In Jammu LS seat, it is united opposition vs Modi

In Jammu LS seat, it is united opposition vs Modi

Jugal Kishore

The high-profile Jammu Lok Sabha constituency, going to polls in the first phase of general elections on April 11, will see a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress.

In 2014 elections, BJP’s Jugal Kishore had defeated Madan Lal Sharma of Congress by a whopping margin of 257,280 votes. While Kishore will seek his re-election, the Congress has fielded its senior leader and former cabinet minister Raman Bhalla.

Bhalla is the joint candidate of Congress and regional National Conference (NC) while People’s Democratic Party led by Mehbooba Mufti has decided not filed any candidate from Jammu to prevent division of “secular votes.”

While support of two regional parties have brightened the chances of Congress this time, BJP's poll campaign revolves entirely around Narendra Modi’s image as a strong prime minister. Modi has already addressed one poll rally in Jammu on March 30 to garner support for Kishore.

Buoyed by the support of the NC and the PDP, the Congress leaders are focusing on the alleged failures of the major decisions taken by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, including demonetisation, Goods and Services Tax (GST), mob lynchings and the sense of insecurity among the minorities.

NC President and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah has been campaigning for the Congress candidate in both Hindu and Muslim dominated areas of the Jammu constituency which is spread over 20 Assembly segments of four districts of Jammu, Samba, Poonch and Rajouri. There are 20,00,485 eligible voters, which include 10,38,497 males, 9,61,960 females and 28 transgenders.

In 2014, Muslim vote in Rajouri and Poonch districts, as well as in other areas, got divided between Congress and PDP, giving a clear edge to BJP. This time, the saffron party is feeling the heat as it has to face rebel BJP leader Choudhary Lal Singh, who is contesting the elections after forming his own breakaway group known as the ‘Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan.’ Singh has pockets of influence in both Samba and Jammu districts.

Political observers say it would be difficult to predict a winner from Jammu this time. “The graph of incumbent MP has gone down in the last five years, as he couldn’t deliver on his promises. If Modi mantra works, then only Kishore has a chance this time,” they say.