Women throng ‘pink booths’ in Doda to cast their votes

JAMMU — Amid multi-tier security arrangements, ‘Nari Shakti’ (women power) was on display at the all-women staffed booths known as ‘pink booths’, in the Doda district of the Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency.

These ‘pink booths’ attracted more women voters, especially from the Muslim community.

More than 22 per cent of voters exercised their franchise in the first four hours of polling in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur parliamentary constituency despite torrential rains, election officials said.

As polling began this morning, a large number of women electors thronged the ‘pink booth’ set up at the Government Girls’ Higher Secondary School in the Doda town to exercise their right to franchise despite heavy rains. Queued up in long lines, they were happy to vote at the ‘pink booth’.

“We are very happy to vote for the first time at these all-women polling booths. There are very good facilities. We are enjoying voting,” said Arifa Begum, who cast her vote at the ‘pink booth’ in Doda.

She said this initiative has increased the number of women thronging this polling station. “We praise this initiative of the Election Commission,” she added.

Nineteen ‘pink booths’ have been established in the Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency. In these model all-women polling stations, all staffers, including police and security personnel, are women, officials said.

Sunita Devi, a first-time voter who cast her vote at the ‘pink booth’, said it looked like she had come to a place of festival as the booth was decorated. “Such an initiative will attract more women to the polling booths and will increase the turnout. It’s an innovative step to increase the female turnout,” she said.

Poll officials said there has been a rush for voting since morning. It seems the initiative has attracted more women voters this time, they said.

Polling began at 7 am in 2,637 polling stations across the constituency with over 16.23 lakh electors eligible to exercise their franchise. It is going on peacefully with no untoward incidents reported, officials said.

Voting will decide the fate of 12 candidates, including Union Minister Jitendra Singh, who is eyeing a third term after winning the seat for the BJP in 2014 and 2019.

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

Prominent among others in the fray include Congress leader and two-time former MP Choudhary Lal Singh and the DPAP’s G M Saroori, besides six independents.

More than 11,000 polling staff, including reserves, have been deployed while tight security arrangements have been made to ensure free and fair elections, officials said.

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. — (PTI)