Madan Lal Sharma, sitting MP from Jammu, is a seasoned campaigner who has been consistently winning elections since 1983, when he was first elected MLA.
He doesn’t betray any sign of nervousness or possible reversal, apparently due to the fact that he has steered clear of controversy. But the way he outrightly dismisses the idea of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi making an impact in Jammu shows that he, too, is feeling the undercurrents."What can Modi do here? Is he going to be a bigger factor than the 2008 Amarnath land row agitation?" is his terse statement.
That year, in a highly polarised and emotionally surcharged atmosphere, the BJP won 11 seats in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls. Nobody had given the Congress any chance in the 2009 parliamentary elections. But Madan Lal not only won but also secured a victory margin of about 1.5 lakh votes.
Even though the public mood is apparently not against him as an individual, but the prospect of change at the national level is apparent. According to media reports, at a recent party meeting in New Delhi, Madan Lal had reportedly told the party leadership that he would contest again only if the parliamentary poll alliance was repeated.
“I will not oppose the candidature of any other person, if the party so decides,” he says.
A senior Congress leader says, “There is every possibility of the party replacing him to ward off anti-incumbency and bringing in a fresh but serious candidate.”
The 2009 pre-poll alliance between the National Conference (NC) and the Congress was one of the key factors responsible for Sharma’s win (the NC has four MLAs in this parliamentary constituency comprising 20 assembly seats). This factor is set to come into play this time as well.
On the other hand, the BJP has a stronghold in 13 assembly constituencies of Jammu and Samba districts. According to state BJP president Jugal Kishore Sharma, the prospective party candidate from this seat, "He (Madan Lal) couldn’t perform his role as an MP. Not even a single national project was sanctioned. No headway was made on the Jammu-Pooch link road project. People now need change."
The BJP had last bagged the Jammu Lok Sabha seat in 1999, when its candidate, Vaishno Dutt Sharma, won for the second time in two years. The saffron party currently has no MP in J&K.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has two MLAs in this constituency, has fielded MLC (member of legislative council) Yash Pal Sharma, who belongs to Poonch. Yash has failed to win the MLA’s seat during his long political career, but he still has a large vote bank.
“It’s now a contest between the BJP and the PDP. There is strong resentment against the Congress MP. He couldn’t even get works done under the MPLAD (local area development) fund. He is not accessible to the people, especially from remote areas of Rajouri and Poonch districts,” says Yash.
Part 24 of 34,
kuldeep bishnoi, hisar