Alliance wins 4, PDP one seat as 11 MLAs abstain

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Mar 7: National Conference-Congress Alliance today won four seats (both taking two each) and Opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) one while PDP-BJP-NPP backed Independent candidate Shibhen Krishen Dudha lost in the election for five seats of Legislative Council held today.
The elections were scheduled to be held for eight seats but three candidates—one each from NC, Congress and PDP had been elected unopposed for three seats of Jammu division.
The winners from four seats of Kashmir division included Abdul Majeed Bhat Larnoo and Showkat Hussain Ganaie (both NC), Muzaffar Parray (Congress) and Nayeem Akhter (PDP). From Doda reserve seat in Jammu region, Congress candidate Naresh Gupta got second term defeating his NPP rival Mohammad Iqbal by a handsome margin.
Three candidates, who have already been elected unopposed included Devender Singh Rana (NC), former Political Advisor to Chief Minister and provincial president of the party, Rani Blowria (Congress) and Yashpal Sharma (PDP).
With today’s election, out of eight seats falling vacant in the Legislative Council on March 16, six have been captured by the ruling Alliance (three each by NC and Congress) and two by the principle Opposition party, PDP.
Eighty-nine MLAs constituted Electoral College for the election.
Legislative Assembly Secretary Mohammad Ramzan, who had been nominated Returning Officer (RO) for the election, said for four seats of Kashmir division, 78 votes were polled (polling percentage of 87.64).
Eleven members, who abstained from the voting for Kashmir seats included seven MLAs of BJP’s breakaway group led by Prof Chaman Lal Gupta, two MLAs of ‘Third Front’—MY Tarigami (CPM) and Hakim Mohammad Yasin (PDP) and two Independents—Ashwani Sharma (Bishnah) and Engineer Rashid (Langet).
Of 78 votes, PDP’s Nayeem Akhter polled 19 while Showkat Hussain Ganaie (NC) and Muzaffar Parray (Congress) got 17 votes each. NC’s Abdul Majeed Bhat Larnoo secured 16 votes. The loser, Shiben Krishen Dudha got 9.
On Doda reserve seat, for which a separate election was held, only 74 votes were polled (83.15 per cent). Besides 11 members, who abstained from voting on Kashmir seats, four BJP MLAs also didn’t cast votes on Doda seat.
Congress candidate Naresh Kumar Gupta got 50 votes while NPP’s Mohammad Iqbal secured 24 votes. Mr Gupta, who recorded a thumping victory on Doda reserve seat, got second term in the Legislative Council along with NC’s Showkat Hussain Ganaie. While this was first term for three other winners of today’s election in the Upper House.
The voting pattern indicated that ruling Alliance had 50 votes in its kitty including 29 of NC, 18 of Congress and one from DPN (Ghulam Hassan Mir, Agriculture Minister). Two Independent candidates Tsetan Namgyal (Nobra) and Charanjit Singh Jasrotia (Kathua) also voting for the Alliance.
The coalition split its 50 votes among three candidates with 17, 17 and 16. On Doda reserve seat, Congress candidate got all 50 votes.
The PDP had 21 votes. It polled 19 to Nayeem Akhter to ensure his outright victory and gave two surplus votes to Dudha. Four BJP and three NPP MLAs also voted for Dudha taking his tally to 9.
Political observers were of the view that seven votes of BJP’s breakaway group would have taken his tally to 16—equal to that of Abdul Majid Larnoo, leading to tie among the two while one more vote from the absentees could have even made him victorious at the cost of an Alliance candidate.
“The abstentions have in a way helped the Alliance make its all three candidates on Kashmir seats victorious. The united Opposition from Jammu could have easily assured defeat of a Coalition candidate’’, they said.
However, BJP’s breakaway group MLA Baldev Sharma told the Excelsior that they didn’t vote for Dudha as he was backed by the PDP.
“Dudha’s nomination had been signed by 10 MLAs while as it should have been endorsed by us. Further, we followed the BJP’s initial decision of abstaining from the voting but the BJP reversed its decision and voted for Dudha. We remained committed to our stand’’, Mr Sharma said.
Worthwhile to mention here that in the Assembly record, seven MLAs of BJP breakaway group were still treated as BJP MLAs. However, the BJP, which has expelled seven MLAs, hadn’t issued any whip to them to vote for Dudha.
On Doda reserve seat, Congress candidate Naresh Gupta got all 50 votes while NPP’s Mohammad Iqbal secured 24. The NPP candidate got three votes of his own party and 21 from PDP. Four MLAs of BJP, who voted for Dudha on Kashmir seat, didn’t cast their vote for the NPP candidate on Doda seat.
Nevertheless, the BJP votes won’t have mattered as the NPP candidates lost by 26 votes.
This was the first election to the Legislative Council, which was held through open ballot system. Under the open ballot, the authorized agents of the party could check the vote of their members before they were cast. All contesting parties and Independent had appointed their authorized agents to check the vote of their party MLAs.
While open ballot scheme was being used for Rajya Sabha and Legislative Council elections in other States for past few years, Jammu and Kashmir had passed the legislation about one and a half years back and this was the first election held under open balloting.
Contrary to April 13, 2011 election to Legislative Council, which were marred by cross voting by seven BJP MLAs in favour of NC-Congress candidates leading to their expulsion from the party and a petition before the Speaker for their disqualification from the House, today’s election was smooth affairs for all political parties—both Alliance and Opposition especially in the wake of open ballot system. Due to cross voting, BJP candidate Ranjit Singh in 2011 election had polled only four votes despite the fact the party then had 11 MLAs.
CPM leader MY Tarigami said he abstained from the election but declined to elaborate while Hakim Mohammad Yasin (PDF) on whose party mandate, Dudha had contested 2008 Assembly election from Amirakadal, said he was in Srinagar after the demise of his kin.
Independent MLA from Bishnah, Ashwani Sharma said he abstained from the voting as he didn’t want to vote for either NC or PDP backed candidates.
BJP president and MLA Jugal Kishore said the party MLAs voted for Opposition candidate Dudha. However, he said, the NPP hadn’t asked for BJP’s support for its candidate Mohammad Iqbal on Doda reserve seat. “Therefore, we abstained from separate election held for Doda reserve seat’’, he added.
Eight members of the Legislative Council, who were retiring on March 16, included Devender Singh Rana, provincial president of National Conference, his party colleague Mohammad Yusuf Taing, RS Chib, former Medical Education Minister, Mohammad Amin Bhat, Ali Mohammad Bhat and Naresh Gupta (all from Congress), Nizam-ud-Din Khatana and Murtaza Khan (both from PDP).
Rana and Gupta have got second term and have been elected while none of six other candidates were repeated by their respective parties.
Nayeem Akhter would be fourth bureaucrat joining the Legislative Council. An IAS officer, he had taken voluntary retirement from the services few years back and joined the PDP. Three former Chief Secretaries of the State were already members of the Council. They included BR Kundal (Congress), Vijay Bakaya and Sheikh Ghulam Rasool (NC).
Groupism in the Congress was visible even after the declaration of election results by the Returning Officers in the lobby of Legislative Assembly. While both NC winners came out jointly for celebrations and were received by senior NC leaders including Mr Rana, the Congress winners—Muzaffar Parray and Naresh Gupta came out separately.
Parray was joined by PCC (I) chief Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz while Gupta was joined by Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad loyalists—Ghulam Mohammad Saroori and Mohammad Sharief Niaz, both former Ministers and MLAs from erstwhile Doda district.
However, Prof Soz, who had left the Assembly complex along with Parray returned to receive Mr Gupta. Both the winners were taken to PCC (I) headquarters where they were welcomed by the senior party leaders including Prof Soz, Ministers, legislators and office bearers.
In Bhaderwah, the native town of Mr Gupta and his Jammu residence of Talab Tillo, the Congress workers celebrated his second term to the Legislative Council with impressive margin of votes.
Mr Gupta’s previous term was for four years only as against six years term of the MLCs as he was elected to the Upper House after Mohammad Sharief Niaz won the Assembly by-poll from Bhaderwah segment, which was vacated by Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad on being elected to the Rajya Sabha. After his election to the Assembly, Mr Niaz had quit membership of the Upper House. Mr Gupta got only four years remaining term of Mr Niaz in his first term.


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