16.23 lakh electorates to decide fate of Union Minister, ex MP, Minister

A polling party being airlifted to a hilly area in Kishtwar district on Wednesday.
A polling party being airlifted to a hilly area in Kishtwar district on Wednesday.

High voltage campaign ends in Udhampur seat

1472 PSs equipped with webcasting facilities

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Apr 17: About 16.23 lakh electorates will decide the fate of 12 candidates including Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh (BJP), Choudhary Lal Singh (Congress) and Ghulam Mohammad Saroori (DPAP) in Udhampur-Doda Parliamentary constituency which goes to votes in first phase of elections on April 19 where campaigning ended this evening.
This will be the first major electoral battle in Jammu and Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of erstwhile State into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh on August 5, 2019. Since then only District Development Council (DDC) and BDC elections have been held in the UT.
While Dr Jitendra Singh is seeking third consecutive term from the seat having won it in 2014 and 2019, Lal Singh is also seeking third term as he was elected Lok Sabha member from the constituency in 2004 and 2009. Saroori remained MLA from Inderwal for three terms in 2002, 2008 and 2014 and also served as the Minister. This is, however, his first attempt to enter the Parliament. BSP candidate Amit Kumar Bhagat is among the notable candidates.

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Udhampur-Doda Parliamentary constituency is spread over 18 Assembly segments with Kathua district accounting for maximum six seats, Udhampur four, Kishtwar and Doda districts three each and Ramban two.
Reasi district with four Assembly constituencies which was earlier part of Udhampur-Doda seat has been excluded from the segment and is now part of Jammu constituency. This was done after delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies.
A total of 1,472 polling stations out of 2,637 will be equipped with webcasting facilities in Udhampur Parliamentary constituency. The constituency had recorded 70.2 per cent polling in the 2019 elections.
To facilitate seamless voting, a total of 2,637 Polling Stations — 2,457 in rural areas and 180 in urban areas — have been set up across the constituency, including 701 in Kathua, 654 in Udhampur, 529 in Doda, 405 in Kishtwar and 348 in Ramban.
Adequate security arrangements are in place in the entire constituency especially erstwhile Doda region with deployment of additional Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) who have been conducting regular patrolling, flag marches and keeping surveillance on anti-national and anti-social elements.
Polling staff along with EVMs have been dispatched to hilly areas of Kishtwar and Bani. At some of the places, men and machinery have been airlifted. Security personnel have already been deployed at all vulnerable areas to sanitize Polling Stations and surrounding areas to boost morale of the people and ensure good turnout.
The IAF and Army airlifted more polling parties and police personnel at Machail, Padder and Nagseni in Kishtwar district today.
Though there has been no terror incident in erstwhile Doda district for past quite some time, the authorities are not taking any chance and have deployed paramilitary forces and police in good numbers to keep the polling violence-free.
Spread over 16,707 square kilometers, Udhampur-Doda Parliamentary constituency has 16,23,195 electorates including 8,45,283 male, 7,77,899 female and 13 third genders.
Kathua district has highest number of 5,03,227 voters followed by Udhampur district which has 4,19,854 electorates. Doda district has 3,05,093 voters, Ramban 2,19,124 electorates and Kishtwar 1,75,897.
BJP tasted victory for the first time in Udhampur-Doda constituency in 1996 when party stalwart late Prof Chaman Lal Gupta won the seat and then went on to score hat-trick winning it again in 1998 and 1999 Parliamentary polls. However, Choudhary Lal Singh brought the Congress back to victory in 2004 and then again won the seat in 2009.
BJP leader Dr Jitendra Singh registered one of the major upsets in electoral history of Jammu and Kashmir by defeating former Chief Minister and Union Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad (then Congress, now DPAP) in 2014 and retained the seat in 2019. Dr Jitendra Singh is seeking third consecutive term while Choudhary Lal Singh is also in the race to retain his lost glory. Ghulam Mohammad Saroori has also strong pockets of influence in the Doda region having been elected as MLA thrice from Inderwal in Kishtwar district.
Meanwhile, the high-voltage electioneering came to an end in the seat this evening.
“No untoward incident was reported during the campaigning by the candidates of political parties and Independents. The electioneering ended this evening (at 6 pm) and the advance parties of the security and polling staff along with election logistics and materials have been dispatched to the remote pockets including snow-bound areas to ensure free and fair polling,” an official said.
After Udhampur, Jammu Parliamentary constituency will go to polls on April 26 followed by Anantnag-Rajouri constituency on May 7, Srinagar on May 13 and Baramulla on May 20. The counting of votes will be held on June 4.
The contestants, especially the BJP, the Congress and the DPAP, left no stone unturned to woo the voters, bringing back the focus on Article 370 that provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir and which was abrogated by the BJP-led Central Government in August 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who reached Udhampur on April 12 and took the campaigning to its crescendo, reassured the people about holding of Assembly elections and restoration of Statehood.
The BJP, which also brought a galaxy of high-profile leaders, including Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Union Minister Anurag Thakur, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and national spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, to the constituency, boasted about the restoration of peace by ending Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, stone-pelting and frequent strikes besides ensuring record-breaking tourist arrivals and massive development.

The campaigning by the Congress, on the other hand, saw their star campaigners, including actor-turned politician Raj Babbar, former Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan Sachin Pilot and chairman of Minority Department AICC Imran Pratapgarhi, addressing a series of rallies in the constituency to bolster the chances of their candidate.
The National Conference (NC), which is a part of the Congress-led INDIA bloc, also hit the campaign trail in support of Lal Singh. Its president Dr Farooq Abdullah and vice president Omar Abdullah, both former Chief Ministers, undertook a whirlwind tour of erstwhile Doda district.
However, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which is also part of the INDIA bloc, was missing from the scene as it fielded candidates on three seats from Kashmir after it was sidelined in the seat-sharing agreement on the six seats of J-K and Ladakh.
DPAP chairman and former Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad also addressed a series of public meetings to garner support for Saroori and targeted both the NC and the Congress for ignoring the Doda region over the past six decades and also launched attacks on the NC leadership, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Pradesh Congress Committee president Vikar Rasool Wani.
On the last day of campaigning, the contestants made a last ditch effort to reach out to the voters. Dr Jitendra Singh carried out door-to-door campaigning and held rallies in Kathua. Lal Singh, accompanied by Wani and Pratapgarhi, visited Ramban and Saroori was seen canvassing in Kishtwar.
Meanwhile, the concerned District Election Officers ordered prohibition of campaigning by means of electronic media, restriction on outsider political functionaries use of loudspeakers.
At least 23,637 Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) have been included within the electoral roll, encompassing 14,362 males and 9,275 females in Udhampur constituency.
Among the young voters, aged 18-19 years, 45,825 are males, 38,641 females and two transgenders, totalling 84,468 potential first-time voters.
The constituency boasts of a considerable elderly population with 12,020 male voters and 13,612 female voters aged above 80 years, totalling 25,632 seasoned voters contributing to the electoral discourse.
In line with the commitment towards fair and transparent elections, the ECI has deployed 3,658 ballot units, 3,570 control units, and 3,636 VVPATs (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the electoral process.