Arriving at election office at Kathua in a procession, 65-year-old Azad was flanked by state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Pradesh Congress chief Saif-ud-din Soz when he filed the papers.
   
Shouting slogans in their support, people were waving party flags to greet Azad, who is currently a Rajya Sabha member, and the Chief Minister, who arrived at the election office in a small open truck.
   
This is the first time that Azad, who has served as Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister from April 2006 to 2008, is contesting Lok Sabha seat from the state. He is a two-time Lok Sabha MP from Washim in Maharashtra. He was elected in 1980 and 1984.
   
Born in Soti village in Bhadarwah area Doda district, Azad will face BJP's Dr Jitendra Singh who was defeated in the last election by Congress' Lal Singh by a margin of over 13,000 votes.
   
Azad, a nominee of National Conference-Congress alliance, is believed to enjoy good support especially in Reasi, Udhampur, Basholi and Billawar assembly segments where
Congress had not done well in the last Lok Sabha.
   
Azad is expected to bank on the work done in remote areas of this region especially in Doda and Kishtawar areas.
   
BJP's "substitute candidate" Prem Nath has also filed nomination from the seat.
   
For the BJP, the going has not been smooth from the beginning as the party fears split in its votes after Anil Kumar Gupta filed his nomination as an independent candidate.
   
Gupta is the son of BJP's three time Parliamentarian from this seat Chaman Lal Gupta, who was expelled from BJP in 2011 for seven years and is now actively campaigning for his son.
   
Bhim Singh, who has contested every election from this seat, filed his nomination papers on Monday much to the displeasure of BJP. Heading Panthers Party, Singh had polled 69,463 votes in 2009 elections.
   
Comprising of 17 assembly seats with nearly 14 lakh voters, the Udhampur-Doda Parliamentary seat has been traditionally with Congress since 1967 barring in 1996, 1998 and 1999 when BJP's Chaman Lal Gupta won.

(Agencies)

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