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A triangular fight in Poonch by-election

Luv Puri

Congress loyalist revolts after ticket denial

Poonch: The by-election to the Poonch Assembly seat scheduled for December 12, expected to be a bipolar contest between the National Conference and Congress, has now become a triangular fight.

The ruling Congress is facing a revolt from party loyalist, Yash Paul, after he was denied ticket. Mr. Paul has filed his nomination papers.

The Congress has given ticket to Mir Jehangir, who has worked in various capacities in the State Congress Committee.

In the 2002 Assembly election, Mr. Yash Paul lost by 600 votes to the National Conference candidate. Mr. Paul had earned his name in the Poonch Assembly segment for working in the border belt for militancy victims and the people injured in cross-border shelling. He is popular among Gujjars who comprise 37 per cent of the Assembly segment. In protest against the denial of ticket to Mr. Paul, 11 Congress councillors, including the municipality president in Poonch municipality, resigned and formed a separate group. PCC (I) secretary Mohammad Zaman and some other party leaders and workers also quit the Congress.

The National Conference has fielded Aijaz Jan, son of late G.M. Jan who was the party legislator from the segment.

Since 1957, except for three times, the Poonch constituency has always sent a National Conference nominee to the Assembly.

But it would be interesting to see whether this time the NC would be able to retain the seat in view of ethnic polarisation between Gujjars and Paharis.

None of the parties has fielded a Gujjar candidate even though they comprise the single largest ethnic majority in the Assembly segment. A total of 96,461 voters are eligible to vote.

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