Bigwigs of various parties among 72 join fray

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Dec 1: Seventy two candidates including sitting and former Ministers, MLAs and bigwigs of various political parties today filed nomination papers for 20 Assembly constituencies of Jammu, Kathua and Rajouri districts, which will go to polls in fifth and final phase of Assembly elections on December 20. December 3 is last date for filing nomination papers.
PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control Minister Sham Lal Sharma joined the electoral battle from prestigious Akhnoor segment seeking third consecutive term while former Minister and veteran Congress leader Mula Ram joined the fray from Raipur-Domana constituency. Sitting MLAs Sham Choudhary (BJP-Suchetgarh), Sukhnandan Choudhary (BJP-Marh), Jagdish Raj Sapolia (Congress-Basohli) and Shabir Khan (Congress-Rajouri) also filed their papers today.
Several bigwigs of the BJP  also filed their nomination papers today. They include veteran party leaders—Dr Nirmal Singh (Billawar), Kavinder Gupta (Gandhi Nagar), Ravinder Raina (BJYM president-Nowshera), Sat Sharma CA (Jammu West) and Nand Lal Sharma (Nagrota) among others.
Former Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir and Power Minister in Ghulam Nabi Azad Government, BR Kundal joined the fray from RS Pura constituency as an Independent candidate. Kundal, a sitting MLC, has resigned from the Congress and joined the electoral battle on the support of local people including Sarpanchs and Panchs.
Sitting NC MLA Rashpal Singh (Kalakote) and veteran NC leader Mirza Abdul Rashid, former MP (Rajouri) also filed their papers today.
Of 72 nominations filed today, highest number of 37 were filed in Jammu district followed by 23 in Kathua and 12 in Rajouri, official sources said.
Congress Minister Sham Sharma filed nomination papers from Akhnoor, a seat he had won in 2004 by-election after his elder brother Madan Lal Sharma was elected to Lok Sabha and retained it in 2008. Three other candidates, who filed nomination papers from Akhnoor today were Dev Raj Bhagat (PDP), Ashok Kumar (covering candidate PDP) and Pradeep Kumar Pateyar (All J&K Kissan Mazdoor Party). BJP has fielded Rajeev Sharma from Akhnoor and ruling NC  Dr Gafoor Bhat.
Senior BJP leader Dr Nirmal Singh filed his nomination papers from Billawar Assembly seat. He will be taking on Cooperatives Minister and two times Congress MLA from the constituency Dr Manohar Lal Sharma among others. Sanjeev Khajuria alias Romy Khajuria (NC) and Jatinder Singh (PDP) also joined the fray from Billawar seat.
Dr Singh had contested last Assembly election from Gandhi Nagar seat but lost narrowly to Congress strongman Raman Bhalla. This time, Dr Singh has shifted his seat to Billawar. Sanjeev Khajuria alias Romy Khajuria (NC) and Jitender Singh (PDP) also filed their papers from Billawar.
Sitting BJP MLA from Suchetgarh constituency Sham Lal Choudhary filed his papers seeking second term. He had won the seat in 2008 with a thumping margin. Three other candidates, who filed papers today from Suchetgarh, are Taranjit Singh Tony (NC), Jeet Raj (BMP) and Bachan Lal Choudhary (Independent). Congress has fielded former Minister RS Chib from Suchetgarh but hit candidature triggered revolt in the party with 2002 MLA Choudhary Gharu Ram quitting the party and joining the PDP.
Congress young face in Jammu East Vikram Malhotra today filed the papers. He will be facing BJP’s Rajesh Gupta, who has already joined the fray and PDP’s Bharat Choudhary apart from NC’s two times Nominate MLA Bimla Luthra among others. Though Congress MLA from City East in 2002 and former Minister Yogesh Sawhney had also threatened to join the fray as an Independent candidate, he was yet to file his papers. BJP MLA Ashok Khajuria had won the seat in 1998 by-election but lost it to Sawhney in 2002. He had regained the seat in 2008 but was denied mandate by the party this time.
Another prominent BJP leader Kavinder Gupta joined the battle of ballots from Gandhi Nagar Assembly constituency today. A three times Mayor of Jammu Municipal Corporation, Gupta is contesting first Assembly election of his political career. He will be facing among others Housing Minister Raman Bhalla, Amrik Singh Reen (PDP) and Surinder Singh Bunty (NC). Bhalla had won Gandhi Nagar seat in 2002 and 2008 after losing from Jammu East in 1996. BJP had last won Gandhi Nagar seat in 1996 when its candidate Choudhary Piara Singh was elected defeating Congress and NC candidates. Madhu Bala (Independent) also filed her papers from Gandhi Nagar today. Union Minister and BJP leader from Punjab Vijay Sampla accompanied Kavinder Gupta during filing of nomination papers.
BJP leader Sat Sharma CA and Dhaman Bhasin (PDP) joined the electoral fray from Jammu West constituency today. Sat Sharma has replaced BJP sitting MLA Prof Chaman Lal Gupta from Jammu West, who was among eight party MLAs denied the mandate out of a total of 11 in the outgoing Assembly. Other candidates, who filed their papers from  Jammu West today, included Kuldeep Kumar Magotra (covering candidate BJP), Puneet Jamwal (covering candidate PDP) and Udhey Chand (Dugger Pradesh Party). Prof Gupta has won the seat in 2008 defeating Congress veteran and former Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma, who had bagged the seat from the BJP in 2002. BJP’s Hans Raj Dogra has won the seat in 1996.
Apart from Congress rebel BR Kundal, Dr Gagan Bhagat (BJP), Ajaib Singh Mottan (BSP), Bushan Lal Dogra (PDP), Kuldeep Raj and Pargat Singh (both Independents) joined the fray from RS Pura seat today. Kundal, the sitting Congress MLC, had joined the fray after being denied the party mandate. Kundal’s candidature is backed by a large number of Panchayat members from RS Pura. Kundal had resigned as the Chief Secretary of the State in 2008 and was inducted as Power Minister by then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.  In 2009, he was elected as a member of the Upper House. BJP has also denied mandate to its sitting MLA from RS Pura Choudhary Gharu Bhagat. Congress has given the party ticket to Suman Bhagat, who had won the seat in 2002 but lost in 2008.
Former Minister Mula Ram (Congress) and BJP leader Bali Bhagat today filed nomination papers from Raipur-Domana seat, presently held by BJP MLA Bharat Bhushan, who has also been denied the mandate. Mula Ram had won the seat in 2002 but lost it to Bhushan in 2008. In 1996, Sat Pal Lakhotra has won the seat as Janata Dal candidate but later switched over to NC. He has again been fielded by the ruling NC.
BJYM president and fire brand party leader Ravinder Raina today filed his nomination papers from Nowshera Assembly seat in Rajouri district, where he would face sitting NC MLA Radhey Shyam Sharma, PCC (I) spokesman and sitting MLC Ravinder Sharma and PDP leader Surinder Choudhary among others.
Dr Krishan Lal Bhagat (BJP), who will take on Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, a three times MLA of Congress in Chhamb (Reserve) seat, filed his papers today. Madan Lal (PDP) and Shakti Bala (NC) also joined fray from Chhamb seat today. Tara Chand had won Chhamb seat for three consecutive terms of 1996, 2002 and 2008 and is seeking fourth term.
Sitting BJP MLA from Marh Sukhnandan Choudhary joined the battle of ballot seeking second term today by filing his papers before the Returning Officer. Suram Singh (PDP), Sandeep Singh Manhas (NCP) and Darshan Lal (Independent) also filed the papers from Marh seat. Planning Minister Ajay Sadhotra, NC MLC is the party candidate from Marh while Congress has fielded Balwan Singh.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Ram Pal Khajuria and PDP’s Faquir Chand today filed papers from Bishnah constituency, where Ashwani Sharma, who has recently joined the BJP, was seeking third straight term having won two previous elections as the candidate of Jammu State Morcha (JSM).
BJP state president and Lok Sabha MP from Jammu-Poonch Jugal Kishore Sharma’s brother Nand Kishore Sharma today filed papers from prestigious Nagrota Assembly constituency. After winning the seat twice in 2002 and 2008 by defeating NC stalwart and former Minister Ajatshatru Singh, Jugal had vacated Nagrota seat in June after being elected to Lok Sabha.
Shivdev Singh (Congress), Rakesh Wazir (PDP) and Vilakshan Singh (NPP) filed papers for Nagrota seat. NC strongman Devender Singh Rana will contest Nagrota said. Ajatshatru Singh has recently joined the BJP. PDP has fielded Choudhary Hussain Ali Wafa from Nagrota.
In Kathua, BJP candidate Rajeev Jasrotia and PDP candidate Subash Sharma apart from Romesh Kumar (covering candidate of BJP) and Neelam Sharma (covering candidate of PDP) filed their papers today. Jasrotia has been facing revolt from within the party in Kathua, where local party leaders have been describing him as an “outsider’’. Subash Sharma is son of former Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma, who had recently joined the PDP. Mangat’s another son Rajneesh Sharma alias Mian is Congress candidate from Bani.
Sitting Independent MLA from Kathua Charanjit Singh Jasrotia and Congress candidate Babu Singh have already filed their papers.
In Basohli, sitting MLA Jagdish Raj Sapolia, who had switched sides from BJP to Congress after being denied mandate by the party today foiled his nomination as Congress candidate. Rangil Singh (PDP), Devinder Singh alias Bindu (NC), Khadim Hussain (BSP), Javed Iqbal (covering candidate BSP), Brejeshwar Singh (covering candidate NC), Sanjeev Singh (covering candidate PDP), Shamas-ud-Deen and Rajinder Singh (both Independents) also filed papers from Basohli today.
Lal Singh had already filed papers as BJP candidate from Basohli. Lal Singh had won Basohli seat as Congress Tewari candidate in 1996 and Congress nominee in 2002. He was elected MP in 2004 and his wife Kanta Andotra won the seat in the by-election. However, Kanta lost the seat to Sapolia in 2008 while Lal Singh was defeated on Kathua seat. However, he was elected Lok Sabha member again in 2009.
Former Deputy Speaker Ghulam Haider Malik (NC), Dr Mohammad Ramzan (BSP), Mohammad Rafiq and Pishori Lal (both Independents) today joined the electoral fray from Bani seat of Kathua district. Malik had won the seat in 1997 and served as Deputy Speaker in Farooq Abdullah regime. He lost the seat in 2002 to Prem Sagar Aziz of Congress and in 2008 to BJP’s Master Lal Chand.
BJP has replaced Master Lal Chand with Jeewan Lal but Lal Chand has revolted against the party decision and joined the fray as an Independent.
Veteran Congress leader Girdhari Lal Chalotra joined the battle of ballots today from Hiranagar (Reserve seat). Others, who filed their papers today included Puran Chand (BSP) and Suraj Prakash (PDP). Chalotra had won Hiranagar seat in 2002 but lost to the BJP’s Durga Dass in 20028. BJP has denied mandate to Durga Dass this time.
Two times NC MLA from Kalakote Rashpal Singh today filed his papers seeking third term. Rashpal had won the seat for NC in 2002 and 2008. In 1996, Ashok Sharma of Congress had won the seat. Congress had again given mandate to Sharma while BJP has fielded Abdul Gani Kohli.
Former Rajya Sabha member Mirza Abdul Rashid (NC) and former Minister and sitting MLA Shabir Khan (Congress ) filed their papers from Rajouri seat today. Others, who joined the fray from Rajouri segment today included Liaqat Ali, Aftab Majid, Mohammad Farooq and Istkhar Ahmad (all Independents). BJP has fielded Talib Hussain for Rajouri seat. Talib is a former Minister and Lok Sabha member.

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