As India is undergoing 17th Lok Sabha elections, the prime minister of India kicked-off his poll campaign from Jammu’s Akhnoor area where he played the Kashmir-versus-Jammu card and aimed his guns at the Congress, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) parties. This part of Jammu is going for elections in the first phase of the elections starting on April 11. This, however, was his first visit to the state when he visited only one division of the state.
Since Modi became the prime minister of India he had his style of addressing his speeches by using the native language and so did he do in Akhnoor by talking in Dogri. But since last elections in 2014, when Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh seats got added in BJP’s kitty in Lok Sabha elections and 25 seats in Assembly elections, the highest ever, Jammu’s politics or more so Dogra politics seemingly has changed a lot.
For the Lok Sabha elections of Jammu seat, 24 candidates are in the fray with candidates from BJP, Congress and independents contesting the elections. The NC decided to support the Congress candidates in the pre-election ‘friendly alliance’ and PDP has decided not to contest at all.
PDP’s only strong face Vikramaditya Singh, the son of veteran Congress leader Karan Singh, who has the strong vote bank in Dogra dominated areas, deserted his party and joined the Congress. He will be contesting elections on Congress ticket which rests on one of the arguments that only Dogras are safe with BJP only to save the Jammu but now when the leader changed his party obviously it means the shift of voters as well.
The BJP has put its best foot forward to retain both Jammu seats. Their strong faces include present BJP MP’s Jitendra Singh, who will be again contesting from the Udhampur seat, where he defeated Congress stalwart Ghulam Nabi Azad by a margin of 60,976 votes in 2014. And Jughal Kishore Sharma, who will contest from the Jammu seat, which he won by a record of 2.26 lakh votes in the previous poll. During the last five years of the Parliament sessions, he was only MP from the state whose performance was satisfactory.
But this time Kishore will be getting lesser votes because there will be a major vote cut because of ex-BJP leader and former MP Chaudhary Lal Singh, who has floated the Dogra Swabhimaan Sangathan after he was sacked as the minister after Kathua’s minor rape and murder and now he will be contesting from both the seats.
As there is no candidate for NC and PDP now, the Pir Panchal vote bank (Rajouri and Poonch) of the minority Muslims will consolidate the votes in favour of Congress candidates, Raman Bhalla in Jammu and Dogra Maharaja Singh in Udhampur, so it has become very tricky for BJP to retain both the seats of Jammu. Even if they win, which is very challenging, it will be with a low margin.
As the last reports came in, Panther’s party head Bhim Singh has claimed that PM Modi did a serious violation of the code of conduct as his party bulldozed over 75 kanals of cultivated wheat crop to clear the area for raising the platform for the Prime Minister who addressed the public meeting in Akhnoor.