Ministers, MPs, MLAs leave Poonch on ED directive
11 December 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: To ensure free and fair polling in Poonch-Haveli Assembly constituency, going to bypoll tomorrow, the Election Department here last night directed all Ministers, MPs and legislators, camping in Poonch town for last more than 10 days, to leave the constituency immediately. Two Opposition candidates-Yashpal Sharma, a Congress rebel contesting as an independent and Ajaz Jan (National Conference) had written to Deputy Commissioner, Poonch, B D Sharma, Returning Officer, that presence of the Ministers and legislators of ruling party in the town on the day of polling could vitiate the atmosphere. Official sources said Chief Electoral Officer, J&K, B R Sharma yesterday directed the Returning Officer, Poonch to ask all Ministers, MPs and MLAs of all political parties to leave Poonch- Haveli constituency immediately after the campaign was over at 4 pm. Two Congress MPs-Choudhary Mohd Aslam and Madan Lal Sharma, Congress Ministers including Peerzada Mohd Sayeed, Gulchain Singh Charak, Aijaz Khan and Dr Romesh Sharma besides a host of MLAs and MLCs of Congress and National Conference adhered to the Electoral authorities’ directive and left Poonch before 4 pm. This, according to sources, has been done to ensure that there was no complaint of coercion or motivation of voters on the day of polling. Two observers of the Election Commission and the Returning Officer last night checked all hotels, rest houses and Dak Bungalows and informed the Election authorities that all Ministers, MPs and MLAs had left the town. Poonch Assembly segment, going to polls tomorrow with counting of votes scheduled for December 15, is all set to witness a triangular contest among Yashpal Sharma, a Congress rebel, Jehangir Mir (Congress) and Ajaz Jan (NC). NC rebel, Mohd Shah Tantray, a former Government officer who had resigned from the services and joined NC sometime back, is also likely to cut into the NC votes considerably. Mir and Jan are contesting the Assembly election for the first time while Sharma had lost Poonch seat in 2002 to Jan’s father, GM Jan (whose death in September led to the by-election), by a thin margin as a Congress candidate. For National Conference, former Chief Minister and party patron Dr Farooq Abdullah and party president Omar Abdullah campaigned for Jan for two days each holding rallies even in remote areas of Loran, Sabjian, Mandi, Saiklu besides the Poonch town. They also visited houses of 10 to 12 influential persons to mobilise support for the party candidate. Independent Yashpal Sharma and his supporters including former Congress leaders, Poonch Municipality president, Rajinder Singh, Councilors and others mainly concentrated on door-to-door campaign and rallies. Yesterday’s Uthala of Yashpal’s mother in the town, which was attended by a large number of people, was also used for canvassing by his supporters on last day of campaigning. Though a number of Congress Ministers, MPs, MLAs and MLCs besides Political Advisor to CM Janak Raj Gupta camped at Poonch for more than 10 days visiting every nook and corner of the constituency, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad didn’t visit Poonch. He was scheduled to address two public meetings yesterday, the last day of campaigning, but due to bad weather, his helicopter didn’t take off. Mr Azad, however, supervised the campaign and was in touch with some influential persons telephonically to garner support for Jehangir Mir. No State level leader of the PDP, which has been supporting the Congress candidate, held a public meeting or shared the stage with Congress during the campaign. Former Minister and PDP leader Rangil Singh, however, held a party workers meeting in Poonch and asked them to support the Congress candidate. Sources said besides Mohd Shah Tantray, a prominent religious leader, who yields a considerable clout among a section of the people and had always been a support of the NC, has also caused a dent in the party vote this time, giving sleepless nights to party leadership. A total of eight candidates including BJP’s Pardeep Sharma were in the fray for tomorrow’s election. Nearly 95,000 electorate are eligible to cast their votes. A total of 135 polling booths have been set up in the constituency with 28 of them having been declared as sensitive and 42 hyper sensitive. Mohd Shah Tantray Electriol Voting MAchines(EVMs) will be used in all polling stations. Seventeen companies of para- military CRPF and 12 companies of Indian Reserve Police (IRP) have been deployed to ensure smooth polling in the constituency in additional to local police. SSP Poonch Jagjit Kumar, Deputy Commissioner B D Sharma and Additional SP Tahir Bhat went rounds the town tonight along with senior police, para-military and civil officers and assured free and fair polling to the people.