The Jammu-Poonch Lok Sabha constituency, with the international border and the Line of Control passing along it, is reflective of a larger political narrative. People here have been victims of cross-border firing and terrorism, and a soldier was reported to have been beheaded here some months ago. Even though there is not much of a caste divide, the substantial Muslim vote could be a factor.
It’s for these reasons that the electioneering is gravitating around BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, and the issues of secularism-communalism and terrorism. The fight is between National Conference-Congress alliance candidate and sitting MP Madan Lal Sharma, BJP’s Jugal Kishore Sharma, and sitting MLC (member of legislative council) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Yash Pal Sharma.
Madan Lal, a two-time MP, won the last time by a margin of more than 1 lakh votes despite heavy polarisation because of the Amarnath land row. But it was mainly on account of a prepoll alliance, which is still there though things have changed. Being from the plains of Jammu, which has 13 assembly constituencies, and his brother being a cabinet minister are factors working in his favour.
But the PDP candidate would effectively decide the winner. Last time, when the PDP fielded Tarlok Singh Bajwa, a Sikh, the party got 93,000 votes. He was not a known figure and was solely banking on party patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who worked relentlessly in Poonch and Rajouri districts.
But now Yash Pal, a resident of Poonch, comes from a reputed political family. He has a mass base and connections among Hindus as well as Muslims.
The party has two MLAs in these two districts, where about 3 lakh votes were polled last time. The PDP hopes to increase the tally.
This has created a fear factor in the Congress camp. NC president and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah has personally campaigned in these two districts for four days, accusing the PDP of deliberately fielding a local candidate to “help the BJP”, which had got about 50,000 votes from these two districts out of the total of 2.6 lakh it got last time.