Jammu | First time in the political history of Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim candidate has won the elections on a BJP ticket by triumphing over a Hindu contestant of National Conference in Kalakote Assembly seat of Rajouri district. Abdul Gani Kohli of BJP defeated two-time NC MLA Rashpal Singh by a margin of 6,178 votes. Kohli polled 25,225 votes compared to Singh who got 19,047 votes.
Congress’s Ashok Sharma and PDP’s Asad Bari Shah stood third and fourth with 10,520 votes and 8,325 votes respectively. In a bid to shun its saffron party image, BJP fielded 31 Muslim candidates, including Kohli and most of them contested polls from the Kashmir Valley. While majority of these candidates have lost and some are awaiting poll results, Kohli is the first BJP candidate from Muslim community who has won from Jammu region in past several decades. Before this, Sheikh Abdul Rehman had won Jammu East seat in 1972 polls on the ticket of then Bhartiya Jan Sang.
I am very happy to win this election on a BJP ticket. People have voted on the development plank of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kohli said. He thanked people for their support and said that he would ensure overall development of his constituency. Kalakote Assembly seat, which was carved out to give representation to the far-flung areas of the state in the Assembly in 1996, was twice bagged by NC and once by Congress. Rashpal Singh, a staunch Rajput leader, won from Kalakote on NC ticket in 2002 and 2008. Congress’s Ashok Sharma had won the seat in the 1996 assembly polls.
Besides Kohli, several BJP Muslim candidates garnered sizable number of votes and two of them lost by a thin margin in Rajouri and Inderwal seats. BJP candidate from Muslim-majority Inderwal constituency in Kishtwar district, Tariq Hussain Keen, lost out to Congress candidate and former Minister G M Saroori by a margin of 12,370 votes. Keen polled 17,384 votes, while Saroori polled 29,754 votes. In Rajouri Assembly seat, BJP candidate Choudhary Talib Hussain, who polled 24464 votes, lost to Qamar Hussain of PDP by over 2,000 votes. In Muslim-dominated Banihal constituency of Ramban district, Showkat Javed Daing of BJP stood third by polling 9,874 votes.
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