Udhampur: Split of BJP votes may benefit Congress

Ramban (J&K): Udhampur, a politically and communally sensitive constituency of Jammu and Kashmir will go to the polls in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections on Thursday. Sitting MP and Union minister of state in Prime Minister’s Office Dr Jitendra Singh is pulling out all the stops to retain the seat.

But he is finding the contest difficult this time and the main reason for that is the presence of Chaudhary Lal Singh, a BJP rebel and leader of recently formed Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan Party, in the fray.

It is anybody’s guess that the committed Hindu vote, which the BJP candidate had polled in the 2014 election will this time split between him and Mr Lal Singh that may benefit mainly Congress’ Vikramaditya Singh who is the son of veteran party leader and former Sadar-e-Riyasat Dr Karan Singh.

Apart from getting the committed party vote, majority of the Muslim voters — approximately 7.5 lakh out of 16,85,779 registered voters — in this constituency are likely to favour the Congress candidate who is being supported by the National Conference (NC). The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has also not fielded any candidate in the two Lok Sabha constituencies of Jammu region, which include Udhampur “to ensure that the secular vote bank does not get divided”.

In the last election, the BJP candidate had won in Udhampur spread over 17 Assembly segments mainly due to consolidation of Hindu votes, on the other hand, division of Muslim votes between the NC, Congress and PDP candidates, he had defeated Ghulam Nabi Azad by securing 4,87,369 votes as against 4,26,393 polled by senior Congress leader and former chief minister.

Tilak Raj Bhagat of Bahujan Samaj Party is likely to get a substantial portion of Hindu (mainly Dalit) votes whereas Harsh Dev Singh of Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) is also expecting a good chunk of Hindu votes.

However, the BJP is hopeful of getting a maximum number of votes, which it says became somewhat evident when huge crowds turned up at the election rallies addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party president Amit Shah and home minister, Rajnath Singh in the constituency. The party also says that its candidate has sought votes on his development report card of five years and that of Mr Modi’s government itself. It has also tried to impress upon the voters ‘exigency’ of Mr Modi’s becoming the Prime Minister for a second time.

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