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Lok Sabha polls: Jammu is a triangular contest between three Sharmas

The fluid situation is contrary to the earlier assessment that it is a cakewalk for the BJP because Narendra Modi is dominating the scene.

, ET Bureau|
Apr 08, 2014, 09.03 PM IST
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The fluid situation is contrary to the earlier assessment that it is a cakewalk for the BJP because Narendra Modi is dominating the scene.
The fluid situation is contrary to the earlier assessment that it is a cakewalk for the BJP because Narendra Modi is dominating the scene.
SRINAGAR: With 24 candidates in fray for the Jammu seat, it is actually triangular contest between three Sharmas’ – Jugal Kishore Sharma of BJP, incumbent Madan Lal Sharma of Congress and Yesh Pal Sharma of PDP. All the three parties have campaigned so aggressively that nobody is in a position to hazard a guess about the possible outcome.

"Though a general belief is that dominating Hindu vote will go totally to the BJP because of the aggressive campaigning of the party but I think it is incorrect,” industrialist Anil Suri said. "The Jammu-Samba vote is definitely getting divided and I believe the situation is getting very difficult for all the three.”

This segment that has traditionally been represented by Congress or BJP with NC just once in history is a huge constituency that has heterogeneous electorate comprising Muslims, Hindus with sizable chunks of Sikhs and Christians in four districts. Won by Congress in the last two Lok Sabha’s, this seat has 20 assembly segments.

Sanjay Kumar has witnessed the rise and fall of the political parties in the region for last five decades. "There is no massive pro-Modi wave that would suggest the party will sweep,” Kumar said. "But it is a fact Congress candidate is unpopular and the outcome is based on the election also depends on how Rajouri and Poonch behaves.”

The fluid situation is contrary to the earlier assessment that it is a cakewalk for the BJP because Narendra Modi is dominating the scene. Modi did fly to Jammu and later to neighbouring Kathua. After Congress decided to field Ghulam Nabi Azad from neighbouring Udhampur, he started spending most of the time in Jammu rather than his own constituency. "Azad is a leader who commands respect from all sections of the people in the region,” says lawyer Syed Asim. "He definitely will have the impact on Jammu.”

But the aggressive campaigning by PDPs Mufti Sayeed is a factor that is key to the fluidity of the region. For the last one month, Mufti is stationed in the region and touring length and breadth of the constituency. Mufti shocked the NC-Congress coalition as well as BJP on Sunday when he mobilized a huge crowd in Jammu’s parade ground and most of them braved inclement weather to hear the architect of ‘healing touch’. He is expected to have a lion’s share of votes from the Pir Panchal Valley comprising the border Poonch and Rajouri districts wherefrom he has two lawmakers in the state assembly.

"PDP is the main crisis,” explains Ashok Kumar, a migrant Pandit teacher who lives in heart of Jammu city. "The party is not a wining party but it will decide the outcome of the polls because it is expected to cut the vote share of both the ruling coalition and the BJP.” If it cuts more Muslim votes BJP wins and if it devours more Hindu votes, Congress retains the seat.

PDP had won two assembly seats in the region in 2008 polls. In the Lok Sabha elections, a year after it got lead in just one assembly segment but emerged as running up at four places. Whether the party has grown or not in the region will be decided by 2014 polls and that will decide the fate of the two principal contenders BJP and Congress. Jammu has 1763579 voters. Given the aggressive campaigning, the voter turnout is expected to touch 60 percent. The constituency has recorded a poll turnout of 49.03 percent in 2009 against 44.49 percent in 2004.

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