SRINAGAR: As many as 23 candidates seeking the mandate in the first three phases of the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections have criminal and serious cases registered against them.
About 443 candidates will be contesting in the first three phases of Assembly elections in the state. In the first phase elections for 15 seats, 123 candidates were in the fray, in the second phase while 175 were in the fray for 18 seats and in the third phase 145 candidates will be contesting for 16 seats.
According to election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), 23 candidates contesting in the first three phases have criminal records and criminal cases registered against them.
At least eight independent candidates have criminal cases registered against them. The maximum number of criminal cases have been registered against independent candidate Aijaz Ahmad Sofi contesting from Handwara seat that went to the polls in the second phase on December 2. A total four cases are registered against him. He faces two charges related to rioting, armed with deadly weapon (IPC Section-148), two charges related to act endangering life or personal safety of others (IPC Section-336) and a case related to assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty (IPC Section-353).
Three candidates from the ruling National Conference (NC), facing criminal cases are contesting the elections.
NC candidate from Langate seat Wali Mohammad Bhat has two criminal cases while party candidates from Chrar-e-Sharif and Tral constituency -- Manzoor Ahmad Wani and Mohammad Ashraf Bhat -- have one criminal case each registered against them.
According to the ADR, the Congress has also fielded three candidates with criminal cases. A criminal case has been registered against party candidate from Bandipora Usman Majid, a former counter-insurgent.
Criminal cases have also been registered against Congress candidate from the Kulgam seat Peer Nazim-ud-Din and party candidate from Chrar-e-Sharif seat Zahid Hussain.
The BJP has fielded two candidates with a criminal background. “BJP candidate from Mendhar constituency Zulfikhar Hussain Khan has two criminal cases registered against him, while party nominee from the Chrar-e-Sharif seat Ghulam Mohammad Chopan also has a criminal case filed against him,” reveals the ADR.
The Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP), led by Supreme court lawyer Bhim Singh, too has fielded two candidates, including a sitting MLA, with criminal record.
The JKNPP’s sitting MLA from Udhampur seat Balwant Singh Mankotia has a criminal case registered against him while two criminal cases have been registered against the party’s candidate from Reasi seat, Balwant Singh.
The People’s Conference headed by Sajjad Gani Lone has also fielded two candidates -- one from Pattan and another from Chrar-e-Sharif constituency -- with criminal cases registered against them. The Opposition PDP, according to the ADR, has fielded one candidate with criminal case registered against him. A criminal case has been registered against party candidate from the Bhaderwah seat, Sheikh Mohammad Iqbal.
The NCP led by Sharad Pawar and Democratic Nationalist Party of outgoing Agriculture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir each have also fielded a candidate with criminal record.