Despite Oppn alliance, BJP takes its Assembly seats to 28; loses 3 with narrow margin

Cong draws blank in Ladakh but gains in Jammu

NC suffers reverses in traditional bastions

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, May 26: The BJP improved its 2014 Assembly elections performance by gaining leads in 28 Assembly constituencies including 15 in Jammu Lok Sabha seat, 10 in Udhampur and three in Ladakh. In fact, it gained lead in six Assembly seats which it hadn’t won in the last Assembly polls but in the process lost three other seats to the Congress.
The BJP had created history by winning 25 Assembly seats in 2014 poll but in just concluded Lok Sabha polls, it led in 28 segments, an addition of three. If it could have managed three Assembly seats, which it lost to Congress, all in erstwhile Doda district because of Congress-NC-PDP combine, its tally would have touched 31.
Riding on the support of NC and PDP, the Congress increased its leads in Assembly segments from eight it had won in Jammu and Ladakh regions to 12 but, according to political observers, this was mainly because of shift of NC and PDP vote bank to the Congress as the two regional parties hadn’t fielded their candidates on two Parliamentary constituencies of Jammu region and supported the Congress candidates.
Significantly, the BJP also took substantial lead in two Assembly constituencies of Nagrota (around 19,000) and Bishnah (about 48,000), which the National Conference had represented in the dissolved House. More impressive was the BJP lead of about 34,000 votes in Gandhi Nagar segment, which has twice been represented by Congress leader, Raman Bhalla, who was the party candidate in Lok Sabha seat of Jammu region. The lead of 34,000 was despite the fact that NC and PDP supported the Congress in the absence of their own party candidates.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) held three Assembly constituencies in the last Assembly including Darhal, Rajouri and Poonch but on all of them, the Congress led, where the BJP managed to get negligible votes.
The National Conference held Mendhar seat gave huge lead to Congress in Jammu region.
In 2014 Assembly polls, the BJP had, for the first time in the history, won 25 Assembly seats, all of which came from Jammu region. In the just concluded Lok Sabha polls, the BJP maintained lead in 22 of them while trailing in Kishtwar, Bhaderwah and Doda, albeit by a narrow margin.
However, it got lead in six seats, which it hadn’t won in 2014 including Udhampur, Nagrota, Bishnah, all three in Jammu region and Leh, Nubra and Zanskar, all three in Ladakh regions. Thus, the BJP led in total of 28 Assembly segments in Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh Parliamentary seats.
BJP leader Pawan Gupta had won Udhampur Assembly seat as an Independent candidate in 2014 on being denied the party mandate but he had since returned to the party fold. BJP took leads in Nagrota, which was represented by National Conference strongman Devender Singh Rana and Bishnah, which was held by NC leader Kamal Arora.
Congress three-time MLA and former Minister Rigzin Jora too couldn’t help the Congress in his Leh Assembly segment, where BJP took an impressive lead of over 10,000 votes while it had a lead of about 1200 votes in Nubra and 1500 votes in Zanskar. Leh and Nubra were represented by Congress in the previous Assembly while Zanskar was held by NC-backed Independent, Bakir Rizvi, who had later allied with the BJP. Muslim-dominated Zanskar voted for the BJP, which had promised district status to the area.
Congress MLA from Kargil in the previous House, Haji Asgar Ali Karbalaie, who contested Ladakh seat as an Independent candidate, had to taste defeat in his home segment, where he trailed by about 3000 votes to another Independent, Sajjad Hussain Kargili, who was backed by NC & PDP.
Congress had eight seats in the previous Assembly from Jammu, Udhampur and Ladakh seats including five in Jammu region-Surankote, Gool, Gulabgarh, Banihal and Inderwal and three in Ladakh-Leh, Nubra and Kargil.
However, the Congress led in 12 Assembly segments, all in Jammu region but failed to get lead in any of the three Assembly constituencies it held in Ladakh Parliamentary seat.
The Congress was ahead from the BJP in all five seats it represented in 2014 Assembly polls from Jammu region and gained lead in seven other constituencies including Rajouri, Poonch and Darhal, which were represented by the PDP, Mendhar of NC and Doda, Kishtwar and Bhaderwah, held by the BJP in 2014 Assembly polls.
The BJP led in all 11 Assembly seats of Jammu, district, all 5 in Kathua, all 3 in Udhampur and both seats of Samba district besides two constituencies in Rajouri district and one each in Reasi and Ramban districts, apart from three seats of Ladakh.
Political observers were of the view that NC vote bank shifted towards Congress only in selected Assembly constituencies, which were dominated by the majority community while in segments, where minorities held sway, the NC vote generally sided with the BJP, which was evident from impressive lead taken by the BJP in Vijaypur, Marh, Nagrota, Bishnah, Kalakote, Ramban etc.
“It would be good to see whether majority community votes return to NC and PDP when they field their candidates in Assembly constituencies whenever the election are held or stay with the Congress,” the observers said, recalling that after NC support to Congress in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the NC had won just three Assembly seats as against eight to 10, which it used to get earlier in Jammu region. Traditional NC seats like Gulabgarh and Poonch had gone to the Congress and PDP in the Assembly polls, which were held about eight months after the Parliamentary elections.
Political observers were also surprised over meager lead of 300 secured by Congress in Kishtwar, 2500 in Bhaderwah and about 6300 in Doda Assembly segments despite NC and PDP support to the Congress. They were of the view that all these three seats could go the BJP way, like 2014 Assembly polls, if NC, PDP and Congress contest the Assembly elections separately.
There seems to be no end to the worries of National Panthers Party (NPP) too, whose vote bank, which was confined to four Assembly segments of Ramnagar, Chenani, Udhampur and Samba, shifting en masse towards the BJP for three consecutive elections including 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly and 2019 general elections.
The NPP, which had won these four seats in 2002 Assembly polls and three (excepting Chenani) in 2008, had drawn blank in 2014. In this Lok Sabha election, BJP led by about 69,000 votes in Udhampur, 47,000 in Chenani, 53,000 in Ramnagar and 41,000 in Samba. The NPP’s collective votes in 37 Assembly segments of Jammu region, which form two Lok Sabha seats, was just 28,335.
Almost similar was the fate of newly floated Dogra Swabhiman Front of Choudhary Lal Singh, who polled just 26,588 votes in both Jammu and Udhampur Lok Sabha seats, which he contested.
Lal Singh polled only 4894 votes in Basohli Assembly seat, which he and his wife Kanta Andotra had represented four times as against BJP’s 43125 votes. Singh had represented Udhampur Parliamentary constituency twice in 2004 and 2009 as Congress candidate but had switched over to the BJP after being denied the party mandate in 2014.