The list of 69 Congress candidates for the Jammu and Kashmir assembly elections released Friday did not contain any surprises. It, however, scotched rumours about many senior party leaders deserting the party before polls.Congress legislator and minister Sham Lal Sharma had fuelled rumours about the likelihood of joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after he joined its chorus for a Hindu chief minister in the state.Sharma has again been fielded from Akhnoor in Jammu district.The party has also repeated all its sitting legislators and ministers including Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand who will again contest from Chhamb and Raman Bhalla from Gandhi Nagar in Jammu district.
Similarly, other ministers including Taj Mohiuddin and Peerzada Sayeed have been fielded again from Uri and Kokernag seats of the Valley respectively.Another sitting legislator and minister G.A. Mir has been fielded from Doru in south Kashmir's Anantnag district.The party has fielded Raman Mattoo, a local Pandit for the Habba Kadal seat in Srinagar district, against Moti Kaul of the BJP, who is also a Kashmiri Pandit.Habba Kadal has nearly 20,000 Pandit migrant voters.It is with an eye on Kashmiri Pandit migrant voters that both the BJP and the Congress chose to field local Pandit candidates for this seat.
Congress has fielded Khem Lata Wakhloo, a Pandit female candidate from Sonawar constituency where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is fighting the elections this time.Prominent among those fighting elections for the first time is Salman Anees Soz, party national spokesperson and son of Jammu and Kashmir Congress president, Professor Saifuddin Soz.He has been fielded for north Kashmir Baramulla assembly seat.The party has fielded candidates from all those seats where the its present ruling coalition party, the regional National Conference (NC) has also fielded candidates.
It would be interesting to watch how the two ruling allies claim credit for the good work done during the last six years and at the same time blame each other for the failures of the coalition."We would often bring things to the notice of the party high command that the NC is acting at cross purpose with the interests of our party. We would complain about neglect of Congress constituencies by the NC that dominated the alliance for six years, but other than a patient hearing we got nothing," said a senior Congress leader and minister who did not want to be named.