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PM postpones visit to J&K
Rajeev Sharma and Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 12
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has postponed his maiden two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir which was to begin on September 16, sources at the Prime Ministerís Office (PMO) said.

The Prime Minister has taken this decision after the Jammu and Kashmir State Election Commission apprised the PMO that a code of conduct was already in place in the state in view of the four Assembly by-elections and any announcement by him would be violative of this code.

The sources asserted that the visit had merely been postponed and not cancelled and a fresh schedule would be worked out after his visit to London and New York (September 19-26).

The sources said the Prime Minister was to, among other things, flag off the inaugural Jammu-Udhampur train service and lay the foundation stone of the South Campus of university in Anantnag. The North Campus of the university has already started functioning in Baramullah.

The Jammu-Udhampur train service was planned by the previous NDA government and was to have its inaugural run on March 23 last. Even then it was postponed as a result of the model code of conduct being in place due to the general elections in the country.

The Vajpayee-government in its vote on account in February last had even named the train as Uttar Sampark Kranti Express.

As a result, the passenger train is yet to roll out on the newly laid Jammu-Udhampur track. However, goodstrains have been running on this track for the past one month.

Four Assembly constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir are slated to go for the by-elections next month coinciding with the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh. The Assembly elections in the country polls are spread over two days.

In Batmaloo the by-election has been necessitated because of the death of the sitting National Conference MLA Ghulam Moinuddin Shah. On three other seats the by-elections are being held because the sitting MLAs contested the Lok Sabha elections and got elected.

These three seats are Pahalgam (which had sent PDPís Mehbooba Mufti to the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly), Kathua, from where the sitting MLA Lal Singh resigned after getting elected to the Lok Sabha and Akhnour from where Madan Lal Sharma, erstwhile minister in the PDP government, also won to the Lok Sabha.

It is understood that the Prime Minister was keen to visit Jammu and Kashmir before his visit to New York for attending the United Nations General Assembly session. He is scheduled to meet Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of the meeting.

No specific dates for the PMís proposed tour of Jammu and Kashmir have been re-fixed, but it will happen only after the October 13 by-elections are over.

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