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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Lok Sabha election 2019: In jolt to Congress, former minister Sham Lal Sharma joins BJP in J&K

Sham Lal Sharma had won twice from the Akhnoor Assembly constituency and was a minister in the National Conference-Congress coalition government till 2014.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Mar 30, 2019 19:29 IST
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Hindustan Times, Jammu
Senior Congress leader Shyam Lal Sharma joins BJP in presence of state President Ravinder Raina and National Vice-President Avinash Rai Khanna, in Jammu, on Saturday, March 30, 2019.
Senior Congress leader Shyam Lal Sharma joins BJP in presence of state President Ravinder Raina and National Vice-President Avinash Rai Khanna, in Jammu, on Saturday, March 30, 2019. (Nitin Kanotra /HT Photo)

In a major setback to Congress in Jammu and Kashmir, senior party leader and former minister Sham Lal Sharma on Saturday joined BJP, barely 12 days ahead of the first phase of parliamentary polls in the state.

Sharma, who resigned from the post of senior vice president of the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) in May last year over differences with party state unit’s chief Ghulam Ahmed Mir, joined the BJP in the presence of its national vice president and In-charge Jammu and Kashmir affairs Avinash Rai Khanna and state president Ravinder Raina.

Sham Lal Sharma is younger brother of two-time Congress MP Madan Lal Sharma, who had won Jammu-Poonch seat for two consecutive terms in 2004 and 2009.

He is considered a strong voice of Jammu region, had been Congress MLA twice from his home constituency of Akhnoor and served as a cabinet minister in NC-Congress coalition government in 2008.

He lost to BJP candidate Rajeev Sharma in 2014 from Akhnoor when the saffron brigade won a historic 25 seats from Jammu region in the Assembly elections.

Soon after his induction into BJP along with hundreds of his supporters, Sharma assured BJP national leadership that he would serve the people honestly like he did in Congress.

“With me over 20000 Congress members, 800 booth level workers of the Congress, 200 delegates, municipal councillors including chairmen and vice-chairmen from Jourian and Akhnoor besides youth Congress workers today joined the BJP,” he said

Sharma recalled that in 2004 by-election he used to call himself “Chowkidaar” of his people in Akhnoor constituency.

Also read: Congress, NC forge alliance in Jammu and Kashmir for Lok Sabha polls

The former minister said he never compromised with the interests of Jammu region and used to vociferously raise the issues of Jammu despite the fact that Ghulam Nabi Azad was the CM of the coalition government.

He, however, regretted that despite having 20 MLAs and then 17 MLAs of the Congress, they had to face “bonded slavery” of Kashmir region.

“But I never compromised and had been eye-sore for many. The bigger issue here is political empowerment of Jammu. In fact, I believe in equitable development of all the three regions but Jammu has always been given a raw deal,” he said.

He said the vision of the BJP is equitable development of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions.

Sharma also lashed out at “Kashmir-centric parties”.

“The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is a man-made disaster. I don’t think Kashmir is a political problem, it never was but few Kashmir-centric parties have always challenged our dignity. It is time to give them befitting reply. They eat from India and abuse it as well. I appeal people to vote in big numbers for BJP candidates and I assure that I will safeguard the interests of Jammu region,” he said.

Earlier, state BJP president Ravinder Raina said with Sharma’s entry, the BJP has got a shot in the arm.

“He always shouldered his responsibilities as a cabinet minister and MLA. He always vociferously raised the issues of Jammu. He represents the BJP ideology of patriotism,” he added.

Raina said that with Sham Lal Sharma’s entry into BJP, Jammu today has become Congress free.

Sharma was always considered a pro-Jammu leader and it was he, who on the floor of the lower house had said that if Jammu and Kashmir was secular, then why could it not have a Hindu chief minister during NC-Congress coalition government. He was then Public Health Engineering minister before putting in his papers while attacking some of his NC colleagues over “discrimination” against Jammu region.

First Published: Mar 30, 2019 19:29 IST