Trouble within BJP in Jammu and Kashmir


Jammu : The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Jammu and Kashmir may be facing trouble from one its best known faces – former central minister of state for defence Chaman Lal Gupta.

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Gupta, currently a member of the assembly, has distanced himself from party meetings. So much so that he and four other MLAs have not attended any meetings addressed by BJP national president Rajnath Singh in the state.

He has been unhappy over the choice of Leela Karan Sharma, who spearheaded the Amarnath protests last year, as the BJP candidate fielded from Jammu. Sharma is convenor of the Shri Amarnath Sangharsh Samiti (SASS) to protest the cancellation of land allotment for Amarnath pilgrims.

Gupta had earlier told the media: “It is strange that Leela Karan Sharma is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Jammu on a BJP ticket when our people are saying that the Sangarsh Samiti is not a political organisation. If the party has decided on fielding him, then it must be the right decision.”

While state BJP president Ashok Khajuria dismisses reports of the BJP being a divided house as mere speculation, party sources said Gupta was contemplating fielding his son Anil from the Udhampur-Doda parliamentary constituency even though Nirmal Singh is the party’s official candidate.

Anil Gupta has resigned as president of the state Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha for “personal reasons”. If he files his nomination papers from Udhampur-Doda, it will be a direct revolt against the party.

Chaman Lal Gupta had won from the parliamentary constituency in 1998 and 1999. He was a minister of state for civil aviation and later for defence in the National Democratic Alliance government from 1999 to 2004. He, however, lost in the 2004 polls.

For long, he was the face of the BJP in Jammu and Kashmir and wields influence over the trading community and Brahmins in the Jammu region.

There are six parliamentary seats from Jammu and Kashmir and the BJP holds none of these.

The party may have felt upbeat about its win of 11 seats in the assembly polls in November-December, but dissension could spell a bad time for it in the Lok Sabha polls.

A BJP leader said: “It is high time we learnt lessons from the past and stopped sidelining senior leaders. Gupta was not consulted while deciding about tickets in the Jammu region. He is a top leader and also the leader of BJP legislature party in the state assembly.”