Panthers fall flat

Govind Sharma

JAMMU, Dec 23: After its maiden entry to the J&K Assembly in the elections of 1983, Panthers Party which had emerged as a considerable political force in Jammu and Kashmir in 2002 Assembly elections under the leadership of Prof Bhim Singh, fell flat in 2014 State Assembly elections as the party failed to win even win a single seat in the State.
In a major setback, Panthers Party, which had announced a total of 29 candidates from J&K (19 from constituencies of Jammu province and 10 from Kashmir Valley) drew a blank in the State Assembly elections, the results of which were announced today. What to say of new candidates, even the bigwigs of NPP viz former Minister and MLA Samba, Yashpal Kundal, former MoS and MLA Ramnagar, Harshdev Singh and president, JKNPP and MLA Udhampur, Balwant Singh Mankotia failed to save their seats and suffered defeat with huge margin.
Three-time MLA and former Education Minister, Harshdev Singh lost to BJP candidate R S Pathania in Ramnagar Assembly segment of Udhampur district by a margin of 17,420 votes. Party’s two-time MLA and former Minister Yash Paul Kundal also lost to BJP candidate Devinder Kumar Manyal by 22,118 votes in Samba Assembly segment. Party’s another two-time MLA and president JKNPP, Balwant Singh Mankotia lost to Independent candidate, Pawan Gupta, by a margin of 14,650 votes.
In 1983 State Assembly elections, the party made its maiden entry in J&K politics winning a lone seat of Chenani Assembly Constituency by its patron Prof Bhim Singh. However, in 1987 State Assembly elections, the party lost its ground and even failed to win a single seat. But, the party revived again in 1996 when Harshdev Singh won Ramnagar Assembly seat.
In 2002, the party emerged as a major force when it won four seats and played a role of coalition partner of Congress-PDP Government. Harshdev Singh who won from Ramnagar and Yash Pal Kundal who won from Samba were inducted as Minister of Education and MoS Animal Husbandry in Mufti Mohd Sayeed Government while Balwant Singh Mankotia and Faqir Chand Bhagat had also won Udhampur and Chenani seats respectively.
Again in 2008 State Assembly elections, the party won all the three seats of Samba, Ramnagar and Udhampur by its sitting MLAs-Yashpal Kundal, Harshdev Singh and Balwant Singh Mankotia, respectively. Also, the Panthers Party with the cooperation of PDP managed to send its one MLC, Syed Raffiq Shah in the Upper House. However, giving Panthers Party a blow, Syed Raffiq Shah joined PDP just before 2014 State Assembly elections.
Reacting over the defeat of the party, president, JKNPP and MLA Udhampur, Balwant Singh Mankotia, said “Win and lose are two parts of the coin. We are not the one who loses the heart after defeat. We have the capacity and ability to make a strong entry and we will in next State Assembly elections, as we had done earlier in 1996. It is the time to introspect where we were wrong and we will definitely do that”.
On its individual defeat from Udhampur seat, JKNPP president, said that everybody knows how the independent candidate, Pawan Gupta won by using illegal means. I have no regret, as being a MLA in opposition I played my role very well and always highlighted the issues of the people in the State Assembly. I accept the verdict of the public. This time public mood was not with us; hopefully next time it will be with us, he added.