LS polls: Voting begins in Udhampur in first phase of elections in J&K

JAMMU — Voting started in the first phase of general elections in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur parliamentary constituency on Friday with over 16.23 lakh electorate eligible to exercise their franchise.

The polling began at 7 am in all 2,637 polling stations across the constituency despite pouring rain and will decide the fate of 12 candidates, including Union Minister Jitendra Singh who is eyeing a third term after winning the seat for BJP in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

This is the first major electoral battle after the abrogation of Article 370 and the bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019.

Prominent among others in the fray include Congress leader and two-time former Member of Parliament Choudhary Lal Singh and DPAP’s G M Saroori besides Six independents.

Braving inclement weather, the early morning voters were seen heading for the polling stations before the start of the voting, officials said, adding more than 11,000 polling staff, including reserve, have been deployed while security arrangements are foolproof to ensure free and fair elections.

Udhampur encompasses an expansive area of 16,707 square kilometres. It consists of 18 assembly segments spanning across five districts — Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Udhampur and Kathua.

The constituency, which was reshaped with three assembly constituencies of Reasi district carved out on the recommendations of the delimitation commission in 2022, had recorded 70.2 per cent polling in Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

According to the office of the Chief Electoral Officer, a total of 1,472 polling stations, out of 2,637, have been equipped with webcasting facilities in the constituency having a diverse electorate comprising 16,23,195 eligible voters.

Among them 845,283 are men, 777,899 are women and 13 are third gender voters. Of the 2,637 polling stations, 2,457 are in rural areas and 180 in urban areas. The highest 701 polling stations are in Kathua, 654 in Udhampur, 529 in Doda, 405 in Kishtwar and 348 in Ramban.

Of notable mention is the inclusion of 23,637 Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) within the electoral roll, encompassing 14,362 males and 9,275 females besides 403 persons above 100 years of age who have been enrolled to participate in the electoral process.

There are a total of 84,468 potential first-time voters, aged 18-19 years, of which 45,825 are men, 38,641 are women and two are third genders, the officials said.

They said the constituency also has a sizable elderly population, with 12,020 men and 13,612 women aged 80 and above, totalling 25,632 seasoned voters contributing to the electoral discourse. — (PTI)