Former CMs defeated: BJP, NC share seats, one Independent

| Updated: 05 June, 2024 6:16 pm IST

SRINAGAR: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday retained both Parliamentary seats in the Jammu division, with Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Dr. Jitendra Singh and Jugal Kishore Sharma achieving hat-tricks from the Udhampur-Doda and Jammu-Reasi Lok Sabha constituencies, respectively. However, both won with significantly reduced margins compared to the 2019 elections.

Dr. Jitendra Singh retained the Udhampur-Doda seat by defeating Congress candidate Choudhary Lal Singh with a margin of 124,373 votes, while Jugal Kishore Sharma secured the Jammu-Reasi seat by overcoming Congress’s Raman Bhalla with a margin of 135,498 votes. Both candidates have now won these seats for three consecutive terms, having previously been elected in 2014 and 2019.

Dr. Jitendra Singh, who has served as the Minister of State in the PMO for the past decade, garnered 571,076 votes out of a total of 1,113,727 votes cast in Udhampur-Doda, compared to Choudhary Lal Singh’s 446,703 votes. DPAP candidate and former Minister Ghulam Mohammad Saroori finished third with 39,599 votes, while BSP candidate Amit Kumar managed only 8,642 votes.

In the Jammu-Reasi seat, BJP’s Jugal Kishore Sharma secured 687,588 votes against Raman Bhalla’s 552,090. Bhalla, a former Minister, had also lost to Sharma in the 2019 election. BSP’s Jagdish Raj received 10,300 votes, while Independent candidate Ankur Sharma polled 4,278 votes.

In the 2019 elections, BJP’s victory margin in the Udhampur seat was 357,252 votes, and in Jammu, the margin was 302,875 votes.

Out of the 18 Assembly seats in the Udhampur-Doda Parliamentary constituency, BJP’s Dr. Jitendra Singh led in 14, while Lal Singh led in four: Inderwal, Bhaderwah, Doda, and Banihal. Dr. Singh led in all other 14 Assembly constituencies. Lal Singh even trailed in the Basohli Assembly segment of Kathua district, which he had represented in 1996 and 2002 as a Congress candidate and in 2014 as the BJP nominee, while his wife Kanta Andotra won it once in a by-election. Lal Singh trailed in all six Assembly seats of Kathua district, four of Udhampur district, and Kishtwar, Padder Nagseni, Doda West, and Ramban Assembly constituencies of the erstwhile Doda district. In the Jammu constituency, the BJP led in most of the Assembly seats.

This marks the third consecutive Parliamentary election where the Congress has failed to secure a seat in Jammu and Kashmir. In 2014, the BJP and PDP each won three seats in J&K, while in 2019, the BJP and NC each secured three seats. The BJP emerged as the single largest party in terms of vote percentage in Jammu and Kashmir, securing 24.36 percent of votes, followed by the National Conference (NC) with 22.30 percent, Congress with 19.38 percent, and PDP with 8.48 percent. Other candidates received 23.94 percent of votes.

National Conference and PDP contested three seats each, while BJP and Congress contested two seats each. The BJP supported Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) candidate Zaffar Iqbal Manhas in the Anantnag-Rajouri constituency. The BJP received 24.36 percent (1,244,404 votes) vote share, followed by NC with 22.30 percent (1,139,084 votes), Congress with 19.38 percent (990,182 votes), and Independents with 23.94 percent (1,223,161 votes). PDP received 8.48 percent (433,049 votes).

However, compared to 2019, the BJP’s vote share decreased. In 2019, the BJP received 46.39 percent vote share with 1,648,041 votes out of 3,479,155 votes cast in the multi-phased elections for six Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Kashmir, followed by Congress with 28.47 percent. In 2019, the Ladakh seat was part of Jammu and Kashmir. NC, which secured three seats in 2019, received just 8 percent of votes.

In 2019, Dr. Singh defeated Congress candidate Vikramaditya Singh by a margin of 357,252 votes. In 2014, he defeated former Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad by 60,976 votes and was subsequently appointed Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office. Choudhary Lal Singh had previously won the Udhampur seat on a Congress ticket in 2004 and 2009.

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A former MLA and Minister in the PDP-Congress and PDP-BJP governments, Lal Singh rejoined Congress in March 2024. The Udhampur constituency has alternated between Congress and BJP over the years. Congress won six consecutive times from 1967, while BJP’s Prof. Chaman Lal Gupta secured three successive victories in 1996, 1998, and 1999 before Lal Singh’s two-term win in 2004 and 2009.

Meanwhile, over 88 percent of candidates, including a former Minister, lost their security deposits for failing to secure a minimum of one-sixth of the total valid votes polled in Udhampur and Jammu Lok Sabha constituencies. The None of the Above (NOTA) option, availed by voters, outnumbered several candidates in the two constituencies. According to officials, Saroori and nine other candidates forfeited their security deposits for failing to secure the minimum one-sixth of total valid votes in the constituency.

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The NOTA option was chosen by 12,938 voters in Udhampur, which had a voter turnout of over 68 percent. NOTA votes were the fourth highest, as none of the other nine candidates crossed four-digit figures. NOTA allows voters to reject all candidates in a constituency.

Bahujan Samaj Party’s Amit Kumar secured only 8,642 votes, while Independent candidate Sachin Gupta polled only 1,463 votes. In Jammu, NOTA received 4,645 votes, higher than 18 other candidates, including Ekam Sanatan Bharat Dal chief and lawyer Ankur Sharma, who secured 4,278 votes. Qari Zaheer Abbas Bhatti of All India Forward Bloc finished last with only 984 votes.

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