With Modi wave sweeping Jammu region, Congress hopes that its senior leader and Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad can turn the tide in its favour.
Congress has fielded Azad from Udhampur-Doda parliamentary constituency against BJP’s Dr Jatinder Singh.
Azad, a former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, who had earlier shown reluctance to contest from Udhampur citing his engagements with party’s national election campaign as a reason, was persuaded by the party high command to file his nomination papers to counter the growing popularity of Modi in Jammu region.
Tanveer Ahmad Khateeb, a political analyst and columnist says as both Modi and Azad have the capability to influence the voters in two Jammu seats, the contest this time would be keen.
“In previous two elections, Congress had no challenge on Jammu and Udhampur seats. But this time, the margin of victory and defeat would be thin,” he told Deccan Herald.
However, Ahmad acknowledged that Azad has an edge in Udhampur over his rival candidate.
“Azad has huge voter base in Chenab Valley (Muslim dominated districts of Jammu region). Apart from that he is a uniting force and the best response to foil the machinations of forces, who are exploiting regional and religious sentiments of the people, particularly in Kishtwar,” Ahmad added.
Irfan Naqib, a senior Youth Congress leader, who is at forefront for Azad’s election campaign claims that BJP and RSS wanted to divide people in Jammu region on communal lines in this election.
“However, Azad sahib’s entry has dented their plans. They (BJP and RSS) tried their best to polarise the voters in the wake of last year’s Kishtwar riots, but Congress always stands for communal harmony,” he claimed.
Congress’ decision to field Azad could also be seen in the light of the last year’s clashes that broke out between the two communities in the Kishtwar district of the constituency. Following the clashes, top BJP leadership visited Jammu which had mobilised its electorate.
In mid-90s, Chenab Valley was hotbed of the militancy and people in these areas would come out for voting in less numbers due to boycott calls by separatists.
However, with the militancy at its lowest ebb and confined to some pockets of Kishtwar district, the Congress hopes that high turnout from the Chenab Valley would ensure Azad’s victory.
The Udhampur constituency having 14,12,749 electorate is going for polls on April 17. As a part of seat-sharing arrangement with its ally National Conference, Congress will be contesting on two LS seats in Jammu region and one in Ladakh while NC will contest on three LS seats in Kashmir.