The Jammu-Poonch parliamentary constituency slated to go for polls on April 10 will witness a triangular contest between Congress-National Conference (NC) combine, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and principal opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
The constituency, which covers the geographic area of four out of the 22 districts in Jammu and Kashmir with 20 Assembly segments, has 1,719,897 eligible voters with 830,806 women.
The politically significant seat has remained a stronghold of the Congress from its formative years, although the BJP won the seat twice in 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha elections. In the last elections, Congress candidate Madan Lal Sharma trounced BJP candidate Lila Karan Shamra by a whopping margin of 12,1373 votes. While the winning candidate had secured 382,305 votes the runner up finished with 26,0932 votes.
Madan Lal had also won the seat in 2004 election defeating his nearest BJP rival Dr Nirmal Singh by 17,568 votes. While Lal had secured 31,9994 votes Singh finished second with 30,2426 votes.
However, riding high on ‘Modi wave’ this time, BJP candidate Jugal Kishor Sharma has clear advantage over Lal, against whom there is strong anti-incumbency wave.
With BJP state president Jugal Kishor fighting the elections, the party has already conveyed its optimism in the constituency. The recent announcement of strong Pakistani refugee community support to Jugal is being seen as a crucial step days before the elections. With over 40,000 voters, these refugees are seen as game changers in the polls.
The refugees have voting rights for the parliamentary elections, but cannot vote for the state Assembly elections.
With the PDP enjoying considerable support in Muslim dominated districts of Poonch and Rajouri, the advantage according to political analysts clearly goes to the BJP.
The PDP had fielded Yashpal Sharma as its candidate who enjoys considerable support in Poonch and Rajouri districts. Total 19 candidates are in fray out of which 12 are residents of Jammu district alone and four belong to Poonch district.
In the last general election, 20 candidates fought for the Jammu-Poonch seat and 18 of were form Jammu district, while two independent candidates contested from Samba and Rajouri districts.