The Parliamentary election in two constituencies of Jammu Region

Rekha Chowdhary

For the first two phases of Parliamentary elections in J&K, the focus is on Jammu region. While the Udhampur constituency is going for polls on April 19, voting for Jammu’s Parliamentary constituency will be taking place on 26th April. These two constituencies are quite unique in their demographic as well as political nature reflecting a marked distinction from the two Valley based constituencies of Kashmir – viz. Srinagar and Baramulla constituency. The fifth constituency of Anantnag-Rajouri partially falls in Jammu region, has its own peculiarity which we have discussed in an earlier Article.

The Udhampur constituency, in terms of its terrain is very large constituency that spreads over five districts of Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Udhampur and Kathua. Comprised of 18 Assembly segments, it covers three Assembly segments of Kishtwar district (Inderwal, Kishtwar and Padder-Nagseni); three Assembly segments of Doda district (Bhaderwah, Doda and Doda West); two segments of Ramban district (Ramban and Banihal); four segments of Udhampur district  (Udhampur West, Udhampur East, Chenani, Ramnagar); and six Assembly segments of Kathua district  (Bani, Billawar, Basohli, Jasrota, Kathua and Hiranagar). Of these Assembly segments, Kathua and Ramnagar are reserved for Scheduled Castes.

Jammu Parliamentary Constituency similarly is comprised of 18 Assembly segments and has its spread over three districts of Jammu, Samba and Reasi. It also includes Kalakote and Sundarbani Tehsils of Rajouri district. This constituency extends itself over three Assembly segments of Reasi district (Gulabgarh, Reasi and Mata Vishnu Devi); three segments of Samba district (Ramgarh; Samba and Vijaypur); eleven segments of Jammu district (Samba, Vijaypur, Bishnah, Suchetgarh, RS Pura, Bahu, Jammu East, Nagrota, Jammu West, Jammu north, Marh, Akhnoor, Chhamb); and one segment of Kalakote-Sundarbani from the district of Rajouri. Five of these segments are reserved for Scheduled caste (Ramgarh, Bishnah, Suchetgarh, Marh and Akhnor) and one segment is reserved for Scheduled Tribes (Gulabgarh).

Election Watch

What is peculiar and distinctive about these two constituencies is their mixed and plural character. While the above mentioned two constituencies falling in Kashmir region are rather homogenous in terms of their demography – comprised mostly of Kashmiri speaking Muslims (with Gujjar and Pahari population at the peripheries), the  two parliamentary constituencies of Jammu region are much more plural in their demography. This is more so in case of the Udhampur constituency that is mostly a hill constituency with a spectrum of linguistic cultural groups – not only the Dogras, but also Siraji-Kishtwari, Bhaderwahi, Pogli, Padderi, Pahari etc. More importantly, this constituency has a mix of Hindu-Muslim population. The two larger districts of Udhampur and Kathua have predominantly large Hindu population but the three small districts of Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban have larger Muslim population. Jammu, the other Parliamentary constituency though mostly inhabited by Dogras and having substantial Hindu population, has significant Muslim presence. While the districts of Jammu, Kathua and Samba are predominantly Hindu inhabited districts, the district of Reasi and Tehsil Kalakote has larger Muslim population.

As the history of these two parliamentary constituencies shows, from 1960s to middle of 1990s, it was the Congress bastion. With the 1996 parliamentary elections, the BJP entered the competition and thereafter, it has been one of these two parties winning these constituencies. Representing Congress, Dr. Karan Singh won from the Udhampur constituency in 1971 and 1977. In 1980 he won contesting from Congress (Urs) faction. Later in 1984, it was represented by Girdhari Lal Dogra and later by Dharam Pal of Congress. In 1996 however, Chaman Lal Gupta of BJP won this constituency and continued to win it during the 1998 and 1999 Parliamentary election for BJP. However during the next two Parliamentary elections of 2004 and 2009, it was Madan Lal Sharm representing Congress that held the seat and finally, it was won by Dr. Jitendra Singh of BJP during 2014 and 2019 Parliamentary elections.

Almost in similar script, Jammu Parliamentary constituency was a stronghold of Congress from early 1960s to middle of 1990s (with the exception of 1977 when Thakhur Baldev Singh won as independent candidate). The dominance of Congress in this constituency was upset during 1998 and 1999 Parliamentary election by BJP. 2002 Parliamentary election was a surprise when NC won this seat. The Congress was able to win both the 2004 and 2009 election. Madan Lal Sharma at that time represented Congress. However, during last two elections of 2014 and 2019, the constituency has been held by Jugal Kishore of BJP.

While the competition in these two constituencies has been mainly taking place (at least since mid-1990s) between Congress and BJP, one could see a nominal presence of other parties as well. Panthers Party was one such party that not only regularly participated in these constituencies but also captured a small share of votes. Professor Bhim Singh, the founder of this party was a regular candidate from Udhampur constituency and could garner as much 11.4% votes in 2009 and 8.20% votes in 2004 Parliamentary elections. PDP and BSP are the other two parties that have been regularly fielding candidates from these constituencies. In 2009 and 2014 when Jammu Lok Sabha Constituency also extended to Poonch and Rajouri districts, PDP got substantial percentage of votes from Jammu constituency – thus Sardar Tarlok Singh of PDP got a vote share of 11 percent in 2009 and Yashpal Sharma got more than 13% vote share during 2014 Parliamentary election. PDP also had some presence in Udhampur constituency and had a vote share of 5% in 2009 and 3% in 2014 Parliamentary elections.  BSP however had smaller voter share but has had its presence all through last few elections in both Udhampur and Jammu constituency. In 2009 it had a vote share of more than 5% in Jammu constituency, which was quite lowered during the subsequent elections.

Despite the presence of all these parties, the real competition in these two constituencies has been taking place between Congress and BJP. The 2019 election, however, was quite skewed in favour of BJP.  In Udhampur constituency, Dr. Jitendera Singh emerged victorious with around double the vote share as compared to the vote share of Congress candidate. Thus while 61.38% votes were cast in Dr. Jatinder Singh’s favour, the vote share of Congress’s Vikramaditya Singh  was only 31.10 %. The performance of other parties and candidates was quite dismal – thus Panthers Harsh Dev Singh polled 2.06% votes; Ch. Lal Singh of DSSP could poll only 1.61% votes and BSP’s Tilak Raj Bhagat could poll 1.41% votes. In Jammu constituency, while BJP’s winning candidate Jugal Kishore Sharma polled 58.02% votes, Raman Bhalla of Congress could poll only 37.54% votes. Prof Bhim Singh of Panthers and Badri Nath of BSP candidate could poll only less than one percent votes.

In the light of the spectacular performance of BJP in 2019, the big question that is being asked in this election is – will BJP’s performance be repeated in 2024. Will this party be able to sweep the election as it did in last election, or would it be facing some challenge from Congress party. The position of Congress, till very recently was not very good. Ghulam Nabi Azad who formed the major face of the party in the region had left it along with many supporters to form his own party. Though many of those who left the party along with Azad, joined back very soon, but the party generally seemed to be lacking initiative and inspiration. However what has recently worked for the party in this region is INDIA alliance. Significantly, for the rest of J&K, this alliance has failed to work and the alliance partners, particularly NC and PDP are competing against each other in other seats of J&K. In the two constituencies of Jammu region however, the alliance has become perfectly operative. Not only the NC and PDP have taken the decision of not fielding any candidate in either Jammu or Udhampur constituency, but the leaders of these parties have also been campaigning in favour of the Congress party. There is therefore a direct contest between Congress and BJP in these constituencies.  In Jammu Parliamentary constituency, the contest is between sitting MP Jugal Kishore of BJP and Raman Bhalla of Congress. In Udhampur constituency, the contest is between Dr. Jatinder Singh of BJP and Ch. Lal Singh of Congress.The only other candidate having some political background in this constituency is G M Saroori of Ghulam Nabi Azad’s party DPAP.

The electoral process and the outcome in these two constituencies is not only going to be very interesting but will also have serious implications for the future politics of the state. While the vote share of the competing parties will be interesting to watch out, what will be fascinating will be the political narrative that will be built during the electoral campaign.

Already one can see that the local concerns have started getting embedded into the electoral process. It is not only the Congress  party that has been focusing on the questions of holding Assembly elections in J&K and restoration of statehood of J&K, but the narrative has even entered the political discourse of BJP. One can see the glimpse of it in Prime Minister Modi’s speech in Udhampur where he stated that ‘The time is not far when Assembly Elections will be held in Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir will get the status of statehood…’

(Feedback is welcome at