Rana, Gupta to get second term

Rana, Gupta to get second term

17 February 2013
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: The National Conference-Congress Alliance tonight announced their six candidates-three each by the two parties-for eight seats of Legislative Councils going to elections on March 7. Major Opposition, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) has already announced candidates for two seats. Among other Opposition parties, the BJP has decided to abstain while the NPP was likely to support the PDP. Seven BJP rebels might not put up their candidates. Of eight MLCs retiring on March 16, only two have managed to get a mandate for second term while six others would be new faces as election of all eight candidates fielded by Alliance (six) and PDP (two) was certain. The election could be unanimous unless any other recognised Opposition party put up a candidate. All eight candidates would file their nomination papers tomorrow, the last date of filing nominations. Scrutiny of documents would be held on February 19 while candidates can withdraw their nominations till February 21. March 7 is the date of voting and counting, if required. Official sources told the Excelsior that if there were only eight candidates in the fray, they would be declared elected as unopposed on February 21, the last date of withdrawal of nomination papers by Returning Officer, Mohammad Ramzan, Secretary Legislative Assembly. The National Conference candidates included Devender Singh Rana (Jammu division), Abdul Majeed Larnoo and Showkat Ganaie (Kashmir division) while Congress candidates were Rani Biloria (Jammu division) and Naresh Gupta (Doda reserve). Muzaffar Parray was front runner for Kashmir division seat. The PDP has already named Nayeem Akhter, a former bureaucrat and its spokesperson for Kashmir division seat and Yashpal Sharma, a prominent party leader from Poonch district, for Jammu division seat. Among eight MLCs retiring on March 16, the Congress had four while NC and PDP had two members each. The NC and Congress would bag three seats each while the PDP would retain its tally of two. The NC would benefit by one seat while Congress would lose one in Kashmir division. Of eight retiring MLCs, NC had only member from Kashmir (Mohammad Yusuf Taing) while Congress had two (Ali Mohammad Bhat and Mohammad Amin Bhat). The situation would be reverse with Congress having one and NC two members in the current election. Eight members of the Legislative Council, who were retiring on March 16, included Devender Singh Rana, former Political Advisor to Chief Minister and 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). Only Mr Rana and Mr Gupta have been given second term by their parties (National Conference and Congress respectively) while six other retiring MLCs have been denied mandate for another term. Mr Rana was elected to the Legislative Council in March 2007 when the National Conference was in opposition. After the party came to power in January 2009, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had appointed him as his Political Advisor, a post he quit on January 15 this year to work for the party and was appointed as provincial president of Jammu. Reliable sources told the Excelsior that none of the retiring MLCs of the Congress were repeated for the upcoming election excepting Mr Gupta from Doda reserve as he had got only four years term. Mr Gupta was elected to the Upper House after Congress leader and former Minister 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 Rajaya Sabha. After his election to the Assembly, Mr Niaz had quit membership of the Upper House. Mr Gupta was than elected to the seat and got remaining four years period of Mr Niaz. The National Conference has fielded both its candidates of Kashmir division from South Kashmir with a view to create a dent in the stronghold of Opposition PDP. While Showkat Ganaie, who had retired as MLC in March 2011 had lost last Assembly election to PDP president and Leader of Opposition Mehbooba Mufti from Wachi Assembly segment in Shopian district, Abdul Majeed Larnoo had been defeated by PDP chief whip in Assembly and former Minister Abdul Gaffar Sofi from Homshalibugh in Anantnag district. The Congress candidate for Jammu division Rani Biloria had served as Deputy Mayor of Jammu Municipal Corporation and contested Assembly election from Vijaypur in 1996. Sources stated that JKPCC(I) chief was very keen that said party fields a woman and Rajput candidate for the Upper House as the Congress had no woman representative in the Council. 'Rani Biloria fulfilled both the categories (woman as well as Rajput)', sources said. They added that PCC (I) senior vice president and Supreme Court Advocate Muzaffar Ahmad Parray was front runner for the party mandate for Kashmir division seat though some other names were also under consideration. A final decision on Kashmir division seat would be taken tomorrow morning, he said. 'Had the Congress taken two seats of Kashmir division and one from Jammu, the Jammu region would have been ignored. That's why, we gave two seats to Jammu division', Congress sources said. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah reached here this evening from Srinagar, where he was camping to monitor law and order situation since the executive of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru. Senior leaders of National Conference, Congress and PDP were likely to accompany their candidates while filing of nomination papers tomorrow. Of eight vacancies arising in Legislative Council, four were from Kashmir division and three from Jammu division. One seat was reserved for Doda district. Eighty-nine MLAs (87 elected plus two nominated women) comprised Electoral College for the elections. Going by the composition of various political parties in the Assembly, the National Conference-Congress Alliance with the help of its allies and Independent candidates was in a position to win three of four seats of Kashmir division and two of three seats of Jammu division besides lone reserved seat of Doda district. The PDP was in a position to win one seat each of Jammu and Kashmir divisions. However, on one Jammu division seat, the PDP would have required some extra votes (other than its 21 MLAs), which it could get from the NPP in the event of an election. The PDP could have managed its candidate through even with 21 MLAs if there would have been no cross voting in favour of NC, Congress candidates from other opposition parties as witnessed in 2011 elections. However, with NC-Congress fielding only two candidates on Jammu division seats, the PDP candidate would be through easily-either unanimously or by election as there was no other major party with significant strength in the Assembly. Earlier in the day, the BJP with four MLAs decided to abstain from the elections. 'We are not in a position to win any seat. So we have decided to abstain', BJP president Jugal Kishore said after a party meeting, which was also attended by party's All India general secretary, Jagat Prakash Nadda. Seven BJP rebels also met at the residence of Prof Chaman Lal Gupta. Prof Gupta asked the party MLAs to explore possibility of supporting a BJP candidate or any other Independent from Jammu. However, such a possibility didn't arise with BJP deciding to abstain and NPP extending support to the PDP.