Over 68% polling recorded in J&K’s Udhampur LS seat amid rains

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Jammu: An estimated 68 per cent of the total 16.23 lakh registered voters cast their ballot in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections in Udhampur, officials said, as Jammu and Kashmir witnessed incident-free polling in what was its first major electoral battle since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.

In 2019, Udhampur parliamentary constituency had recorded a total poll percentage of 70.22 per cent. Voting began at 7 am at 2,637 polling stations across the constituency, including 31 near the International Border, to decide the fate of 12 candidates and ended at 6 pm.

“The voting percentage was around 68.27 per cent. It is especially highlighted that due to weather latest updated reports are awaited from some of the Polling Stations, specially located in remote hilly areas of Kishtwar, Gandoh, Ramban and Dudu-Basantgarh, the polling percentage is likely to increase slightly,” the election office said in a statement shortly after midnight.

It said once all polling parties, especially in remote areas reach their respective district headquarters, the firm poll percentage will be known.

Union minister Jitendra Singh, who is eyeing a third term after winning the Udhampur seat for the BJP in 2014 and 2019, is up against Congress leader and former MP Choudhary Lal Singh and the DPAP’s G M Saroori, besides six independents.

This is the first major electoral battle in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 and the division of the erstwhile state into two Union territories in 2019.

Braving inclement weather in most parts of the constituency due to heavy rains and strong winds, early voters were seen heading for polling stations before the start of voting, the officials said, adding more than 11,000 polling staff, including reserves, have been deployed while security arrangements are foolproof to ensure free and fair elections.

As the weather conditions improved in most places around noon, long queues started forming outside polling stations in the constituency that encompasses an expansive area of 16,707 square kilometres.

It consists of 18 Assembly segments spanning five districts — Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Udhampur and Kathua. However, it started raining again in most parts of the constituency around 4.30 pm.

Giving district-wise breakup of the polling percentage, the election office said 67.75 per cent polling was recorded in Kishtwar, 66.42 per cent in Doda, 62.42 per cent in Ramban,70.76 per cent in Udhampur and 70.06 per cent in Kathua.

Lal Singh and Saroori were among those who cast their votes at their respective polling stations in Kathua and Kishtwar and expressed confidence in winning the seat.

“People are angry over the abrogation of Article 370 and downgrading of the erstwhile state into a Union territory…,” the Congress candidate said.

Union minister Jitendra Singh visited a polling station in Kathua to oversee the polling process. He expressed confidence in retaining the seat with a huge margin.

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 voters.

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 process.

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