Altaf Ahmad and Enayatullah of Kundrorian, imam and president of the only mosque in the holy township that serves as base camp for over ten million Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrims every year, waited for their turn at Polling Station 105 on Thursday. Like each of the 500 Muslim voters in the town of nearly 5,000 Hindu voters, they did not hesitate to reveal who they favoured: “None other than [Congress candidate] Ghulam Nabi Azad”.
The preference of Altaf and Enayatullah was corroborated by Sham Lal and Ram Krishen, who also said that while the entire Muslim vote was likely to favour Mr. Azad, the Hindu vote was likely to be divided.
A little away at Panthal, Zalim Singh, a tea-seller and regular voter, said, “Katra is more or less divided on the lines of the 2008 Assembly elections. BJP is getting its share of votes plus 10 to 20 percent due to the Modi factor. But, there’s little impact of the Modi wave here. That’s limited to big towns like Jammu and Udhampur.” He went on to add that the ruling National Conference and Congress had retained their traditional Hindu vote in most of the villages in Reasi — one of the 17 Assembly segments of Udhampur-Doda seat, spread over six districts in Jammu province.
Even as a few voters like Des Raj and Shanti Devi believed that the BJP was getting 80% of the vote, others maintained that it was evenly split between the BJP and the Congress candidates. “We are indeed religious, but not communal. We vote for the BJP but don’t mind if many of the Hindus are voting for Azad Sahab and the Muslim vote is going to him en bloc. We have the best of communal harmony here,” Mr. Des Raj said.Sehrish (21) was among 200-odd nursing trainees and students who came home from Jammu to exercise their franchise in Kishtwar and Bhaderwah, 200 km away. She confirmed: “We have the best of relations here”.