Udhampur-Doda seat to have a fierce contest

As no prominent candidate withdrew his nomination papers on Friday, the last day to “come out” of the fray, the prestigious Udhampur-Doda Lok Sabha seat is going to witness a fierce battle among candidates belonging to the “warrior clan”.
The main political players have chosen candidates from the Rajput community to turn this constituency into a “battlefield” for their nominees.

The BJP has repeated Union Minister Jitendra Singh on this constituency, while the Congress has fielded scion of the erstwhile Dogra dynasty Vikramaditya Singh. Veteran politician and BJP rebel leader Lal Singh is contesting the election as the candidate of the Dogra Swabhiman Sangthan and Panthers Party leader Harsh Dev Singh has joined the fray to make it more “fierce”.

Jitendra Singh had defeated Congress stalwart Ghulam Nabi Azad by a margin of nearly 60,000 votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. While the NC had announced to support the Congress candidate on this constituency, the PDP, as a goodwill gesture, has decided not to field any candidate to facilitate the victory of the Congress nominee.

Although the latest updated electoral roll is yet to be made public by the authorities, according to a rough estimate, Rajputs comprise nearly 27 per cent of nearly 15 lakh voters of this prestigious Lok Sabha constituency which was earlier represented thrice by veteran leader Karan Singh, son of Maharaja Hari Singh — the last ruler of the Dogra dynasty. This time Karan Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh is fighting the election as the Congress candidate from this constituency.

The seat is witnessing an “unusual” contest where members of one community would not only have to garner votes from their clan but have to woo other castes also. Although caste never played a role in this vast Lok Sabha segment, political groups are following each other in wooing Rajput votes.

Before 1996, the premier seat remained the citadel of the Congress. Spread from Lakahnpur to Paddar and Bani to Mahore, the segment has a mixed population of Hindus and Muslims. Among the Hindus, Rajputs are the dominant vote-bank. After militancy gained ground, the BJP managed to woo the community towards the party. It was the impact of the militancy that despite being an outsider, BJP’s Chaman Lal Gupta had won the seat for three successive terms.

It was in 2004 that the then Congress candidate Lal Singh had defeated BJP stalwart Gupta from this seat. In 2009, Lal Singh had retained this seat as Congress candidate.

Unusual fight for premier constituency

  • The main parties have chosen nominees from the Rajput community to turn this constituency into a “battlefield” for them
  • The seat is witnessing an “unusual” contest where members of one community would not only have to garner votes from their clan but have to woo other castes also
  • Though caste never played a role in this vast LS segment, parties are following each other in wooing Rajput votes