Azad not contesting from Udhampur LS seat shows DPAP not fighting to win: Cong leader Lal Singh

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Kathua : March 24 Congress leader Choudhary Lal Singh on Sunday charged that the Democratic Progressive Azad Party’s decision to field former minister G M Saroori instead of founder Ghulam Nabi Azad from Udhampur constituency shows that the party is not fighting to win but to cut the votes of the opposition.

The 65-year-old Singh, who recently rejoined Congress, is pitted against Union Minister Jitendra Singh who is seeking his re-election from Udhampur Lok Sabha seat for the third consecutive term.

Udhampur parliamentary constituency is going to polls in the first phase on April 19 and so far five candidates, including union minister and DPAP vice chairman and former minister Saroori have filed their nominations. Lal Singh is filing his nomination papers in the next couple of days.

Hailing from Kathua district, Lal Singh had won the Udhampur seat twice on Congress tickets in 2004 and 2009, besides being a three-time former MLA. He switched from the grand old party to the BJP in 2014 and was also a minister in the previous PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir that collapsed in June 2018 after the national party pulled out of the alliance.

Several months before the government’s fall, Lal Singh resigned from the BJP and floated his own outfit Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan party (DSSP) following an uproar over his participation in a rally in support of the accused in a rape-and-murder case of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua in January 2018. However, he defended his participation in the rally, stating that he was there to “defuse the situation”.

On November 7 last year, Lal Singh was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with a money-laundering case against an educational trust run by his wife and former legislator Kanta Andotra. However, he was released on bail three weeks later.

Talking to PTI videos, Lal Singh accused the BJP of destroying the Jammu region and tried to weaken the Dogras, and said “The balloon of its falsehood has deflated and people have made up their mind to teach them a lesson”.

“I don’t think it will be a hard contest. It is certain that he is a rich person and the fight will be tough because the power is on his side. They have a history of misusing power and the government (machinery) and they can do it again,” he said, adding “We are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the people and will fight anyone who will do injustice to them.” Asked about the talk of alliance among DPAP, Apni party and some other like-minded parties, he said “What grand alliance? Grand means big and which party in J-K is a grand party? My DSSP was much bigger than these parties.” He said Saroori is contesting on DPAP ticket from Udhampur and he is not there to win but just to cut the votes (of the opposition)… what stopped their leader (Azad) from joining the contest if they were certain of winning from there. I don’t know what Saroori’s compulsions are as the rest of other senior leaders already left him (Azad).” Lal Singh is confident of winning against Union minister Jitendra Singh and said “those who fielded him will have to bear the loss. Not a single person, even from BJP, is happy with him.” On BJP’s claim of massive development, especially in Udhampur constituency, he said, “When they were not there, we used to reach Jammu within one-and-a-half hours but now it takes over three hours to cover the distance.” “Some 400 buses used to ply on Kathua-Jammu route, the number has declined to 150. They have ruined business on the pretext of constructing a road to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine. They cut down trees on the roadside, removed shops, hotels, restaurants and left a large number of people unemployed,” he charged.

“They were living in falsehood and their balloon has deflated now,” he said, criticising BJP over the delimitation exercise and claimed they have harmed everyone.

“They (BJP) destroyed such a big state and also did nothing for the people of Jammu who always supported and voted for them. Instead of creating a new constituency of Rajouri, Poonch and Reasi, they tried to weaken the Dogras by dividing Jammu,” he said, adding “they start speaking Dogri at public meeting even if it is just two lines and distort words.” The Congress leader said he will raise issues like unemployment, growing crime, downslide of education and health sectors, plight of daily wagers, scrapping of Rehbar-e-Taleem, Rehbar-e-Khel and Rehbar-e-Janglat scheme among others.

“Earlier we used to have Army personnel but now it is Agniveer. They have created a lot of issues and are taking away land from people and giving it free of cost to industrialists while locals cannot even extract sand,” he said.


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