Triangular contest between three Sharmas in Jammu
In Jammu it is a triangular contest between Jugal Kishore Sharma of BJP, incumbent Madan Lal Sharma of Congress and Yash Pal Sharma of PDP.
“The general belief is that the dominating Hindu vote will go totally to the BJP because of its hard campaigning. But I think it is incorrect,” said industrialist Anil Suri. “The Jammu-Samba vote is definitely getting divided and I believe the situation is getting very difficult for all the three.”
The constituency has traditionally been represented by either the Congress or the BJP. National Conference won it just once. The electorate is heterogeneous comprising of Muslims, Hindus and has a sizable population of Sikhs and Christians. The Congress won the seat during the last two Lok Sabha elections and this time there is a total of 24 candidates in the fray.
“There is no massive pro-Modi wave that would suggest the party will sweep,” said Sanjay Kumar, who has witnessed the rise and fall of the political parties in the region for the last five decades. “But it is a fact Congress candidate is unpopular and the outcome of the election will also depend on how Rajouri and Poonch votes.”
An earlier assessment showed that it would be a cakewalk for the BJP because of the Narendra Modi factor. Modi did fly to Jammu and later to neighbouring Kathua.
Congress decided to field Ghulam Nabi Azad from neighbouring Udhampur, but he started spending most of his time in Jammu rather than his own constituency. “Azad is a leader who commands respect from all sections of the people in the region,” said lawyer Syed Asim. “He definitely will have an impact on Jammu.”
The situation became more fluid when PDPs Mufti Sayeed started his campaign. For the last one month, Mufti is stationed in the region and touring the constituency.
Mufti shocked the NC-Congress coalition as well as BJP when he mobilized a huge crowd in Jammu’s parade ground and most of them braved inclement weather to hear Sayeed.
He is expected to garner a lion’s share of votes from the Pir Panchal Valley comprising the border Poonch and Rajouri districts from where he has two lawmakers in the state assembly.
“PDP is the main problem,” 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 into the vote share of both the ruling coalition and the BJP. If it takes away 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. Jammu has 1.7 million voters. Given the aggressive campaigning, the voter turnout is expected to be about 60 per cent. The constituency has recorded a poll turnout of 49.03 per centin 2009 against 44.49 per centin 2004.