EC Sounds Buggle For Final Phase Of Polls On 20 Seats

26 November 2014
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: The Election Commission today set into motion the process for final phase of polling in 20 Assembly segments of Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts in Jammu region by issuing notification inviting nominations for these constituencies which will go to polls on December 20 while 195 candidates have joined the fray for fourth and penultimate round of polling on December 14 in Jammu and Kashmir. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah filed nomination papers today for Sonawar constituency. He has earlier joined the fray from Beerwah segment in Budgam. The BJP has very high stakes in final phase of polling as it holds 11 out of 20 Assembly seats of Jammu region, which would have polling on December 20 followed by Congress 5, National Conference 2, PDP and Independent one each. Official sources told the Excelsior that 20 Returning Officers designated by the Election Commission today issued notifications for an equal number of constituencies in Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts inviting nominations from the eligible candidates till December 3. The documents will be subjected to scrutiny on December 4 while the candidates can withdraw their nomination papers up to December 6. Polling will be held on December 20 and counting on December 23. The constituencies going to polls in the final phase include 11 in Jammu district-Jammu East, Jammu West, Gandhi Nagar, Nagrota, Bishnah, RS Pura (Reserve), Suchetgarh, Marh, Raipura Domana (Reserve), Akhnoor and Chhamb (Reserve), five in Kathua district-Bani, Basohli, Billawar, Kathua and Hiranagar (Reserve) and four in Rajouri district-Kalakote, Nowshera, Darhal and Rajouri. Of 20 Assembly segments that would go to polls, five would be contested by sitting National Conference-Congress Ministers, several former Ministers, retired bureaucrats, doctors, ex-Deputy Speaker and sitting legislators, both MLAs and MLCs of all four major parties including BJP, Congress, NC and PDP apart from Independents. The BSP also has sizeable chunk of voters in these segments though the party didn't have any seat in the present Assembly. Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand (Chhamb), PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Minister Sham Lal Sharma (Akhnoor), Housing Minister Raman Bhalla (Gandhi Nagar) and Cooperatives Minister Dr Manohar Lal Sharma (Billawar), all Congress and Planning Minister Ajay Sadhotra of National Conference (Marh) have again been given mandate by their respective parties. Of five Ministers, Sadhotra is the only MLC while rest are MLAs. Sadhotra had lost 2008 election from Marh to BJP's Sukhnandan Choudhary. Former Ministers, who will be in the fray for these segments included BR Kundal (Independent-RS Pura), Mula Ram (Congress-Raipur Domana), Choudhary Talib Hussain (Rajouri-BJP), who had also been a Lok Sabha member, Shabir Khan (Congress-Rajouri), RS Chib (Congress-Suchetgarh), Gulchain Singh Charak (Congress-Bishnah), Babu Singh (Congress-Kathua) and Lal Singh (BJP-Basohli) among others. Deputy Speaker in 1996 Farooq Abdullah regime Ghulam Haider Malik is NC candidate from Bani. National Conference provincial president and political heavyweight Devender Singh Rana will contest Nagrota seat while BJP's veteran leader Prof Nirmal Singh will be in the fray from Billawar constituency. Jammu City East, which is always considered as a prestigious Assembly segment, will be witnessing a battle among the first timers-Rajesh Gupta (BJP), Vikram Malhotra (Congress) and Bharat Choudhary (PDP). Malhotra is son of Legislative Council Chairman Amrit Malhotra while Choudhary is prominent industrialist. The BJP has denied mandate to its Legislature Party leader Ashok Khajuria, who had won Jammu East seat in 1998 by-election and 2008 but lost it to Congress leader Yogesh Sawhney in 2002. Sawhney has already declared that he would contest the election as an Independent candidate this time after being denied mandate by the party. Sitting legislators apart from five Ministers and former Ministers, who will be in fray for 20 segments are Sham Choudhary (Suchetgarh-BJP), Sukhnandan Choudhary (Marh-BJP), Ashwani Sharma (Bishnah-BJP), RS Sharma (Nowshera-NC), Rashpal Singh (Kalakote-NC), Choudhary Zulfikar (Darhal-PDP), Jagdish Raj Sapolia (Basohli-Congress) and Master Lal Chand (Bani-Independent). Sapolia had won Basohli seat as BJP candidate but on being denied party mandate has switched over to Congress, which gave him the party ticket from the same seat. Similarly, Master Lal Chand had won Bani seat as BJP candidate but has now decided to join the fray as Independent after being denied the party ticket. Of 20 seats, the BJP has highest stake as it holds 11 segments including Bani, Basohli, Hiranagar, Suchetgarh, RS Pura, Nagrota, Jammu East, Jammu West, Marh, Raipur Domana and Bishnah. BJP's Jugal Kishore had vacated Nagrota seat after he was elected to Lok Sabha while Ashwani Sharma, who had won Bishnah for second time in 2008 as Jammu State Morcha (JSM) nominee had recently joined BJP and had been given the party mandate from the same constituency. Congress holds five constituencies of fifth phase in the present Assembly including Chhamb, Akhnoor, Gandhi Nagar, Billawar and Rajouri. Significantly, the MLAs from first four segments are Ministers in NC-Congress coalition Government while Rajouri MLA Shabir Khan was also the Minister but had resigned early this year after his involvement surfaced in sex scandal. NC represents Kalakote and Nowshera constituencies (both falling in border district of Rajouri) while PDP holds lone seat of Darhal in the same district. Kathua seat is represented by Independent MLA Charanjit Singh Jasrotia, who again will be in the fray as Independent candidate. BJP has fielded several new faces on these segments including Ravinder Raina (Nowshera), Kavinder Gupta (Gandhi Nagar), Sat Sharma CA (Jammu West), Dr Krishan Lal (Chhamb), Rajesh Gupta (Jammu East), Jeevan Lal, a retired officer from Bani, Rajeev Jasrotia (Kathua), Kuldeep Kumar (Hiranagar), Dr Gagan Bhagat (RS Pura), Nand Kishore Sharma (Nagrota) and Rajesh Sharma (Akhnoor) while the Congress has repeated its all sitting Ministers, MLAs and mostly the losers of 2008 elections excepting Nowshera, where it has replaced Dr Romesh Sharma with party spokesman Ravinder Sharma and brought Ashok Sharma again from Kalakote, Balwan Singh in Marh, Shivdev Singh in Nagrota and RS Chib from Suchetgarh after denying them mandate in 2008. The NC has also given mandate to its two sitting MLAs and repeated majority of candidates, who had lost the election in 2008 barring few replacements. The PDP, which has high stakes in twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch, has repeated its sitting MLA from Darhal (Choudhary Zulfikar) and fielded new faces in many segments. Meanwhile, former Minister and sitting National Conference MLA from Vijaypur Surjit Singh Slathia today filed his nomination papers from Vijaypur Assembly constituency while BJP's first timer Dr Devinder Kumar Manyal joined the fray from Samba (Reserve) seat. PDP's Sunny Sangral also filed papers from Samba seat. Today was last day for filing nomination papers for fourth phase of polling in which two seats of Samba district in Jammu region-Samba and Vijaypur will go to polls. Deputy Commissioner, Samba Mubarak Singh said a total of 30 candidates have filed their nomination papers for Samba and Vijaypur segments. He said 11 candidates have filed nomination papers for Samba seat including sitting MLA Yash Paul Kundal (JKNPP), Dr Devinder Kumar Manyal (BJP), Subash Bhagat (Congress), Satwant Kour Dogra (NC), Sunny Sangral (PDP), Som Nath Manyal (BSP), Vijay Kumar Atri (NCP), Darshan Kumar (Bahujan Mukti Party), Naresh Chander (covering candidate for Congress), Bodh Raj (covering candidate for NPP) and Kunj Lal (covering candidate for BSP). Nineteen candidates were in fray for Vijaypur seat. They are sitting MLA and former Minister Surjit Singh Slathia (NC), Chander Prakash Ganga (BJP), Manjit Singh (Congress), Harmesh Singh Slathia (PDP), Rajesh Pargotra (NPP), Balwan Singh (Aam Aadmi Party), Bahadur Singh Choudhary (Samajwadi Party), Jagdish Raj (BSP), Sushma Devi (covering candidate for BSP), Sanjeev Kumar (Independent), Jeet Ram (Bahujan Mukti Party), Manoj Kumar (Independent), Dileep Singh (Independent), Ravinder Kour (covering candidate for Congress), Kamal Kishore (Hindustan Janata Party), Kuldeep Kumar (Independent), Rajan Jamwal (All J&K Kissan Mazdoor Party), Raj Singh and Azad Hussain (both Independents). Meanwhile, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was among 68 candidates who filed their nomination papers on the last day of filing of nomination papers taking the number of candidates who filed nominations papers from 16 constituencies, for the fourth phase of polling in Kashmir to 165. The voting is taking place in 16 constituencies spread over Srinagar, Anantnag, and Shopian districts of Kashmir valley. In Hazratbal Constituency, Ghulam Nabi Dar (Ind), Khalid Tufail (Ind), Ghulam Ahmad Shalla (ABHMS) filed their nomination papers today. The constituency is represented by NC MLA Dr Mustafa Kamaal, however, he is contesting from Gulmarg constituency. In Zadibal Constituency, Neelam Bashir (BJP), Nisar Ahmed Ahangar (Ind), Saleem Akhtar Malik (Ind), Peer Afaq Ahmad (NC), Nazir-ud-Din Ahmad (Ind), Shameema Raina (INC), Arshid Hussain (Ind), Shahid Ali Kachroo (Ind), Abid Hussain Ansari (PDP) and Irfan Raza Ansari (PDP) filed their nomination papers today. The constituency is being represented by Peer Afaq of NC. In Idgah Constituency, Ghulam Mohammad Rather (PRP) and Mohammad Ashraf Khan (JKKMP) filed their nomination papers today. Speaker of the Assembly Mubarak Gul is seeking re-election from here. In Khanyar Constituency, Bilal Ahmad Wani (Ind), Firdous Ahmad Sheikh (Ind), and Ashok Kumar Bhat (BJP). Ali Mohammad Sagar of NC is seeking re-election from here. In Habbakadal Constituency, Zafar Meraj (PDP), Bilal Ahmad Parra (Ind), Moti Lal (BJP), Parvaiz Ahmad Bhat (Ind) filed their nomination papers today. Shameema Firdous of NC is seeking re-election from here. In Amirakadal Constituency, Sushant Bakshi (Ind), Hina Shafi Bhat (BJP), Zeeshan Pandith (Ind), Bikram Singh (Ind), filed their nomination papers today. Nasir Wani of NC is seeking re-election form here. In Sonawar Constituency Dr Darakhshan Andrabi (BJP), Riyaz Ahmad Wani (JKKMP), Omar Abdullah (NC), Parveez Jamaal (Ind), Ali Mohd Wani (Ind), Abdul Rashid Lone (RPI), Malik Noorul Amin (Ind) and Adil Ahmad Shah (NAP) filed their nomination papers today. The consistency is being represented by NC MLA Mohammad Yasin Shah. In Batamaloo Constituency, Gulzar Ahmad Bangroo (SP),Noor Mohammad Sheikh (PDP), Javaid Ahmad Dandroo (Ind), Mohammad Maqbool Rather (BSP), Zubair Nazir Wani (BJP), Mohammad Irfan Shah (NC), Abdul Qayoom Bhat (DPN), Bashir Ahmad Wani (JKNPP) filed their nomination papers today. Irfan Shah of NC is seeking re-election from here. In Wachi Constituency, Kulbushan Kaw (Ind), filed nomination papers today. The constituency was being represented by PDP president Mehbooba Mufti who became MP in May this year and resigned as MLA from here. In Shopian constituency, 11 candidates have filed their nomination papers which include, Abdul Rashid Pandit (CPI), Mushtaq Ahmad Khanday (INC), and Tariq Ahmad Ahanger (Ind) filed their nomination papers today. The constituency is being represented by Abdul Razak Wagay of PDP. In Anantnag Constituency, Ghulam Rasool Dar (Ind), Mohd Shafi Mir (Ind), Farooq Ahmad Mir (BSP), Iftikhar Hussain Misgar (NC), and Mohammad Rafiq Wani (BJP) filed their nomination papers today. Former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed is seeking re-election from here. In Dooru Constituency, Syed Farooq Ahmad Andrabi (PDP), Ab. Ahad Mir (IPCP), Syed Rasheed Ahmad (Ind), Gull Mohammad Mir (BJP), Syed Shariq Hussain (Ind) and Farooq Ahmad Gashroo (HJP-Ind) filed their nomination papers today. G A Mir of Congress is seeking re-election from here. In Kokernag Constituency, Peerzada Mohammad Syed (INC), Abdul Rashid Khan (Ind), Ghulam Hassan Khanday (Ind), and Javid Ahmad Rather(JKRP-Ind) filed their nomination papers today. Peerzada Sayeed of Congress is seeking re-election from here. In Shangas Constituency, Bashir Ahmad Wani, Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat and Tanveer Hussain Khan, Independents, filed their nomination papers today. Peerzada Mansoor Hussain of PDP is seeking re-election from here. In Bijbehara Constituency, Mushtaq Ahmad Sheikh, (BSP) filed his nomination papers today. Abdul Rehman Bhat of PDP is seeking re-election from here. In Pahalgam Constituency, Anwar Jan (JKPC), Irfan Abid Bhat (INC), Farooq Ahmad Rather (Ind) and Shabir Ahmad Shah (BSP) filed their nomination papers today. Rafi Mir of PDP is seeking re-election from here.