Election campaigns are gaining momentum in the Jammu region with all the political parties trying their best to woo voters as only a few days are left for the first phase of Lok Sabha polls.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah addressed separate election rallies here in support of the party candidates, the Congress was banking on the services of its veteran leaders — former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and erstwhile ‘Sadre-e-Riyasat’ and scion of Dogra dynasty Karan Singh.
The Jammu region is spread over 10 districts which are covered by two Lok Sabha seats of Jammu and Udhampur which are going to polls in the first two phases of the parliamentary elections on April 11 and 18, respectively.
Jammu, Samba, Rajouri and Poonch districts falls in the Jammu Lok Sabha seat and Udhampur, Kathua, Reasi, Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar districts together make the Udhampur parliamentary constituency.
A tough battle is on the cards as political analysts predicted no cakewalk for the BJP which is trying to retain the two seats which it won along with the Ladakh seat during the last general elections – its best ever performance from the state.
The BJP has been aggressively campaigning for its candidates Union minister Jitendra Singh (Udhampur) and Jugal Kishore (Jammu) who are facing tough challenge from the Congress, which has managed support of its National Conference ally for its two candidates in the Jammu region.
The PDP has not fielded any candidates to ensure that secular votes are not divided.
The Union minister is seeking re-election from the Udhampur seat and is facing challenge from 11 candidates, including Congress candidate and Karan Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh, Choudhary Lal Singh of Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan and National Panthers Party chairman Harsh Dev Singh.
Choudhary Lal Singh, who distanced himself from the BJP to form his own party, is also trying his luck from the Jammu parliamentary seat.
The Congress has fielded former minister Raman Bhalla from the seat, which has a total number of 24 candidates – prominent among others being veteran politician and patron of National Panthers Party (NPP) Bhim Singh.
Modi addressed an election rally in support of Kishore in Akhnoor on March 28, the day when he started his campaign trail for the Lok Sabha elections across the country.
Shah joined the election campaign in the state by addressing two rallies in Udhampur and Sunderbani in Rajouri district on April 3, while BJP general secretary Ram Madhav also hit the campaign trail in the state when he addressed two elections rallies in the twin districts of Poonch and Rajouri on Saturday.
“More star campaigners of the party are in the pipeline to visit the state in the coming days,” a BJP leader said, adding that state BJP president Ravinder Raina has himself addressed more than 60 rallies since the Election commission announced dates for the polls.
The Congress, on the other hand, are banking on the local and National Conference leaders who are criss-crossing both the constituencies, holding election rallies and leaving no stone unturned to woo the voters.
Chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma, when contacted, said the star campaigners of the party are reaching the state but their scheduled is yet to be finalised.
Choudhary Lal Singh, who had twice won the Lok Sabha polls from Udhampur seat on Congress ticket before switching over to the BJP in 2014, has also launched an aggressive campaigning across the region.
Choudhary Lal Singh, who was enjoying good support, especially in his Kathua district, was recently sacked by the BJP after he refused to withdraw from the contest after filing nomination papers from the twin seats.
National Panthers Party leaders also organised dozens of rallies across the region over the past one week to garner support of the voters.
Other contesting candidates are also trying their best and going from house to house, hoping to get votes from the masses.