Leelakaran dumped

While Sharma was playing on a weaker wicket, rival parties – National Conference and Congress – had joined hands to contest these elections. The result was predictable.

Though BJP secured some votes in Hindu dominated areas, some of its strongholds were letting Leelakaran down.

Nagrota assembly constituency has been a traditional stronghold of BJP. In this election, Congress got more votes than BJP in this segment. Leelakaran Sharma got 8,201 votes while his Congress rival Madan Lal Sharma secured 11,201 votes. The story repeated itself in RS Pora, a presumed BJP bastion. Here too, Congress got more votes than BJP.

“Congress recovered ground that they had lost in Assembly elections to BJP as Amarnath land row was high on the minds of people,” said Madan Lal Sharma of Congress who won the Jammu seat.

In 2008 assembly elections, when land row was fresh in the minds of people, voting lines lengthened as Hindus voters came out in large numbers to vote for BJP candidates. This time, the enthusiasm had died down and lesser Hindus came out to vote. In contrast, Muslims voted in large numbers for the NC-Congress alliance, whom they considered more secular than the BJP.

“It was people’s verdict,” BJP state president, Ashok Khajuria said. “Congress won because of NC’s support.”
Anurag Gangal, Director for Gandhian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Jammu University aggress with Khajuria. “He (Sharma) lost because Muslim dominated areas came out strongly to vote for NC-Congress alliance,” he says.

In Jammu, despite the fact that BJP had elected seven members to assembly from this district, Congress-NC alliance held the sway. Together the parties have nine MLAs from Jammu.

Sharma joining politics that contradicted his earlier stand too proved crucial despite the fact that BJP raised emotional issues like discrimination. In his speeches, Sharma repeatedly raised the issue that Jammu was discriminated against as it had ‘lesser representation in state legislature’. He promised to raise the delimitation issue if he got elected.

Gangal says that voters paid lesser heed because of ‘infighting in BJP’. Before the election, Nirmal Singh was the front-runner for a BJP ticket. The last minute, mainly due to pressure from a faction within the party Sharma got the chance he waiting for. “The divided house could not convince the voter,” said Gangal.

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