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It's Modi's image vs united opposition in Jammu (Constituency Profile) (Dangal 2019)

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IANS Jammu
The battle lines are clearly drawn between archrivals Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress for the prestigious Jammu Lok Sabha seat from where BJP's Jugal Kishore Sharma is seeking re-election.
In the 2014 general elections, Sharma defeated his Congress rival Madan Lal Sharma by a huge margin of 257,280 votes. This time Sharma is being challenged by senior Congress leader and former state Minister Raman Bhalla.
To brighten the Congress party's chances, both the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have not fielded any candidate from Jammu.
While the NC did so after working out a pre-poll alliance with the Congress, the PDP said its decision to not field any candidate from Jammu was aimed at consolidating the secular vote against the BJP.
The BJP's poll campaign was kicked off on Thursday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who addressed a huge rally in Akhnoor in Jammu district.
Modi asked the voters whether they supported a government that stood by the country's "sapoots" (good sons, alluding to security forces) or those who were demanding "saboot' (proof) for India's air strikes in Balakot.
The Prime Minister also stressed on India's resolve to end cross-border shelling and infiltration to bring relief to the lives of thousands of people living close to the International Border (IB) and the line of Control (LoC) in the Jammu division.
While the BJP's daily poll campaign here revolves entirely around Modi's image as a strong Prime Minister, the Congress is focusing on the alleged failures of the major decisions taken by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, including demonetisation, Goods and Services Tax (GST), mushrooming of mob lynchings and the sense of insecurity among the minorities.
Former Chief Minister and NC President Farooq Abdullah has been campaigning for the Congress candidate in both the Hindu and Muslim dominated areas of the Jammu constituency.
Abdullah has said that the fight here was between the secular forces and those who wanted to change the very fabric of the country and its Constitution.
The Jammu constituency is spread over four districts -- Samba, Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch -- with 20 voting segments.
The segments are: Samba, Vijaypur, Nagrota, Gandhinagar, Jammu East, Jammu West, Bishnah, R.S. Pura, Suchetgarh, Marh, Raipur Domana, Akhnoor, Chhamb, Nowshera, Darhal, Rajouri, Kalakot, Surankote, Mendhar and Poonch-Haveli.
The voting segments of Rajouri, Darhal, Mendhar, Kalakot, Surankote and Poonch-Haveli have sizable Muslim voters who are likely to rally behind the Congress candidate, mainly because of the support extended to him by the NC and the PDP.
In 2014, the Muslim vote in these segments, as well as in other sections, got divided between the NC, the PDP and the Congress, thus giving a clear edge to the BJP.
The other problem the BJP may face here is the candidature of rebel BJP leader Choudhary Lal Singh, who is contesting the elections after forming his own breakaway group known as the Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan. Lal Singh has pockets of influence in both Samba and Jammu districts.
There are 21 other candidates in the fray, including Professor Bhim Singh of the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP), Badrinath of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Javid Ahmad of the All India Forward Block and 18 independents.
The Jammu constituency will go to the polls in the first phase on April 11, when 10,70,014 voters will exercise their franchise at 1,380 polling booths. The voting hours have been fixed from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at sheikh.abdul@ians.in)
--IANS
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First Published: Mar 31 2019 | 11:52 AM IST

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