After a lacklustre campaign, polling was held for the Jammu Lok Sabha seat on Friday. Spread over four districts — Jammu, Samba, Reasi, and parts of Rajouri (83–KalaKote-Sundarbani), the seat is witnessing a direct fight between BJP’s sitting LS member Jugal Kishore Sharma and Congress’s Raman Bhalla.

There are a total of 17,80,835 registered voters, consisting of 9,21,095 men, 8,59,712 women, and 28 third-gender voters. 

Changing dynamics

The conclusion of the first phase of polling, in which J&K’s Udhampur LS seat voted on April 19, signified the shift in dynamics for the Jammu LS seat. Until then, the scales appeared to be firmly tipped in favour of the BJP’s candidate, seeking a third term in Parliament. 

The visibility of the Congress enhanced significantly as the party shifted all its focus to the Jammu constituency. The Congress candidate was able to strike a chord with the electorate by raising issues of unemployment, price rises, and newly-imposed property taxes.

“It changed the entire dynamics, intensifying the battle between the Congress and the BJP,” said Zafar Choudhary, a senior Jammu-based journalist and political analyst. 

However, Bhalla’s appeal is limited to urban areas only. The party’s loss of its rural base could be attributed to the defection of its senior leader, Sham Lal Sharma, to the BJP in 2019. Sharma, who represented Akhnoor assembly constituency during the Congress rule, holds sway in rural areas of Jammu. 

The BJP candidate, on the other hand, made developments under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi, abrogation of Article 370 and Ram Temple as the main poll plank. In the lead-up to the polls, the party held a few small road shows in Jammu where it spoke about the BJP ending the protracted injustice meted out to the people of Jammu by abrogating the Article 370. 

Significance for BJP

The Jammu LS seat has a crucial significance for the BJP. Since 1947, it has been the core ideological constituency of Praja Parishad, the precursor of the BJP that supported the abrogation of the special constitutional position of Jammu and Kashmir. On November 14, 1952, the Praja Parishad held its first Satyagraha, seeking complete integration of J&K with India.

The loss of seat to the Congress will mean delegitimization of the abrogation of Article 370 and the narratives built around it.