Lok Sabha Elections 2014: Can Narendra Modi swing Jammu for the BJP?

Narendra-ModiIt’s a constituency the Congress has won eight times and which it currently holds. The BJP has won Jammu – its 1.76 million voters making it the largest among the six Lok Sabha constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir – thrice and could just come up trumps this time around thanks to the Narendra Modi factor.

The public meeting addressed here late last year by the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate was well attended and this has given the party hope about the prospects of Jugal Kishore, the state party chief and the sitting legislator from the Nagrota assembly constituency.

Although the Congress is yet to make a formal announcement about its candidate, party sources confirmed to IANS that Madan Lal Sharma would be seeking re-election for the third time.

Kashmir’s ruling National Conference (NC)-Congress coalition is fighting the Lok Sabha poll in alliance. Thus, Sharma is supported by the NC, which has not fielded a candidate from Jammu for the April 10 poll.

The PDP has fielded Yashpal Sharma, who belongs to the Poonch district, while the BSP has fielded Ashok Baghat.

The National Panthers Party (NPP), which holds one seat in the 20 assembly segments of this Lok Sabha constituency, is yet to decide on fielding a candidate.

Despite the other contestants in the fray, the battle lines are clearly drawn between the BJP’s Jugal Kishore and the Congress’ Madan Lal Sharma.

Observers note that what is disturbing for the two main parties is the fact that the PDP’s Yashpal Sharma could get both Muslim and Hindu votes in Poonch and Rajouri because of the growing influence of his party in these districts.

Yashpal Sharma, according to some, could play the game-changer if he is able to cut the Muslim votes from the Congress kitty and the Hindu votes from that of the BJP.

The Congress has won the inaugural elections in 1967 and thereafter in 1971, 1980, 1984, 1989, 1996, 2004 and 2009. (The powers of the Election Commission of India were extended to Jammu and Kashmir in 1964 and the state voted for the first time during the fourth general elections.) Madan Lal Sharma won the seat for the Congress in the last two polls.

The BJP won the seat thrice in 1991, 1998 and 1999. The NC won the seat only once, Chowdhary Tulib Hussain wresting it in a byelection in 2002.

In 1977, an independent, Thakur Baldev Singh, had won the seat. Of the 20 assembly segments, two are in the Samba district, 11 in Jammu, four in Rajouri and three in Poonch.

Interestingly, the BJP holds the maximum number of seven segments, followed by the Congress (five), NC (four), PDP (two) and NPP and Independent (one each).

In Samba district, the Samba assembly segment is represented by the National Panthers Party’s Yashpal Kundal, while the Vijaypur segment is represented by Surjeet Singh Slathia of the regional National Conference (NC).

In Jammu district, the Nagrota segment is represented by Jugal Kishore (BJP), Gandhi Nagar by Raman Bhalla (Congress), Jammu East by Ashok Khajouria (BJP), Jammu West by Chaman Lal Gupta (a BJP rebel), Bishnah by Ashwini Sharma (Independent), Ranbir Singh Pura by Gharu Ram (BJP), Suchetgarh by Choudhary Sham Lal (BJP), Marh by Choudhary Shuknandan (BJP), Rajpur Domana by Bharat Bhushan Bodi (BJP), Akhnoor by Sham Lal Sharma (Congress) and the Chhamb by Tara Chand (Congress), the deputy chief minister.

In Rajouri, Naushehra is represented by Radhey Sham Sharma (NC), Darhal by Zulfiqar Ali (PDP), Rajouri by Shabir Ahmad Khan (Congress) and Kala Kote by Rashpal Singh (NC)

In Poonch, Surankote is represented by Chowdhary Muhammad Aslam (Congress), Mendhar by Rafiq Khan(PDP) and Poonch Haveli by Ajaz Jaan (NC).

While the legislators belonging to the Congress, BJP, PDP and the NC have been asked to go all out to get votes for their candidates, Modi’s image is believed to be a big morale booster for the BJP supporters.