11.07 lakh votes cast as Udhampur-Doda seat records 68.27 pc turnout in peaceful Phase-I polling

Women queue up at a Polling Station in Udhampur on Friday. More pics on page No 5. — Excelsior/K Kumar
Women queue up at a Polling Station in Udhampur on Friday. More pics on page No 5. — Excelsior/K Kumar

Fate of 12 candidates including Union Minister, ex MP, Minister sealed in EVMs
Kathua-SC segment tops in voting percentage, Banihal at bottom
Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Apr 19: Udhampur-Doda Parliamentary constituency today recorded 68.27 percent turnout with 11,07,821 electorates exercising their right to franchise from among a total of 16,23,195 as Kathua (SC) Assembly segment recorded highest 75.44 percent polling while Banihal accounted for lowest percentage of 58.78.

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There was an incident-free polling in first major electoral battle since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019. Only DDC and BDC elections were held post August 2019 decisions of the Central Government.
In 2019 elections, Udhampur seat had recorded 70.02 percent polling. However, throughout the day today, the constituency faced adverse weather conditions with rains and winds.

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As per the official figures, Kathua (SC) segment recorded a polling percentage of 75.44, Jasrota 73.68, Udhampur West 73.28, Udhampur East 73.26, Hiranagar 72.65, Padder Nagseni 70.06, Chenani 69.47, Doda West 69.36, Inderwal 68.99, Doda 68.14, Ramban 66.71, Ramnagar (SC) 66.61, Billawar 66.28, Kishtwar 65.44, Basohli 64.91, Bhaderwah 63.01, Bani 62.70 and Banihal 58.78.
District wise Udhampur registered 70.76 percent turnout followed by Kathua with 70.06 percent, Kishtwar 67.75 percent, Doda 66.42 percent and Ramban 62.42 percent.
An official statement tonight said due to weather conditions, latest updates were awaited from some of the Polling Stations especially in remote areas of Kishtwar, Gandoh, Ramban and Dudu-Basantgarh. The polling percentage is likely to increase slightly.
“Your vote is your voice and its plays a pivotal role in determining the direction of governance and development in the region,” CEO J&K PK Pole said after successful conclusion of Phase-I polling.
Fate of 12 candidates including Union Minister and BJP candidate Dr Jitendra Singh, Choudhary Lal Singh (Congress), former MP, Ghulam Mohammad Saroori (DPAP), former Minister and Amit Kumar Bhagat (BSP) was sealed in the EVMs which will be opened now on June 4. Dr Jitendra Singh is seeking third consecutive term from the constituency.
Officials, both in the civil and police administration, told the Excelsior that polling in all five districts including Kathua, Udhampur, Ramban, Kishtwar and Doda, which formed part of Udhampur-Doda Parliamentary constituency, remained peaceful.
“No untoward incident was reported from any part of Lok Sabha seat,” they said.
Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Jammu Kashmir Police (JKP) had been deployed in large strength in the Parliamentary constituency to ensure peaceful polling. Once infested by militancy, Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar districts also recorded entirely peaceful voting at all places.
There was no fear of militants among the voters even in remotest areas of erstwhile Doda district as militancy has by and large ended with very few militants and Over Ground Workers (OGWs) now surviving. Moreover, the paramilitary forces and police had been deployed in adequate numbers at all the Polling Stations well ahead of the voting day to boost morale of the people.
“Even when there was fear of militants 10-15 years back, we used to cast votes. Now when the Doda region is almost free of militancy, there is no fear among the people and we turn in large numbers to queue up,” said a number of voters to whom the Excelsior spoke on telephone in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban districts.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) PK Pole said 114 Special Polling Stations had been established in Udhampur Parliamentary constituency.
“These Polling Stations underscored our unwavering dedication to fostering inclusivity and sustainability in the electoral process,” Pole said, adding the ECI believes that every citizen should have equal access to exercise their democratic right and these Polling Stations represent a significant step towards achieving that goal.
The innovative Polling Stations include women, youth and PwDs manned, Green, Border and Unique. They were designed specifically to cater to women, youth PwDs, promote eco-friendly practices and cater to the voters of different kind in the region.
Voting began on brisk note at 7 am at almost all 2,637 polling stations across the constituency notwithstanding the adverse weather conditions in most of the areas including plains as well as upper reaches.

However, people braved rains and queue up to cast their votes. At some of the Polling Stations, tents had been erected to save people from rains. As rains subsided, the queues increased during the day to cast their votes.
Roads including the interior ones especially in Doda, Ramban and Kishtwar districts remained open despite heavy rains in some of the areas and people could be seen trekking to reach to the Polling Stations.
At some of the areas, the people waited for rains to stop but when it didn’t, they reached the Polling Stations braving the rainfall and queued up before 5 PM to cast votes.
This is the first major electoral battle in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile State into two Union territories in 2019.
Few minor issues at some Polling Stations were resolved immediately.
More than 11,000 polling staff, including reserves, had been deployed while security arrangements were foolproof to ensure free and fair elections.
The constituency encompassed an expansive area of 16,707 square kilometres. It consists of 18 Assembly segments spanning five districts — Kishtwar, Doda, Ramban, Udhampur and Kathua.
Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh visited a Polling Station in Kathua to oversee the polling process. He expressed confidence in retaining the seat with a huge margin.
Lal Singh and Ghulam Mohammad Saroori were among those who cast their votes at their respective Polling Stations in Kathua and Kishtwar and expressed confidence in winning the seat.
Returning Officer of the Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency Rakesh Minhas, Deputy Commissioner Kathua, also exercised his franchise after standing in a queue and waiting for his turn at a polling station in Kathua district.
Minhas, who originally hails from Punjab, came to a polling station set up at the Irrigation Department in Kathua town and exercised his franchise after waiting in a queue for his turn.
Minhas and his wife Saloni Rai, both 2016 batch IAS officers, were deputed to Jammu and Kashmir from Daman and Diu in August 2022, and they were later posted as Deputy Commissioners of Kathua and Udhampur districts.
“We should not be careless about our democratic rights. Even if there is a queue, it takes only 15 to 20 minutes to cast your vote,” Minhas told reporters.
According to the officials, a total of 1,472 Polling Stations out of 2,637 had been equipped with webcasting facilities in the constituency having a diverse electorate comprising 16,23,195 voters.
There were a total of 84,468 potential first-time voters, aged 18-19 years, of which 45,825 were men, 38,641 were women and two third genders.
The constituency also had 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.