BJP names 3, PDP 2 candidates; NC to contest Kashmir, Cong Jammu seat

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Mar 27: Ruling BJP today formally surrendered safe seat of Jammu region to its Alliance partner, PDP, in the biennial elections for six seats of Legislative Council as the two parties announced names of five candidates while as the National Conference and Congress were yet to name their contestants for the seats they would fight in agreement with each other as the Congress high command was expected to convey its decision tomorrow.
A New Delhi based BJP’s national leader, who has been mediating with the PDP on sharing of Ministerial berths, Rajya Sabha, Legislative Council seats and posts of vice chairpersons etc, has once again made the BJP bow before the PDP and handed over on platter a safe seat of Jammu to the coalition partner and put up candidate on unsafe seat in lieu of safe seat of Kashmir.
Of three seats taken by the BJP, the party has fielded GL Raina (Ajay Bharti) on safe seat of Kashmir, Pradeep Sharma on Poonch reserve seat and Vikram Randhawa on unsafe Jammu seat. The PDP has repeated its senior leader Yasir Reshi on safe seat of Kashmir, who was due to retire on April 19 after only two-year term and given mandate to Abdul Qayoom Dar, a prominent party leader from Rajouri, on Jammu safe seat. The PDP may or may not field third candidate on Kashmir unsafe seat as that seat was set to go to the Opposition if NC and Congress contest the elections together.
BJP candidate on Kashmir seat, GL Raina (Ajay Bharti), who is an official in the Agriculture Department, has resigned from the services, party leaders said.
The NC and Congress high commands were in touch with each other in Srinagar and New Delhi respectively but the Congress high command’s decision on the seat they would like to contest didn’t reach to the NC till late tonight and was expected tomorrow.
However, insiders in the two parties said the NC-Congress alliance was intact and both the parties will contest at least one seat each of Kashmir and Jammu. While NC was likely to contest Kashmir seat, Congress could get Jammu. Former Minister Aga Syed Mehmood is front runner for NC mandate on Kashmir seat while names of former Ministers Abdul Rahim Rather and Nasir Aslam Wani (Sogami) were also in the panel.
All five or six candidates of PDP and BJP alliance apart from National Conference and Congress nominees will file nomination papers on March 29, the last date for the nominations. Polling is scheduled for April 17.
Election is scheduled to be held for three seats of Kashmir division, two seats of Jammu division and one seat of Poonch reserved seat.
The PDP and BJP candidates-Yasir Reshi and Ajay Bharti will be through to the Legislative Council from Kashmir while third seat from the Valley will go to joint candidate of NC and Congress.
BJP candidate Pradeep Sharma will sail through comfortably to the Upper House of the State Legislature as election will be held for lone seat reserved for Poonch district.
On two seats of Jammu division, PDP candidate Abdul Qayoom Dar will safely make it to the Council. There will be tough contest for second seat of Jammu division between BJP’s Vikram Randhawa, son of former BJP MLA from Gandhi Nagar, Choudhary Piara Singh, and joint candidate of NC and Congress, who is yet to be named. While PDP-BJP have 28 surplus votes after giving 30 to Dar, NC and Congress have 27. The key on second seat of Jammu is held by four Others and Independent MLAs including MY Tarigami of CPM, Hakim Mohammad Yasin of PDF, Pawan Gupta and Engineer Rashid. Their votes to PDP-BJP or NC-Congress combine or abstentions would decide fortunes of the second seat of Jammu.
PDP’s Yasir Reshi was elected to the Council in 2015 on a seat, which had two-year term only. In view of his clout in the party, he has been repeated for six-year term now. Reshi is party’s strongman from Sumbal, Bandipora. PDP’s second candidate Abdul Qayoom Dar on Jammu safe seat is SP retired and presently Chairman Auqaf Islamic Rajouri and Administrator Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah Shrine, Shahdara Sharief. He yields considerable influence among the voters.
BJP’s candidate on safe Poonch seat Pradeep Sharma is committed party loyalist, who had secured 10,700 votes in 2014 Assembly election while another party candidate Ajay Bharti is member of JK Study Circle, an off-shoot of the RSS.
Sources said the PDP could also field candidate on third seat of Kashmir though it would have no chance of winning it if NC and Congress contest together.
Excelsior had today exclusively reported that the BJP was going to surrender safe seat of Jammu region to the PDP in lieu of safe seat of Kashmir after a deal reached with the PDP yesterday. With official announcement to this effect today, it has become clear that the BJP has sacrificed interests of Jammu region, which had given 25 out of 37 seats to the BJP by ignoring the party leaders of the region. The party has also ignored Ladakh region in the appointments of vice chairpersons of Public Sector Undertakings (PSEs) and other issues of political empowerment as well.
Sources pointed out that right from the beginning, the BJP surrendered lion’s share in the Council of Ministry to PDP by giving the latter 14 berths and taking only 11 for it notwithstanding that at that time both the parties had equal number of 28 MLAs. While the PDP has 28 MLAs on its own, BJP has 25 and its pro-poll partner, People’s Conference two. Independent Pawan Gupta was also with the BJP at the time of Government formation.
“The people of Leh district, who created a history by giving two-third majority to the BJP in Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), making the BJP Council for the first time in the history, has been given only one post of Cabinet Minister and that too with completely insignificant portfolio of Cooperatives. There has been no other MLC of the BJP in Ladakh. The BJP has also completely ignored Ladakh during appointments of vice chairpersons to the PSEs. The BJP got seven out of nine posts of the vice chairpersons and, out of them, gave only four to Jammu region and three to Kashmir. Ladakh was not given a single post,” the party leaders pointed out.
It was for the first time that Ladakh had voted BJP’s member to Lok Sabha on lone Parliamentary seat, which had been the bastion of NC and Congress.
Senior BJP leaders were surprised over the decisions being taken by one of the Central party leader and state unit leaders, through which they were completely ignoring and neglecting Jammu and Ladakh regions. They were of the view that when the BJP failed to win even a single Assembly seat in the Kashmir Valley, there was no fun of giving three posts of vice chairpersons to Kashmir when there were several senior BJP claimants for the posts in Jammu, who were affiliated with the party for decades together.
The party leaders pointed out that ignoring the interests of party cadre in Jammu and Ladakh regions could cast dearly to the party, where it has strong base while it has absolutely no political base in the Valley, where all party candidates during last Parliament and Assembly elections had lost their deposits.
The Upper House has total strength of 36 but presently it is 34 in view of two vacancies due to non-holding of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) elections. The ULBs send two representatives to the Legislative Council.
Eighty-nine members of the Legislative Assembly (87 elected and two nominated women) comprised Electoral College for the MLC elections.
Of 89 MLAs (87 elected and two nominated women MLAs), who comprised Electoral College for the MLC elections, PDP-BJP has confirmed support of 58 MLAs including 28 of PDP, 25 BJP, two from People’s Conference, two Nominated women MLAs and Independent MLA from Zanskar (Kargil district) Bakir Hussain Rizvi, who has the status of Minister of State as head of the Board.
On the other, National Conference and Congress have 27 MLAs (NC 15 and Congress 12) while there are four Other and Independent MLAs including Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami (CPM), Hakim Mohammad Yasin, Engineer Abdul Rashid and Pawan Gupta.
Of six retiring MLCs, five would be completing their six year full term while Yasir Reshi of PDP will have only two year term as he was elected to the Council against a vacancy caused by the resignation of one of the MLCs. Three NC MLCs will complete their term on April 19 including Dharamvir Singh Oberoi, Dr Bashir Ahmad Veeri and Master Noor Hussain. Oberoi had recently passed away but his term was due to end on April 19. Two Congress MLCs including Jehangir Mir, Deputy Chairman, Legislative Council and Jugal Kishore Sharma, former Minister will also be completing their term on April 19.
The Legislative Council has strength of 36 but there are two vacancies for the past more than six years now, which couldn’t be filled due to non-holding of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) elections in Jammu and Kashmir. One vacancy each in the Council is reserved for the Jammu and Kashmir divisions, which had to be filled by elected Corporators and Councilors.
The ULB vacancies were filled in 2005 after the Municipal elections were held in January 2005. PDP’s Nizam-ud-Din Bhat was elected from Kashmir division while Congress nominee Arvinder Singh Micky had won from Jammu division. Bhat had resigned the seat after being elected to the Assembly in 2008 while Micky had completed his term in November 2010 having served as the Deputy Chairman of the Council.