Art 370 takes centre stage in 3-way fight in J&K's Udhampur

TNN Bureau. Updated: 4/10/2024 3:12:28 AM

Jammu: Four years after being revoked, Article 370 has taken centre stage in the poll campaign in Jammu and Kashmir, more so in the Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency where Union Minister Jitendra Singh is seeking reelection.
The seat is seeing a triangular fight with the Congress fielding Choudhary Lal Singh and the Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) pitting three-time ex-MLA G M Saroori against the BJP's Jitendra Singh who is vying for a hat-trick of victory in the constituency.
Polling in Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency will be held in the first of the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections on April 19.
Lal Singh has been seeking the support of the electorate by accusing the BJP of snatching Jammu and Kashmir's statehood and special constitutional provisions, while Union Minister Singh has been demanding that the main opposition party clears its stand on Article 370.
Canvassing for Saroori, DPAP chairman and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad held a series of public rallies and said his party's agenda is to advocate restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir and raise public issues, including land and job rights.
The campaigning in the seat is expected to reach a crescendo with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally in Udhampur on April 12. The Congress has planned a mega rally the next day which is likely to be addressed by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Raj Babbar.
BJP candidate Jitendra Singh has said that while the Congress was yet to clear its stand on the Article 370 issue, the party is fighting the election with the National Conference that has publicly declared its opposition to Article 370 abrogation and stated that if given a chance they would seek to restore it.
"The Congress party should clear its stand on Article 370... let them say that they will restore Article 370 if at all brought back to power. Otherwise, they are beating about the bush and avoiding the issue they are answerable for," the senior BJP leader said on Monday as he moved from one village to the next seeking votes.
"We will not allow the Congress to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds," he said and asserted that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who undid the acts of "omission and commission" committed over the years by successive Congress governments beginning from first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
The Union minister claimed that even though the Congress leadership had agreed to include Article 370 in the Constitution as a temporary provision, "over a period of time, they could not muster the courage to fulfil their own commitment".
"It was PM Modi who had the courage of conviction to correct the fallacies and lapses committed by the Congress," he stressed, responding to the Congress' criticism of the BJP-led government over its August 2019 decision to revoke Article 370 and bifurcate the erstwhile state into two Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
On the other hand, Congress candidate Lal Singh's poll plank has been the "identity" of Jammu and Kashmir, which he alleged has been robbed by the BJP government at the Centre.
The three-time MLA and former minister, who recently returned to the Congress fold, is mincing no word to attack the Narendra Modi government, accusing it of "destroying Jammu and Kashmir during its 10 years of misrule".
"They have not only snatched our statehood but also special constitutional provisions and our exclusive rights over land and jobs. It is time to teach them a lesson."
Lal Singh is currently on bail in a money laundering case against an educational trust run by his wife and former MLA Kanta Andotra. In the campaigning, he is accompanied by senior Congress leaders, including J-K Congress chief Vikar Rasool Wani. Singh's wife and brother Rajinder Singh Bubby, the former president of Kathua Municipal Council, are separately canvassing for him in Kathua.
As many as 12 candidates are in the fray from the constituency which is spread over five districts of Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Udhampur and Kathua and has over 16.23 lakh voters, including 7.77 lakh women.
Jitendra Singh won the seat in 2014 and 2019. In 2014, he defeated Ghulam Nabi Azad by a margin of 60,976 votes while in 2019 he won against Congress candidate Vikramaditya Singh, the grandson of erstwhile Maharaja Hari Singh, by a margin of 3,53,272 votes.
Lal Singh won the seat on a Congress ticket in 2004 and 2009.

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