BJP, Congress To Face Jammu And Kashmir Polls Acid Test Today

19 December 2014
The New Indian Express
Fayaz Wani

Srinagar: The fifth and final phase of Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir will be held on Saturday amid tight security measures and the phase is going to be crucial for both the BJP and the Congress. About 20 Assembly seats spread over three districts of Jammu - Rajouri, Kathua and Jammu - will go to polls on Saturday. Over 18 lakh electorate will decide the fate of 213 candidates, including Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, four ministers, ex-MPs, besides senior leaders of the Congress and the BJP. The BJP represented 11 out of these 20 seats in the outgoing Assembly, while the Congress had five seats. The BJP is trying to strengthen its hold in Jammu and utilise the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior leaders in the poll campaign. The party is trying hard to push the Congress to the wall and avail the services of RSS strategists to win seats. The Congress' chance of playing a key role in the formation of the next government depends on the last phase. The campaigning in Jammu province was lead by senior Congress leader and former J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. Surprisingly the BJP did not raise the Article 370 or religious issues during the poll campaign and focused totally on development. The Congress's poll campaign also remained focused on developmental issues. In order to gain support in the Hindu dominated areas, Congress leaders have been raising the issue of a Hindu CM and slamming the BJP for its duplicity on Article 370 and other sensitive issues. Although candidates of the ruling National Conference, the Opposition PDP, Jammu-based parties and independents are also in the fray, the main contest is between the Congress and the BJP. An electorate of 18.28 lakh, including 9,59,011 male and 8,69,891 females, are eligible to exercise their right to franchise in 2,366 polling stations set up in 20 Assembly segments. Authorities have deployed over 400 companies of paramilitary forces, besides the existing police and paramilitary force personnel in the three districts going to polls.