Campaigning ends for Jammu Lok Sabha seat; polling on April 26

JAMMU — Campaigning for the election to the Jammu Lok Sabha seat ended Wednesday evening, setting the stage for over 17.81 lakh eligible voters to exercise their franchise on April 26 to decide the fate of 22 candidates in the fray.

This is the second Lok Sabha seat in Jammu and Kashmir to go to polls in this election. Earlier, polling was held in the Udhampur seat on April 19 and a voter turnout of over 68 per cent was recorded.

Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Jammu and Kashmir Pandurang K Pole said there was no untoward incident reported during the campaigning.

Necessary action has been taken against violators of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and cash, drugs, liquor and other goods worth over Rs 20 crore seized since the announcement of the election, he added.

“Campaigning by political parties and contesting candidates for the Jammu Lok Sabha seat ended this evening (6 pm). We have a 48-hour silence period till the conclusion of the elections (on Friday evening),” Pole told PTI here.

He said Jammu recorded a turnout of 74 per cent in the 2019 parliamentary election and a similar situation is expected this time as well.

Twenty-two candidates are in the fray from the constituency spread across 17 Assembly segments of Jammu, Sabma and Reasi districts and one assembly constituency in Rajouri district.

A direct contest is on the cards between sitting BJP MP Jugal Kishore Sharma and INDIA bloc candidate Ramban Bhalla, the working president of the J&K Congress unit.

Jagdish Raj of the Bahujan Samaj Party and advocate Ankur Sharma of the Ekam Sanatan Bharat Dal are two other prominent faces contesting the seat.

On the last day of campaigning, Bhalla, accompanied by senior leaders, including state Congress president Vikar Rasool Wani, AICC in-charge for J&K Bharat Singh Solanki and the party’s Udhampur nominee Choudhary Lal Singh held a mega roadshow in the city, starting from Satwari near the Jammu airport to the party headquarters on Residency Road.

Solanki and a couple of other leaders were on horseback, making a last-minute effort to garner votes.

J&K BJP leaders, led by their president Ravinder Raina, also toured different parts of the city and held corner meetings and public rallies to push for a third term for sitting MP Sharma.

The BJP’s candidate had defeated Bhalla by a margin of over three lakh votes in 2019. He had won the seat in 2014 as well.

Sharma, who is also a former MLA, is banking on what he calls “historic decisions” taken by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government and the massive developmental push in the last 10 years.

“The Modi government has taken several historic initiatives with the abrogation of Article 370, thus giving acceleration to the ongoing mega projects of development. Jammu and Kashmir has got a very fair deal in all matters at all levels under the Modi government,” he said.

Bhalla, on the other hand, having regional heavyweights National Conference and PDP backing him, is confident of wresting the seat from the BJP. There is “resentment” among the people over the wrong policies of the BJP-led government, he alleged.

The Congress’ star campaigner and former deputy chief minister of Rajasthan Sachin Pilot and Mahila Congress president Alka Lamba have addressed election campaign rallies in support of Bhalla.

The opposition parties have upped the ante over the downgrading of the erstwhile state into a Union territory, the removal of special status under Article 370 and the failure of the BJP to hold Assembly, panchayat and urban local bodies elections.

Union ministers Amit Shah, Anurag Thakur and Jitendra Singh have campaigned in support of Sharma. Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Udhampur on April 12.

The CEO said 2,416 polling stations, including 158 along the International Border and Line of Control (LoC), have been set up in the constituency.

“Security and other related arrangements are in place to ensure free, fair and peaceful voting. A contingency plan has been also worked out to ensure no disruption in polling along the borders,” he said, adding polling is expected to remain peaceful.

In addition to the 11 Assembly constituencies of Jammu district, the Jammu Lok Sabha seat includes the Kalakote-Sunderbani constituency of Rajouri, Gulabgarh, Reasi and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi segments of Reasi district and Ramgarh, Samba and Vijaypur segments of Samba district. — (PTI)