PM continues to be BJP mascot in poll-bound states

A hectic political schedule awaits Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his return to the national capital on Wednesday, like challenging the Congress in its pocket borough of Kishtwar and launching his campaigning for the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections.

Modi’s Kishtwar election rally will be held on Saturday, a day before the campaigning ends for the first phase of polling on November 24.

He is slated to return late on Wednesday, having spent nine days on a three-nation tour. He will then fly down to the poll-bound tribal state of Jharkhand for rallies on Friday and Monday.

Modi’s decision to kick-start his party's election campaign from Kishtwar, seeking votes for BJP candidate Sunil Sharma, is significant as it is one of three Jammu districts—other than Doda and Ramban—that has a strong Congress presence. Kishtwar is also the home turf of Congress leader and former Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Azad, however, had lost the May elections to BJP candidate Jitendra Singh, now minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office, having contested from the Udhampur Lok Sabha seat, which consists of 17 Assembly segments, including Kishtwar.

The BJP believes that Modi’s rally would impact adjoining seats in the region.

In the 17 Assembly seats under the Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency, the Congress has eight MLAs, the BJP has four, and the NC and National Panthers Party two each. 

The Congress had won Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency eight times since Independence, while the BJP was won it four times. Modi, who continues to be the BJP’s poll mascot, like he was in Maharastra and Haryana, will address another rally in Udhampur on November 28.  BJP leaders said that he might end up addressing eight public gatherings overall, including one in Srinagar.

That this region, which also envelopes the Chenab Valley, is crucial to the BJP’s Mission 44 can be assessed from the fact that prior to Modi, BJP president Amit Shah will address rallies in the Banihal and Ramban Assembly constituencies on Thursday.

Even Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh would focus on this belt by holding public meetings in Paddar (Kishtwar district) and Bhaderwah (Doda district) on Wednesday, said party sources. To achieve its target, the BJP leaders said they would have to perform exceptionally well in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region, which sends 37 MLAs to the 87-member Assembly.  Ladakh accounts for four seats, and the remaining 46 fall under  Kashmir.

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