With polls announced, parties gear up in Jammu region

October 20th, 2008 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Oct 20 (IANS) The mood of the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a study in contrast in Jammu region after the announcement of polls in Jammu and Kashmir. While the BJP is upbeat and plans to cash in on its role during the Amarnath land row, the Congress workers are not very enthusiastic.”Well we were always prepared for the polls. Now with the announcement, we are happy to go to the people,” a confident Pradesh Congress Committee chief Saifuddin Soz told IANS.

The Congress, which had won 15 seats in the 2002 assembly elections in Jammu region, is struggling to maintain its position. Its cadres are not as excited because the Amarnath land row agitation has pushed them into a corner.

“The leaders may say anything, but the people want to know what role did we play in the Amarnath land row,” said Sharda Devi, a Congress party activist in Gangyal, an outlying area in Jammu. “It was our government that allotted and then cancelled the land allotment to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and now when our leaders say that we brought about a solution to the crisis, the people don’t trust us,” she said.

In contrast, the BJP is upbeat. The party leaders and cadres feel that they were the ones who led the agitation for the land and the voters will reward them. But the frictions and divisions within the party on caste lines, combined with the leaders of other sister groups like the Shiv Sena nursing their own political ambitions, are leading to problems.

Traders in Jammu are furious because it was state BJP president Ashok Khajuria’s call for an economic blockade that gave new life to separatists in the Valley, leading to the virtual snapping of trade connection between Jammu region and the Valley.

“The BJP has ruined our business. Outside the state, traders are demanding advance for everything we purchase and we don’t have any buyers in the Valley. We have lost both sides,” bemoaned Arvind Gupta, a cloth merchant who was once a staunch supporter of the party.

“I am not going to vote this time,” he says.

The mood among the people is for stabilising the economy and putting the house in order. The people are angry with the old faces of politicians.

“All of them are liars,” observed Vijay Dogra, a youth, angry that the basic issues of unemployment and fair representation to the people of Jammu are still hanging in balance.

The National Conference leaders have started holding rallies in the region. But the people are being mobilized on caste lines, angering party workers.

On Sunday when the Election Commission announced polls for Jammu and Kashmir, the three major political parties were holding rallies in different parts of Jammu region.

While the Congress and the BJP were holding women’s conventions, the National Conference was addressing a public meeting in the border town of Vijaypur, 30 km south of Jammu.

The state will have seven phased polls from Nov 17 to Dec 24.

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