‘Pink booths’, newlyweds, first-timers spur Udhampur voter turnout to cross 65%

Equally enthusiastic were first-time voters and persons with disability who were aided by specially-designed polling booths with ramps and wheelchairs

April 20, 2024 03:00 am | Updated 07:05 am IST - SRINAGAR/JAMMU

A newly-married couple show their inked fingers after casting their votes during voting for the Lok Sabha election in Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir on Friday.

A newly-married couple show their inked fingers after casting their votes during voting for the Lok Sabha election in Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir on Friday. | Photo Credit: ANI

The Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency in Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a massive participation of voters from all sections of society on Friday as it recorded 65.08% voter turnout by 5 p.m., election officials said.

This is the first parliamentary election since the Centre split the erstwhile State into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, and scrapped its special constitutional position in 2019.

Udhampur parliamentary seat consists of five districts and 18 Assembly segments.

The highlight of the polling was about seeing scores of newlyweds appearing in shimmering clothes to the polling booths and posing for selfies. Equally enthusiastic were first-time voters and Persons with Disability (PwD), whose movements were aided by specially-designed polling booths with ramps and wheelchairs.

Rakesh Thakur and Shardha Devi from Bunjwah in Kishtwar district came to cast votes on their wedding day. “It’s an honour to participate in the polling and elect the one who could become our voice in the Parliament,” the couple said.

Decked up in pink colour, balloons and colourful umbrellas, over 19 ‘pink polling’ booths also spurred “free and safe” participation of women in elections. Humeera Nazir, 36, from Banihal, was the first female voter at Polling Station No. 34 and she voted for a candidate “who could work for emancipation of women in J&K”.

Out of the total 16.23 lakh voters in Udhampur, 7.77 lakh are female voters. As many as 84,468 people are in the 18-19 years category, including 45,825 male and 38,641 female voters.

An excited bunch of first-time voters voiced out that they preferred governance over ideological issues. “It’s the first time I have come to vote. My vote is for good governance, prosperity and progress,” Junaid Rathore, a resident of Banihal, said.

Of the 18 Assembly segments that witnessed voting in Udhampur constituency, Kathua recorded the highest at 70.8% voter turnout. It is the hometown of Congress candidate Chaudhary Lal Singh. The hometown of BJP candidate Jitendra Singh, considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, registered 67.33% in Udhampur West and 69.96% in Udhampur East.

The Muslim-majority Assembly segments of Banihal saw 56.62%, Bhaderwah 60.85%, Doda 65.78%, Doda West 66.62%, Kishtwar 62.51% and Ramban 64.76%. The fate of the Congress candidate, who is also supported by the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), depends on these segments. Voters in these areas came out despite wet weather both in the plains as well as in the upper reaches.

There are 12 candidates in the fray. However, the main contest is between the candidates of the BJP and the Congress. Former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad’s newly-floated Democratic Progressive Azad Party (DPAP) has also fielded a candidate in its maiden run in the polls.

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