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|September 10, 1999||
Doda voters have a bone to pick with BJP
The enhanced threat perception following the recent killing of the BJP candidate from Anantnag, and the difficult terrain of the militancy-infested Udhampur-Doda parliamentary constituency have forced all candidates to restrict their campaigning within city limits.
Udhampur goes to poll on Saturday. It has 17 assembly segments spread over the three districts of Udhampur, Doda and Kathua. These are mostly vast areas of hilly and difficult terrain, unconnected by road or rail.
The main contenders in the 16-cornered contest are the Bharatiya Janata Party's Professor Chaman Lal Gupta, the winner in 1996 and 1998, National Conference candidate Jagjeeven Lal and Congress MLA Balbir Singh. There are no women candidates in the fray.
Udhampur was once a Congress stronghold. Prof Gupta now hopes to achieve a hattrick as the Congress and the ruling NC have fielded weak candidates.
The thin attendance at election rallies and meetings indicates the lack of enthusiasm among the voters.
Prof Gupta contested for the first time in 1996 to snatch the seat from the Congress. The NC had not contested that year. Professor Gupta repeated his victory in 1998. The NC has no strong candidate -- Rainder Singh Chib, who gave a tough fight to the BJP last year, has chosen to contest from Jammu constituency this time.
The Bahujan Samaj Party has a sizeable number of supporters in Udhampur. In the 1998 poll, its Khalilullah had secured 28,617 votes.
Udhampur is the second largest parliamentary constituency in J&K after Ladhakh. It has an area of 18,862 square kilometres. Of this, 11,691 sq km are in Doda district, 4,520 sq km in Udhampur and 2,651 sq km in Kathua district. It has an electorate of 10,07,030, which includes 536,470 male and 470,560 female voters.
In respect of voters, Udhampur district, with an electorate of 363,820, has an edge over the other two. Of this, 196,590 are men and 167,230 women.
There are 327,123 voters in Doda. They include 170,115 male and 157,008 female voters.
As far as Kathua district is concerned, the number of voters is 316,087, of whom 169,765 are male and 146,322 female.
In all 1386 polling booths are being set up in the constituency. Of these, 461 stations will be in Doda district, 510 in Udhampur and 415 in Kathua. The Reasi assembly segment in Udhampur has the highest number of stations (121) while the Bani segment in Kathua has the lowest (52).
The candidates in the constituency are: Balbir Singh (Congress), Jagjiwan Lal (National Conference), Prof Chaman Lal Gupta (BJP), Roop Lal (BSP), Kabir Shah (Janata Dal Secular), Prof Bhim Singh (J&K National Panthers Party), Pradeep Singh (Nationalist Congress Party), Des Raj (RJD), Rajinder Sharma (Janata Party), Shashi Kumar, (Akhil Bharatiya Jan Sang), Abdul Kabir (Samajwadi Janata Party-Rashitrya), Ghulam Mohammad (Rashtriya Lok Dal) and four independents -- Jagdish Raj, Dev Raj, Surender Pal Mahajan and Pandit Hem Raj Sharma.
Since the first parliamentary election in 1967, the Congress has lost this seat only once. In the very first election held in 1967, Brigadier Ghansara Singh of the Congress was elected. Dr Karan Singh won in 1971 and 1977 as a Congress candidate, and also in 1980 but as a candidate of the Congress-URS.
Between 1989 and 1996, the seat was exchanged between the Congress and BJP. The BJP had no mass base till 1989. Elections exploited the militancy factor and the issue of Hindus being killed by militants in Doda and Udhampur districts. The BJP gained the sympathy of the Hindus and broadened its base. It also took advantage of the absence of an elected government till 1996, and in the 1996 election Prof Gupta won for first time.
This time round, there seems to be some resentment against the BJP on the issue of declaring Doda a disturbed area. The majority of the voters in Doda, including the Hindus says, "The BJP was demanding that Doda be declared as a disturbed area before 1996. But when they came to power they did not do it. This clearly shows their double standard."
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