party organised large-scale rallies in the district where 3.6 lakh voters will exercise their franchise. Kathua, also known as the gateway of the State, borders Himachal Pradesh and Punjab and has five Assembly segments Bani, Basohli, Kathua, Billawar and Hiranagar. The district also shares a border with the Punjab province of Pakistan. Of the 511 polling stations in the district, about 106 have been declared hyper-sensitive. Most of them are located in the villages of Londi, Mawa, Rathua and Regal on the International Border. And 272 have been declared sensitive. In the 1996 Assembly elections, no party won more than one seat in the district. The Congress, the National Conference, the Congress (Tiwari), the BSP and the BJP won one seat each. The Congress tally in the district increased to two when the Congress (Tiwari) was dissolved. In the elections this time, a number of sitting MLAs and leaders who have been identified with a party for long have either defected or have been expelled. They are contesting on some other party ticket. In the Basohli Assembly segment, the contest is between the sitting Congress MLA, Lal Singh, and the former Congress strongman and MLA, Jagdish Raj Sapolia, who is now in the BJP. In the hilly segment of Billawar, the BJP leader, Kashmira Singh, joined the Jammu State Morcha and is contesting against the Congress strongman and sitting MLA, Balbir Singh. In the Scheduled Caste-dominated and border Assembly segment of Hirangar, the sitting MLA of the BJP, Prem Lal, is contesting on the NC ticket. Mr. Lal faces contest from the BJP, the Congress and the BSP. In the Bani Assembly segment, there is a triangular contest between the sitting NC MLA and Deputy Speaker, Ghulam Haider Malik, the Congress candidate, Prem Sagar, and the BJP''s Lal Chand. Azad demands repoll The Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has demanded re-elections in eight Assembly segments, which went to the polls on Tuesday. Addressing a press conference in Jammu, Mr. Azad said ''the Goglibagh incident in which terrorists held hostage two police officers just a day before the polling created terror among the voters in Kashmir,'' and charged the National Conference with giving ''wide publicity'' to the event so that the voter turnout remained less. ''For the first time in the 13- year history of terrorism in the State, electronic media was allowed to cover the episode live and it should be noted that media teams in the past have never been allowed to cover that type of incident,'' he said adding that it led to the low voter turnout in the Valley. Taking a serious note of the low polling percentage in eight Assembly segments of Srinagar district, Mr. Azad demanded re-elections in all the Assembly segments where polling was less than 10 per cent.


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