Even as the BJP is pulling out all the stops to repeat 2014 in Jammu and Kashmir, especially in Dogra-dominated Jammu, the party is facing uphill struggle to appease the voters, who seem to be indifferent to the electoral baits of the right-wing party. To add, another party has come into the fray to give BJP a neck-to-neck competition. Former BJP leader, Lal Singh, who was known for his infamous role in the Kathua rape case, is contesting from Jammu-Poonch parliamentary seat from Dogra Swambhiman Sanghthan (DSS). Despite BJP engaging in talks with Singh, the latter has refused to withdraw his nomination papers, for which deadline was March 28.
The said constituency is set to go to the polls in the first phase of elections on April 11. This has created a split in the Dogra votes. Lal Singh has also filed nomination from Udhampur-Doda parliamentary, representing DSS. Recently, while addressing the party workers, Singh urged them to “work hard to unfurl the Dogra flag for the first time in the Parliament”. He had further bought the Kathua rape-murder case to the fore by saying, “We have to work very hard to bring justice to the Jammu province. The people of Jammu are struggling for a CBI inquiry for the last one year, and the both the governments, at the state and the Centre are dumb and deaf to the people of Jammu. The nationalist voices of Jammu are choked for the appeasement of the Kashmiri people.”
The decision of DSS to pitch Singh as their candidate for two parliamentary seats is seen as an attempt to trigger a sentiment of nationalistic fervour against Kashmir. However, many are smelling the dead rat as they think Lal Singh can be the “proxy candidate” of the BJP. A local, wishing anonymity, said, “You never know what BJP is up with. I am not sure, but it seems that Singh is the proxy candidate of the BJP. Dogras are not very happy with the BJP. So, Lal Singh can compensate for that with hidden aid from the BJP. Don’t tag me, but they seem to be hand-in-gloves.”
However, political commentators see this invoking Dogra pride as a sign of “danger” in the already polarised Jammu region. “It can further divide the state, and can lead to situations as we saw in the aftermath of Pulwama attack,” said a political commentator. Meanwhile, as Lal Singh is luring voters by triggering demographic and religion anxieties, there are chances that Dogra votes might split and go in the favour of DSS.
Also read: BJP Minister Lal Singh Repeats Kathua March in Jammu For Release of Rape Accused