Even a week after the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced the poll schedule, political activities are yet to pick up pace in Jammu and Ladakh divisions with most parties busy finalising nominees for the Lok Sabha seats.
Voting to elect the 17th Lok Sabha will be held over seven phases from April 11 to May 19 and the counting of votes will take place on May 23, the ECI said Sunday last. The state has six Lok Sabha seats.
Except the party offices of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress, the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP), which are bustling with activists, not much campaigning is going on in the state.
“We are busy at the head office here in finalising the poll plan, chain of meetings of office bearers, and organising of morchas,” a senior BJP leader in Jammu told PTI on Monday.
The leaders said they are currently giving final touches to their digital campaigns, posters, banners, schedule of star speakers, dates of poll rallies and door-to-door campaigns.
Most of the parties, including national outfits the BJP, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress, and regional ones, the PDP, the NC and the JKNPP, are yet to announce their candidates for the parliamentary constituencies.
“We have not yet announced candidates in Jammu and Kashmir. It is in the final process”, a senior state Congress leader said.
The leaders opined that once candidates are named, campaigning will start in full swing.
The Congress and former ally National Conference (NC) have initiated talks over a seat-sharing arrangement. Similarly, the PDP and National Party Congress are weighing their options for a tie-up.
“The NC got a proposal from the Congress (on seat sharing arrangement). But we made it clear that the NC will field its candidates from all three Lok Sabha seats in the Kashmir valley. If it suits the Congress, the NC is ready to talk about other seats (in Ladakh and Jammu regions). We are awaiting their response,” said NC vice-president Omar Abdullah on the sidelines of a party convention in Anantnag Sunday.
The PDP has opened channels with the Congress high command, offering unconditional support in the Jammu province, sources said.
“The party leadership is mulling over supporting the Congress nominees in the two Lok Sabha seats in Jammu province — Jammu-Poonch and Udhampur-Doda,” said a senior PDP leader on condition of anonymity.
In Rajouri and Poonch, continuous Pakistani shelling has given way to fear psychosis among the lakhs of the people living in these villages along the LoC. The political outfits are on guard before campaigning in Sundcerbani, Nowshera, Manjakote, Balakote, Bhimbhergali, Krishnagati, Mendhar, Poonch sectors, leaders said.
Jugal Kishore, who won Nagrota Assembly seat twice for the BJP (2002 and 2008), was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 2014 with a margin of about 3 lakh votes, defeating two-time MP and former minister Congress’ Madan Lal Sharma.
Union Minister of State Jitendra Singh had defeated former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir and veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad in his electoral debut in 2014 in Udhampur parliamentary constituency by an impressive margin of over 60,000 votes.
Azad was later elected to the Rajya Sabha from Jammu and Kashmir and is presently the Leader of Opposition.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP swept all three seats in the Ladakh and Jammu regions (Jammu-Poonch, Udhampur-Doda and Ladakh), while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won the three seats in the Kashmir Valley.
However, in 2016, PDP leader, Tariq Hamid Karra had resigned from the party as well as the Lok Sabha and later joined the Congress while another PDP MP from Anantnag, Mehbooba Mufti, the party president had quit her Parliamentary seat after being elected as the Chief Minister in July 2016.
NC president Farooq Abdullah was elected as Lok Sabha member from Srinagar in the by-poll in April 2017 while by-election to Anantnag seat was suspended and could not be held since then