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JammuCampaigning in Jammu LS seat gathers pace as J&K braces for 2nd...

Campaigning in Jammu LS seat gathers pace as J&K braces for 2nd Phase of Polling


Tawi, Apr 21: After the peaceful culmination of first phase of polling in Udhampur Lok Sabha seat on Friday, the focus has now shifted to the Jammu parliamentary constituency, which will go to polls in the second phase of elections on April 26.

A direct contest is on the cards between sitting Member Parliament from BJP Jugal Kishore Sharma and bloc candidate and J&K Congress working President Ramban Bhalla, though there are 20 more candidates, including 12 independents, in the fray.

Jagdish Raj of Bahujan Samaj Party and Advocate Ankur Sharma of Ekam Sanatan Bharat Dal are the two other prominent faces trying their luck from the constituency spread across Jammu, Samba, and Reasi and one segment of Rajouri district.

A total of 17,80,738 voters — 9,21,053 men, 8,59,657 women and 28 third genders — are eligible to vote at 2,416 polling stations – 1,750 in rural and 666 in Urban areas – set up in the constituency.

Udhampur registered over 68 per cent polling on April 19, sealing the fate of 12 candidates in the fray, including Union Minister Jitendra Singh, and two-time former Congress MP Choudhary Lal Singh, both of whom are believed to be the front runners in the contest.

Campaigning in Jammu has intensified with the contestants and their supporters pulling out all stops to woo the voters.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah addressed a rally in Jammu on April 16, while Union minister Anurag Thakur took part in a road show and accompanied Sharma when the latter filed his nomination on March 30.

Sharma, 61, whose candidature was declared by the BJP in the party's first list of 195 candidates, had won Jammu Lok Sabha seat in 2014 and 2019 general election.

The parliamentary elections are happening for the first time in Jammu and after the erstwhile state was bifurcated into two Union Territories and its special status under Article 370 revoked in August 2019.

Sharma, who had also won assembly elections from Nagrota constituency of Jammu on the BJP ticket in 2002 and 2008 elections before heading the J&K unit of the party for a couple of years, will be banking on “historic decisions” taken by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government and the putative developmental push in the last 10 years.

In 2019, Sharma defeated Indian Congress candidate Bhalla, a former minister, by a margin of 3,02,875 votes, having secured 8,58,066 votes from the constituency.

In 2014, he defeated Congress candidate Madan Lal Sharma by over 2.57 lakh votes scoring over 6.19 lakh votes.

“The Modi-led government has taken a number of historic initiatives with the abrogation of Article 370, thus giving acceleration to the ongoing mega projects of development. Jammu and Kashmir has got a very fair deal in all matters at all levels under the Modi government,” the BJP leader said.

He cited “restoration of peace, eradication of terrorism, ceasefire along the borders and justice with deprived sections of the society” as some of these decisions.

Bhalla, on the other hand, with regional heavy weights, National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party, backing him under a pact with the INDIA bloc, is confident of wresting the seat from the BJP, in view of “resentment among the people over the wrong policies of the BJP-led government.” Congress star campaigner and former deputy chief minister of Rajasthan Sachin Pilot, and AICC in-charge J&K affairs, Bharat Singh Solanki, have addressed rallies in support of Bhalla, who had won assembly elections from Gandhinagar constituency of Jammu in 2002 and 2008.

The opposition parties have upped the ante over loss of statehood, removal of special status under Article 370, and the failure of the BJP to hold assembly, panchayat and urban local bodies elections.

They have been attacking the BJP over issues like inflation, unemployment, lack of development in the region, and promised massive investment, which, according to them, never came.

Since most of the segments from Rajouri and Poonch districts were excluded and new areas of Reasi included in the Jammu Lok Sabha constituency at the recommendations of the delimitation commission in 2022, a keen contest is likely from the seat which has been won by Congress on nine occasions, by BJP four times, and one each by National Conference and an independent candidate since its establishment in 1967.

The delimitation commission was set up in March 2020 after the passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill in Parliament in August 2019. It submitted its report in 2022.

In addition to 11 assembly constituencies of Jammu district, the Jammu Lok Sabha seat includes Kalakote-Sunderbani constituency of Rajouri, Gulabgarh, Reasi and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi segments of Reasi district and Ramgarh, Samba and Vijaypur segments of Samba district.

After Jammu, Anantnag-Rajouri constituency will go to polls on May 7, Srinagar on May 13, and Baramulla on May 20. The counting of votes will be held on June 4.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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