Srinagar: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won two seats of Jammu and Udhampur in Jammu and Kashmir riding on the Narendra Modi wave, following the prime minister's hard position against Pakistan following the 14 February militant attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Srinagar that killed at least 40 members of its personnel.
In the elections, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was routed as the party lost in all the three seats in Kashmir with former chief minister and party president, Mehbooba Mufti, losing by a margin of over 9,000 votes in the Anantnag parliamentary seat in the wake of "heavy-handed" measures to control the agitation that was sparked by the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. The party's alliance with the BJP after the 2014 Assembly election is also believed to have contributed to the PDP's poor showing this time around. Mehbooba got 25 percent of the votes, while the National Conference's Hasnain Masoodi won 33 percent of the votes. Meanwhile, former minister and Congress state president, Ghulam Ahmad Mir, secured 27 percent of the votes from the 1.22 lakh cast in the constituency.
After the results, Mehbooba conceded defeat. "I've been fortunate to get the love and affection of my people. They have every right to express their anger for my failings. Accept their verdict with humility. Congratulations to winning candidates from NC. I'm grateful to my party workers and colleagues," she tweeted.
The BJP candidates, Jugal Kishore Sharma and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, Dr Jitendra Singh, won the elections in the Jammu and Udhampur constituencies by huge margins of 2.86 lakh and 3.49 lakh votes respectively against the "secular alliance" of the PDP, National Conference and Congress. The National Conference and Congress had announced their alliance on the two seats, while the PDP said that it was not fielding any candidates to ensure that there was "no division" of secular votes. Both the Congress candidates " the scion of Dogra dynasty, Vikramaditya Singh, and former minister, Raman Bhalla " lost in Udhampur and Jammu Lok Sabha seats respectively. In the Udhampur and Jammu seats, Jitendra Singh and Jugal received 62 and 58 percent of the votes respectively from the total of 11.67 lakh and 14.53 lakh against 32 percent by Vikramaditya Singh and nearly 38 percent by Raman Bhalla.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Jitendra Singh had defeated former chief minister and Congress leader, Ghulam Nabi Azad, by a margin of over 60,000 votes, while Jugal had won the Jammu seat by a margin of 2.26 lakh votes. In the 2009 elections, in the Udhampur seat, the Congress' Lal Singh had bagged 2.31 lakh votes against 2.18 lakh votes for the BJP's Nirmal Singh. In the Jammu seat, the Congress' Madan Lal Sharma received 3.8 lakh votes against 2.6 lakh votes for the BJP's Leela Karan Sharma.
The voters in Jammu have in the past reacted sharply to the "discrimination against the region" by Kashmir-based political parties. Today's results reflected a voting pattern in Jammu in which the electorate preferred the BJP after Modi's hardline approach against Pakistan as well as the "rejection of an alliance" by Kashmir-based political parties against the saffron party in the region. After the 14 February attack on the CRPF convoy, Indian and Pakistan troops had resorted to heavy mortar shelling that affected the members of the population living along the border in Jammu.
BJP general secretary Ashok Koul said that the party won both the seats in Jammu region with the support of its "strong workers base" and "efficient governance provided by Modi". He said, "Modi has been decisive in action against Pakistan even after the Uri attack and he said after the Pulwama attack that there will be no compromise on national security," he said.
While the voting was moderate in the Baramulla Lok Sabha seat, there was a near boycott of the Anantnag and Srinagar seats as the people observed a shutdown at the behest of separatists and polling booths were largely empty as youths clashed with the forces on the streets.
The elections also marked the rise of the People's Conference, the BJP's alliance partner in government, with the party's candidate from Baramulla " Raja Aijaz Ali " getting 23 percent of the 4.47 lakh votes cast in the constituency. Awami Ittehad party (AIP), leader, Er Rashid, eroded the vote share of the People's Conference leading to the victory of National Conference candidate, Mohammad Akbar Lone. He won with a won with a margin of over 29,000 votes. Rashid got 22.5 percent votes, while the PDP's Abdul Qayoom Wani only secured 12 percent of the votes.
The Srinagar seat was won by former chief minister and National Conference president, Farooq Abdullah, who polled 58 percent votes against the PDP's Aga Mohsin, who got 20 percent ,while the People's Conference candidate got 16 percent of the over 1.86 lakh votes cast in the constituency. The Congress had not fielded any candidate against Abdullah.
Congress vice-president, GN Monga, said that the BJP won the elections "as its campaign was divisive in nature and deepened the polarisation among voters on the religious lines". He added,"In Kashmir, there was anger against the PDP, which went against it. We had a friendly contest with the National Conference."