Punjab’s Baldev Kumar is first outsider to contest LS polls in J&K after abrogation of Article 370

Srinagar, Apr 19 (PTI) Punjab resident Baldev Kumar has become the first person from outside Jammu and Kashmir to contest Lok Sabha polls in the Union Territory after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.

Kumar (67), a resident of the Naya Gaon area of Mohali in Punjab, filed his nomination papers from the Anantnag-Rajouri parliamentary constituency as an independent candidate on Friday.

He is among 25 candidates who are in the fray from the constituency, which will go to polls on May 7.

Kumar claimed that he decided to contest the polls on the insistence of a “large” number of local people whom he has “served for the last 20 years”.

“I worked for the people during the 2014 floods, I have sponsored the education of a number of students, I have facilitated patients from Kashmir when they go to Punjab for medical check-ups and kept a kothi (house) for them where they can stay when they go there for treatment,” Kumar told PTI.

The contestant said he has been requesting the administration to build a ‘Kashmir Bhawan’ in Punjab, especially for the patients, but to no avail.

“(Activist) Medha Patkar got 20 acres of land for her NGO from the Gujarat government but I have not been allotted even two acres for a Kashmir Bhawan for the patients from J&K.

“The people have told me that I have to be in power and only then can I build a Kashmir Bhawan. So, I decided to contest the polls,” he said.

Asked if he has Jammu and Kashmir’s domicile certificate, he said, “I have no domicile as I have not stayed in one place”.

Kumar is the first non-resident person to contest polls in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 and downgrading and bifurcation of the erstwhile state on August 5, 2019.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, NCR resident Shams Khwaja contested, and lost the polls from the erstwhile Anantnag Parliamentary constituency.

He was the first-ever non-resident to contest the polls in Jammu and Kashmir. Objections were raised against his candidature, but those were overruled by election authorities in 2019.

The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is presently run by the Lt Governor-led administration after the PDP-BJP government collapsed in June 2018 with the national party pulling out of the alliance. The last assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir were held in 2014.

The Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir are being conducted in five phases with voting in each of the five parliamentary constituencies of the Union Territory to be held in each phase.

An estimated 65 per cent of the total 16.23 lakh registered voters cast their ballot by 5 pm on Friday in the first phase of the elections in Udhampur.