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Congress fields Lal Singh from Udhampur, Bhalla from Jammu Lok Sabha seats

Congress fields Lal Singh from Udhampur, Bhalla from Jammu Lok Sabha seats
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Jammu, Mar 24 (PTI) Days after rejoining the Congress, former MP Choudhary Lal Singh was given the party’s mandate to take on Union minister Jitendra Singh from the Udhampur constituency of Jammu and Kashmir in the upcoming parliamentary polls.

The Congress has also fielded the working president of its Jammu and Kashmir unit and former minister Raman Bhalla from Jammu.

The two leaders were named in the party’s fourth list of 45 candidates for the Lok Sabha election.

Lal Singh (65), who hails from Kathua district, rejoined the Congress at its headquarters in Delhi on March 20 amid the speculation that he would be fielded against Jitendra Singh from Udhampur, which goes to polls on April 19.

Lal Singh, who won the Udhampur seat twice on Congress tickets in 2004 and 2009, besides being a three-time former MLA, 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 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and floated his own outfit 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.

Jitendra Singh retained the Udhampur Lok Sabha seat in 2019, defeating the Congress’s Vikramaditya Singh, the grandson of erstwhile Maharaja Hari Singh, by a margin of 3,53,272 votes. Lal Singh had secured only 19,049 votes in 2019.

In 2014, Jitendra Singh defeated former Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad from the seat by a margin of 60,976 votes. He was inducted in the Narendra Modi government as the minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office.

For Bhalla, this will be his second attempt to defeat incumbent BJP MP Jugal Kishore Sharma from the Jammu parliamentary seat, which goes to polls on April 26.

In 2019, Sharma defeated Bhalla by a margin of 3,02,875 votes after securing 8,58,066 votes from the constituency. He also won the seat for the BJP in 2014, when he defeated Congress candidate Madan Lal Sharma by a margin of more than 2.57 lakh votes.

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