Jammu: In a big jolt to the Congress struggling for relevance in Jammu and Kashmir, four councillors, who had won on Congress tickets in the Kathua Municipal Council election, have joined the BJP.

The followers of four councillors headed by senior Congress leader Naresh Kumar — along with two independent councillors — recently joined the BJP in the presence of state president Ravinder Raina.

Speaking on the issue, Kumar accused the Congress of playing politics with party workers. With these Congress councillors joining BJP, the border district of Kathua has now become “Congress-mukt” (free of Congress), he said.

Significantly, the BJP now controls all six local bodies in the Kathua region. 

Before this, the BJP and independents had won 16 wards in the civic polls. With the addition of wards that had gone to the Congress, the BJP has attained the two-thirds majority in the municipality — crucial for decision-making processes.

Speaking to MyNation, BJP state president Ravinder Raina said, “They were feeling suffocated in the Congress as that party is struggling to find its base in the Jammu region as well. These councillors have won because of their own credibility and now they have joined the BJP."

The Lakhanpur area, which witnessed a brutal rape and murder case early this year, is represented by a BJP-backed Muslim Gujjar. This casts doubt on the media narrative that Muslims of the region have gone against BJP.

Political analysts attribute this orientation of the Muslim community to the region’s demography. A majority (70%) of the population comprises the youth. In adjoining Hiranagar, BJP got the mandate with a majority in the municipal council in the recent civic polls held in Jammu and Kashmir.

Union minister and BJP MP Jitendra Singh represents the Lok Sabha constituency in which Kathua falls. The district has seen several development projects including 12 bridges for connectivity, a cable-stayed bridge, a medical college, an engineering college and a biotech park.

Terming this to be a big win for the BJP, Singh said, "This is a reaffirmation of the support of the people to the policies of the Narendra Modi-led government in building a new India where there is all-round development and aspirations of our youth are met."

"This is also a stamp of approval for the various local development works we have undertaken in the last four years. The people have rejected the communal and divisive politics of the Congress and its affiliates, which tried to portray the people of the region in poor light not just in the country but also internationally.”, the Union minister said.