Bhawani village, along the Line of Control (LoC) in Rajouri district, nearly 150 km from Jammu, is one of the many places in the state affected by cross-border firing and terrorism.
Predominantly inhibited by Hindus, the voters here are seeking an assured sense of security.
The village has very good road connectivity, almost all basic amenities and minimum electronic gadgets. Radio and TV keep them abreast with local, national and international developments. But they are seeking something, which they can’t define in the name of development.
“Although army, which has dispensary there, takes care of immediate medical needs of the villagers, in critical cases they have to move Nowshera, nearly 30 km from there. We want more development,” said 80-year-old Som Raj, numberdar ( village headman). He had migrated from Pakistan in 1947.
In 2001, his brother and wife were killed in cross border shelling. It’s this mix of security and development, which is apparently making voters to gravitate around BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Nowshera, represented by NC MLA, is a BJP bastion. In the last parliamentary elections, the BJP and the Congress secured 18,000 votes each. The constituency has sizeable Muslim population also.
Though Muslims do not critcise Modi openly, they have strong reservations. At Laroka, nearly 20 km from Bhiwani, a group of Muslims are repairing a Ziyarat of local peer, just next to shops of Hindus. But there is no communal tension, dissenting notes are there.
“Elections are contested by parties and not by individuals. But this time it seems it’s Modi versus others. It’s not healthy for Indian democracy, which is so diverse,” said Haji Abdul, 50-yr-old.
The Muslims in the village are divided between the NC-Congress and the PDP. However, there is a feeling that a section of Muslim may also vote for the BJP, read Modi.
“I don’t want to discuss the Gujarat riots, but I have seen working of the Congress. Let’s vote for a change — Modi — this time and see if he can deliver what he promises. We have the power to elect and bring a change next time if he fails,” said 30-year-old Raza Ahmad (name changed), an electrician.
Except sitting MP Madan Lal Sharma, the voters find it difficult to name the candidates of BJP or PDP — and it’s hardly matter to them. While BJP supporters say they will vote for Modi, for PDP, it’s only Mufit Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti.
These two parties are also getting supports from the youth, while older generation still banks on the Congress and the NC.
In the neighboring Poonch constituency, it’s tough contest between the PDP and the NC, and Modi factor slips into oblivion.
“It’s the Congress which can guarantee development and peace. It has track record. Modi is just a hype nobody knows what he has done in Gujarat. The development there, like him, is confined to the media only. For us, the Congress has delivered and it’s reality,” said Ajay Sharma, 23-yr-old student in Akhoor.
In the plains of Jammu, the competition gets more accentuated, where Modi wave is apparently dominant. The important factor, though missing in political discourse, is voting percentage. The plains of Jammu have maximum voters, but last time the polling percentage was only 49% and the BJP had lost.