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Lok Sabha polls: Ghulam Nabi Azad feels heat in Udhampur

The parliamentary constituency has 17 assembly segments that include populous districts of Udhampur and Kathua where BJP has a sound base.

, ET Bureau|
Apr 16, 2014, 04.00 AM IST
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The parliamentary constituency has 17 assembly segments that include populous districts of Udhampur and Kathua where BJP has a sound base.
The parliamentary constituency has 17 assembly segments that include populous districts of Udhampur and Kathua where BJP has a sound base.
BATOTE: In Chenab Valley, a region battered by heavy rains and snowfall, a Kashmiri-speaking Muslim from Jammu is feeling the heat. Ghulam Nabi Azad is the most popular politician in the area, which is tacitly polarized. Azad continues to be the main choice but BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is giving him a run for his money.

"If we see the election as Azad versus Jetendera Singh Rana (BJP candidate), it is a cakewalk for Azad," says a resident, Pradeep Singh, in Doda. "But if it is Azad versus Modi, the dynamics changes."

The region has remained polarized historically but the immediate instance being talked in whispers are the riots of August 2013, when Hindus and Muslims fought on the day of Eid. Apart from three killings including two Muslims, the rioters destroyed 35 vehicles and nearly 100 shops.

Last weekend when BJP candidate Rana drove around town his young followers, wearing Modi masks, put up an impressive show.

"After the Modi government takes over, an impartial probe into the Kishtwar riots of August 9 will be announced," Rana said. "Neither the losses incurred by the business community were compensated for nor were the culprits responsible for riots brought to book." This promise has the currency in neighbouring Bhaderwah and echoes are felt in Udhampur and Kathua.

Perhaps Azad had felt the pulse and reiterated his reluctance to contest.

But the Congress party forced him to to contest for the first time in his political career from his home turf. He did contest from Bhaderwah assembly segment in April 2006 when he was already the chief minister. He filed his papers and skipped campaigning and created a record of sorts by taking almost all the votes except 4,057 that the BJP polled.

A repeat of this record may be difficult because the matrix has changed. The parliamentary constituency has 17 assembly segments that include populous districts of Udhampur and Kathua where BJP has a sound base.

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