Jammu, December 23: Sixteen months after the abrogation of Article 370, BJP swept Hindu dominated Jammu division, but the lotus emaciated in a number of its bastions.
Of the ten districts in Jammu region, while the BJP got comfortable majority to have its own chairperson in Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Udhampur and Doda, it lost Kishtwar by winning only three seats. In Doda district also, though it won in eight of the 14 DDC constituencies, its main face and former minister Shakti Raj Parihar lost from both Gundana and Marmat, the two constituencies he had filed nomination papers.
Significantly, Kishtwar had elected BJP’s Sunil Sharma in 2014 and he was later sworn-in as a minister in BJP-PDP government. It also forms part of the Udhampur parliamentary constituency which is being represented by Union Minister of State in the PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh, in the Lok Sabha since 2014.
Similarly, in Rajouri district where saffron organisation had won two of the four assembly segments in 2014, could get only three seats in the DDC. It lost Kalakote to NC’s Anita Thakur and Nowshera to PDP’s Manohar Singh.
Both Kalakote and Nowshera were BJP bastions, with former represented by BJP’s former minister Abdul Gani Kohli and the latter by party’s UT president Ravinder Raina in the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly after 2014 elections.
Not only this, BJP’s massive sweep in Jammu district where it won 11 of the 14 DDC seats, too came with a pinch of salt as its senior leader and former minister Sham Lal Choudhary lost to an independent Taranjit Singh Tony in Suchetgarh. The saffron party lost its another bastion – Marh, were its Vandana Kumari got defeated by an independent Balbir Lal.
Marh had elected BJP’s Sukhnandan Choudhary twice and he was sworn-in as cabinet minister also during the PDP-BJP coalition government former after 2014 assembly polls.
As the final tally emerged late Tuesday night, the mood at the BJP headquarters here was sombre with no jubiliations and beating of drums.
Nearly half a dozen ministers including Smriti Irani, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, V K Singh, Anurag Thakur and Jitendra Singh were among many senior party leaders including BJP national general secretary Tarun Chug who had campaigned across Jammu division. On the contrary, none of the senior leaders from PAGD and Congress visited Jammu region to campaign for their candidates virtually giving a cakewalk to BJP at many places.
While PAGD leaders complain that they had not been allowed to move out for campaigning, many in BJP also admit that BJP would have lost in some more areas if NC president Farooq Abdullah had visited Jammu. The defeat of two former ministers – Sham Lal Choudhary and Shakti Raj Parihar, refers to widespread anger among people against party’s old faces who after coming to power after 2014 assembly elections did not fulfil their election promises on development front, said a BJP leader who wished not to be named.
Even Union Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur to a question about the defeat of BJP’s two former ministers said that one of them lost by just 11 votes. Whatever were the reasons for his (Sham Lal Choudhary) defeat will be certainly looked into and discussed later, but he contested the election very well, he said. However, on the whole, there were 2178 contestants including 450 women which in itself is a record, he said, addng that 51 per cent of the 57 lakh electorate cast their vote in DDC elections. This shows that people came out to vote braving cold and militant threats, he said, adding “it is a big victory’’.
Describing the BJP victory in DDC polls as people voting for the policies of PM Narendra Modi, he said these will begin a new era of development and bring forward new leaders in Jammu and Kashmir.