As Udhampur LS seat sees enthusiastic participation, voters want state polls before Sep 30 deadline

Jammu, Apr 19 (PTI) In the first major electoral battle in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, the Udhampur constituency witnessed enthusiastic voters’ participation as the seven-phase Lok Sabha polls began Friday. The electors said they now want assembly polls to be held before the September 30 deadline set by the Supreme Court.

The Udhampur constituency recorded more than 65.08 percent voting till 5 pm, with officials saying the final turnout figures would be higher as data from remote locations and ballot papers are compiled.

“People voted with enthusiasm despite pouring rain. And you will see the enthusiasm reaching its crescendo during the much-awaited assembly elections,” said Satosh Bandari, a voter from the Inderwal constituency of Kishtwar, appealing to the Election Commission to announce assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir after the completion of Lok Sabha elections.

“We voted for development, security, and for employment generation. These issues will also reverberate during assembly polls.”

The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is presently run by the Lt Governor-led administration after the PDP-BJP government collapsed in June, 2018 with the national party pulling out of the alliance. The last assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir were held in 2014.

While the voters mostly talked about the issues related to their rights, development and national agenda, they also listed out certain demands: restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir, holding of assembly elections, as well as Urban Local Bodies and Panchayat polls after the completion of Lok Sabha elections.

Addressing an election rally in Udhampur on April 12 in support of Union minister and BJP candidate Jitendra Singh, who is seeking a third straight term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the people of the restoration of statehood and holding of assembly elections.

“The time is not far when the Assembly polls will be held in Jammu and Kashmir, which will also get its statehood back. You will again raise your issues with your legislators and ministers,” Modi had said.

Singh, who had won the seat for the BJP in 2014 and 2019 elections, is facing a major challenge from two-time former MP and J&K minister Choudhary Lal Singh. DPAP candidate and former J-K minister G M Saroori’s presence has made the contest a triangular one. There are nine other candidates including six Independents in the fray.

“Assembly elections are imperative to form a popular government so that people can raise their issues with their representatives rather than going around government offices. Today, we have exercised our democratic right for the formation of central government and we are hopeful that the assembly elections, urban local bodies and Panchayat elections will be held in the coming months,” Surjeet Singh, a resident of Chak Sheikhan village in Govindsar panchayat of Kathua, said.

The Udhampur constituency is spread across five districts – Kathua, Udhampur, Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar — and according to officials it recorded more than 65.08 percent voting till 5 pm. The final voter turnout was awaited.

Another voter, Manjeet, said there are many issues awaiting redress in their village but “nobody is listening” to them.

“We have demanded repair of drains and road construction but our pleas are falling on deaf ears,” she said. “I have voted for development of our area and strengthening of democracy.”

Sanjeev Kumar of Udhampur said the people are hopeful of getting a chance to elect their own government given the assurance by the Prime Minister and Home Minister Amit Shah.

Shah, addressing an election rally in Jammu on April 16 said assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir will be held according to the dateline set by the Supreme Court (September 30) and “nobody should have any doubt on this”.