Over 10 pc polling recorded in first 2 hours in Udhampur LS seat

Jammu : Over 10 per cent of voters exercised their franchise in the first two hours of polling in the first phase of the Lok Sabha election in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur parliamentary constituency despite torrential rains, election officials said.

Polling began at 7 am in 2,637 polling stations across the constituency and is going on peacefully with no untoward incident reported, they 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 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 the DPAP’s G M Saroori besides Six independents.

Braving inclement weather, early voters were seen heading for polling stations before the start of voting, the 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.

The officials said Padder-nagseni and Inderwal recorded 13.84 per cent and 13.73 per cent voting, respectively till 9 am followed by Kathua (12.33 per cent), Udhampur East (11.93 per cent), Kishtwar (11.88 per cent), Ramnagar (11.31 per cent), Billawar (11.04 per cent), Hiranagar (10.70 per cent), Jasrota (10.67 per cent), Doda west (10.75 per cent), Doda (9.97 per cent), Ramban (9.71 per cent) and Udhampur West (9.08 per cent).

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.

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.

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.