Former IAS officer hits campaign trail for Mir, seeks votes from Kashmiri migrants in Jammu
Jammu: Retired IAS officer Vinod Koul, who played an instrumental role in creation of 659 new administrative units in Jammu and Kashmir during the Omar Abdullah dispensation, Friday hit the campaign trail to seek votes from Kashmiri migrants here for Congress candidate from Anantnag Lok Sabha seat Ghulam Ahmed Mir.
Son of two-time minister Manohar Nath Koul, a prominent Congress politician from south Kashmir, the 62-year-old former bureaucrat joined the party in presence of Jammu and Kashmir Congress chief Mir in Srinagar on Wednesday.
Vinod Koul, who was flanked by former minister and senior Congress leader Raman Mattoo and Congress minority cell chairman Hira Lal Pandita began his campaign by addressing a conferences of displaced Kashmiri migrants here.
He is scheduled to visit Jagati, Purkhoo, Muthi, Nagrota, Butanagar migrant camps in Jammu during the campaigning.
During his address, Vinod Koul asked the Kashmiri migrants to compare the benefits granted to the displaced community during the Congress-led UPA rule with the BJP-led NDA government.
“All the projects including Jagati township of 5,000 apartments, new apartment blocks at Purkhoo, Butanagar have been built during the UPA government. Government jobs to KP youths were given under PM special employment package under the Congress government.
“Townships for these employees at five places in Kashmir were built during the UPA government and relief was enhanced several times during the Congress rule… The BJP government has given us nothing,” he claimed.
Mir, a two-time minister, is pitted against PDP chief and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and NC candidate Justice Hasnain Masoodi and BJP’s Sofi Yousef in Anantnag.
There are over 80,000 Kashmir migrants votes registered in Anantnag Lok Sabha seat, which can prove to be a deciding factor in case of low turnout during polling amid fears of poll boycott in south Kashmir, a hot bed of militancy.
Anantnag will go to polls in phase 3 on April 23, Kulgam in phase 4 on April 29 and the two “terror hotbeds” of Pulwama and Shopian in phase 5 on May 6.
Vinod Koul, who headed the relief department as relief commissioner and also revenue, relief and rehabilitation departments as commissioner secretary, hit out at the BJP government for befooling Kashmir migrants with “fake promises”.
Seeking votes for Mir, he said the community should honestly compare the work and socio-economic initiatives taken by the governments led by the BJP and the Congress before deciding who to vote.
Hitting out at the Modi government, he claimed J&K has seen its worst phase during the past five years with the highest-ever 3,000 ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops, highest killing of security forces and civilians and several time increase in militancy-related incidents.
“Congress has never compromised with security in Jammu and Kashmir. It is the BJP which weakened it by demilitarising several security camps including Tatu ground, high ground, multi-story Army camp in Handwara under the direction of PDP. BJP should answer this,” he said.
“I have joined Congress. It was a home coming, in a way, for me as I belong to a family connected with the Congress party in Jammu and Kashmir,” Koul told reporters here.
Koul said he wanted to strengthen the secular forces in Jammu and Kashmir and continue the legacy of his father, a prominent Congress politician from south Kashmir.
“If at all I wanted to join politics, it was only Congress. So I commenced the journey following in the footsteps of my father,” he said, adding that his joining the Congress was a homecoming.
Koul, who attained superannuation in 2017, served as administrative secretary of various departments including revenue, technical education, youth services and sports, animal husbandry among others.
As commissioner/secretary of the state’s revenue department, Koul was the brain behind the expansion of the 659 administrative units to reach the state’s grass-root level under the National Conference government in 2014.
He was appreciated by the state’s political leadership for his proactive role in gearing up the state machinery for relief and rescue work after the devastating floods in Kashmir in 2014.
Koul, who belongs to Vessu hamlet of Anantnag district, was also the architect of the Rs 44,000-crore memorandum submitted by the NC-Congress dispensation to the Union government for rehabilitation of the flood victims.
His father represented Devsar and Shangus segments in the state assembly and was a two-time Congress minister in Jammu and Kashmir. The family was considered close to the Nehru-Gandhi clan, particularly former prime minister Indira Gandhi. (PTI)