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J&K: Amid ceasefire, peaceful voting expected in Udhampur LS seat

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JAMMU, April 18: In view of the ongoing ceasefire between India and Pakistan and the heavy deployment of paramilitary forces, the voting process is expected to be peaceful in 2,637 polling stations in the Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency, a senior election official said.

The seat in Jammu and Kashmir will go to polls on Friday in the first phase of the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections.

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“Out of the 2,637 polling stations (in Udhampur), 31 are located along the International Border in Kathua district. Necessary arrangements have been made to ensure peaceful polling,” Jammu and Kashmir Chief Electoral Officer Pandurang K Pole said.

“Because a ceasefire is holding (between India and Pakistan since February 2021) without any major ceasefire violations, the polling is expected to be peaceful,” Pole told PTI

“All arrangements are in place for free, fair and peaceful voting tomorrow (Friday). The security measures are foolproof with adequate deployment of police and CAPF personnel,” Returning officer for Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency Rakesh Minhas told PTI.

“The polling staff along with election logistics and material has either reached their destinations or are on their way to reach the polling stations by this evening,” Minas said.

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The polling will start at its scheduled time at 7 am Friday and conclude at 6 pm, Pole said, adding a mock exercise will be held before the actual start of the polling in the presence of agents of the contesting political parties.

Union Minister Jitendra Singh is eyeing a third consecutive term in the constituency after winning the seat for BJP in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, facing a major challenge from Congress candidate Choudhary Lal Singh, who had also won the seat twice in 2004 and 2009.

Democratic Progressive Azad Party’s (DPAP) candidate G M Saroori, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Amit Kumar and six independents will also be contesting in the elections from the Udhampur constituency.

The weatherman has predicted generally cloudy with light to moderate rain (light snow over higher reaches) at most places with thunder and lightning from Thursday till Friday night, indicating temporary disruption of surface transportation in a few higher reaches.

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When asked about the weather inclement, Pole said the people of the hilly districts are mostly ‘rough and tough’ and are expected to reach the polling stations set up in their villages without any trouble.

“The people residing in areas like Bani-Billawar in Kathua, Ramnagar in Udhampur, Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar are physically strong and habitual to bad weather, snowfall and rough terrain,” he said.

“Road Opening Parties are being deployed (to clear snow or landslide debris) to facilitate smooth movement while waiting halls are ready to ensure that the voters are not forced to stand in queues in wet weather,” Minhas added.

Pole said the high-level command and control centre was set up at his office in Jammu by the directions of the Election Commission.

“Through this centre, we will get live camera feed from both smart cities and police control rooms (Jammu and Srinagar), toll plazas of NHAI (National Highway Authority of India) and specially set up checkpoints.

“On poll day, 55 per cent polling stations having webcasting facilities will provide us live feed and we will monitor and see whether there is a need for any corrective measures or any violation is taking place,” he said.

Of the 2,637 polling stations, 2457 are in rural areas and 180 in urban areas. The highest 701 polling stations are in Kathua, 654 in Udhampur, 529 in Doda, 405 in Kishtwar and 348 in Ramban.

He said electronic news channels and social media platforms are also being monitored from the centre to issue notices for necessary action in case any objectionable feed violates the model code of conduct.

According to officials, there are 16,23,195 eligible voters. Among them 845,283  are men, 777,899 are women and 13 are third gender 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 sizeable elderly population, with 12,020 men and 13,612 women aged 80 and above, totalling 25,632 seasoned voters contributing to the electoral discourse.

Of notable mention is the inclusion of 23,637 Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) within the electoral roll, encompassing 14,362 males and 9,275 females.

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. (PTI)

 

 

 

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