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Rains fail to deter voters as 65% polling recorded till 5 pm in Udhampur LS

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Jammu: An estimated 65 percent of the total 16.23 lakh registered voters cast their ballot by 5 pm on Friday in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections in Udhampur, officials said, as Jammu and Kashmir witnessed an incident-free polling in what was its first major electoral battle since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.

Voting began at 7 am at 2,637 polling stations across the constituency and was scheduled to end at 6 pm, they said, adding there are 12 candidates in the fray.

The voting percentage will go up, with officials saying that compiling data from some polling stations takes time.

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.

“An estimated 65.08 percent voters cast their ballots till 5 pm with one more hour still left in the polling which is going on smoothly. This is an approximate trend, as data from some polling stations takes time and this trend does not include data of postal ballot voting,” an official said.

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.

The officials said that until 5 pm, Kathua (SC) segment recorded a polling percentage 70.80, Udhampur East 69.96, Jasrota 68.65, Hiranagar 68.06, Udhampur West 67.33, Inderwal 66.90, Doda West 66.62, Chenani 66.33, Doda 65.78, Ramnagar (SC) 64.79, Ramban 64.76, Bilawar 64.51, Basohli 63.57, Kishtwar 62.51, Padder-Nagseni 60.81, Bhaderwah 60.85, Bani 60.65 and Banihal 56.62.

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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