High voter turnout keeps Congress on tenterhooks in Jammu

Early on Thursday morning a large group of young men gathered outside a polling booth in Gandhi Nagar in Jammu in the early hours to cast their vote. There was little doubt who they planned to vote for: their hands bore Modi badges and their vehicles were covered with BJP flags. Their mood perhaps typified the mood in the city of Jammu, where the anti-incumbency sentiment against the Congress was stronger than the sentiment against the local MP.

It was a disgruntled population that came out to vote in large numbers, which could explain why the voter turnout in Jammu-Poonch parliamentary constituency was an unprecedented 68 percent, in the first phase of elections. It is a large jump in turnout from 2009 when the turnout in constituency was 49.71 percent.

To the surprise of many political observers, Jammu city recorded a turnout of 70 percent, Samba reported 75 percent turnout , in Rajouri it was 64.33 percent and in Poonch it was 61 percent, as per final information received.

A high voter turnout could mean trouble for Congress. PTI

A high voter turnout could mean trouble for Congress. PTI

The voter turnout in Jammu city and Sambha is supposedly in favour of BJP. What has kept the BJP leaders hopeful of a favourable outcome is the participation of the youth in these elections. Nearly 50,000 first time voters in the constituency had registered with the Election Commission. Many among these first time voters were seen asking people in residential colonies to come out and cast their vote.

One of them Naresh Upadhyay, a software engineer based in Bangalore, has travelled to his city of his residence ten days in advance, and led a group of voluntaries to encourage people to vote.

Upadhyay alleged that the incumbent MP Madan Lal Sharma of the Congress only cared for the rural population of Jammu and would hardly visit the city, where he lived.

“The higher voter turnout in Jammu city will mean the defeat of Congress. It is the issues of bijli, sadak, paani which are on our mind and he (Madan Lal) has failed to deliver,” he said.

So who did he vote for? The answer is instant: BJP.

Congress MP Sharma is seeking re-election for a third term. Political pundits are of the opinion that the Congress party leadership failed to even campaign for Sharma, but don’t rule him out entirely.

According to them, Sharma was confident of his victory because he felt the polling percentage in Jammu city would be low as always and it would be higher in the rural areas, a factor that would favour him. The long queues in the city came as a surprise to the Congress, more so because they were in places where the BJP's campaign seems to have had an effect. Among the West Pakistani refugees and Kashmiri Pandits, the BJP was the favoured party.

Jammu had recently witnessed a wave of support in favour of Modi after the BJP Prime ministerial candidate made two visits to the city. The youth were particularly impressed and a many of them said they felt that Modi was the only leader capable of delivering good governance in India today. According to them, if a MP from BJP represented them, it would allow developmental issues to be his prime focus.

“We want development and for that to happen there is no better choice then Modi. Both Congress and its collation partner National Conference have failed to deliver in Jammu. They have always treated Jammu differently as compared to Kashmir.”  Ravi Malhotra, a bookshop owner, told Firstpost.

Malhotra said he believed that Modi becoming the prime minister would be the best remedy for an ailing national economy and it would also mean special attention would be paid to the state, as the BJP leader favoured development over politics.

When armed militancy had erupted in Kashmir, a bulk of funds for development were diverted towards Jammu as it remained peaceful and more open for business. Apart from industrial development, road connectivity is much better then the other two regions here. However, the politics of selective development at the hands of Kashmir-based parties has affected the region.

Priya Nath, among the many first time voters in the state, said Modi has proved in his home state that it is possible to rule and progress and that too without any corruption and nepotism.

“The issue of Mandir and Masjid won’t give employment and other necessities of life to people. Good governance and employment generation will. This time I will vote for BJP so that development takes place,” Nath said, waiting for her turn outside a polling booth in a school in Jammu city.

The Jammu-Poonch parliamentary seat, with 1.76 million voters, is the largest among the six Lok Sabha constituencies in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Congress party was won the seat eight times previously. But the Modi factor has given hope to the BJP candidate Jugal Kishore Sharma.

The 'Modi wave', though denied by regional political parties, is visible on the ground. If it wave continues till the state assembly polls to be held later this year, the BJP could emerge as a major force in the state politics and possibly a king maker, displacing the Congress.


Updated Date: Apr 12, 2014 15:43 PM

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