Rival parties eyeing on independents in Jammu
4 February 2005
Jammu: With the results for the second phase of the civic elections in Jammu and Kashmir announced, a tight race has started between the ruling Congress-People's Democratic Party (PDP) coalition and the Bharatiya Janata Party to woo the independents to capture the post of Mayor for the Jammu Municipal Corporation. Both camps are making desperate efforts to reach the magic figure of 36 required to elect the Mayor. At the moment the ruling coalition has a slender lead of three wards over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the election results threw a hung Corporation with no alliance coming close to the simple majority figure of 36. There are 71 wards in the Corporation of which the Congress and PDP, the two coalition partners in the State (there was friendly contest between them in civic polls) bagging 29 wards (Congress 27 and PDP 2) while the BJP and Shiv Sena alliance secured 26 wards (BJP 25 and Shiv Sena 1). The National Conference threw a surprise by winning six wards while independents bagged nine wards. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also opened its account winning one ward. Election result was a disappointment for the Congress party which has projected Jammu province as its stronghold in the State. For instance the Congress party faced a drubbing in wards of Jammu West Assembly segment presently been represented by Deputy Chief Minister and Congress leader, Mangat Ram Sharma, in the Assembly. In Jammu West, BJP bagged 13 of 26 wards while the Congress could get only seven wards. Similarly in Jammu East Assembly segment, the BJP won seven of 11 wards while the Congress could secure only one ward. The Congress party could take solace in the fact that it did well in Gandhi Nagar Assembly segment by winning 14 out of total 24 wards. In the Dalit dominated Raipur-Domana segment comprising nine wards, BJP secured four wards while Congress and National Conference bagged two wards each. One independent emerged victorious. With the electorate throwing a hung verdict, no alliance is in a position to get a workable majority of 36. Both camps have started exploring the possibility of securing majority in the House. Mangat Ram Sharma told The Hindu that its priority would be to keep the BJP out and the party would try to get the support of the Independents. Seven Congress rebels have emerged victorious and it seems they would be the prized catch for the party at the moment. On the other hand, the State BJP president, Nirmal Singh, expressed confidence that his party would secure a majority in the Corporation with the help of independent candidates.