Over 78 lakh voters, including nearly 38 lakh women, would decide the fate of dozens of candidates from the six Lok Sabha seats in Jammu and Kashmir, which are going to polls in the five-phased election beginning Thursday. They include over 4.25 lakh new voters and 159 transgenders, State Chief Electoral Officer Shailendra Kumar told PTI. He added that 47,216 are PWD (people with disabilities) voters and 1,433 VIP voters.

Kumar said a total of 11,316 polling stations – 5,450 in Jammu region, 5,307 in the Kashmir Valley and 559 in Ladakh – would be set up to enable 78,42979 electorates, including 37,75,227 women, and 159 transgenders to exercise their franchise.

Among the new voters who were inducted into the final list within a short period of three months beginning December 2018, over 2.60 lakh are in the age group of 18-21 years, the officer said.

“This was the biggest exercise undertaken successfully by the state election commission. The final list was published in February this year,” he said.

Kumar said the ten districts of the Kashmir Valley accounted for the highest number of 39,99,959 voters, including 19,36,220 women, and 92 transgenders.

The Jammu region with equal districts have 36,71,197 electorate, including 17,53,939 women, and 63 transgenders, he said.

Ladakh region, comprising of Leh and Kargil districts, which is going to polls in the last phase on May 6, has the lowest number of 1,71,819 electorate, including 85,064, women, and three transgenders, Kumar said.

He said the Jammu parliamentary seat, which along with Baramulla constituency in north Kashmir, is going to polls in the first phase on April 11, has the highest number of 20,05,730 lakh voters, including 9,64,834 women, and 20 transgenders.

Interestingly, the highest number candidates — 24 — are in the fray from the Jammu Lok Sabha seat covering the four districts of Jammu, Samba, Poonch and Rajouri.

The BJP has fielded incumbent MP Jugal Kishore from the constituency after winning the seat in the last elections by a margin of over 2.57 lakh votes.

This time, however, a tough contest is on the cards from the constituency with the National Conference extending support to the Congress candidate and former minister, Raman Bhalla. The PDP has decided not to field candidates from Jammu and Udhampur constituencies to ensure that the secular votes are not divided.

Udhampur constituency, spread over six districts of Udhampur, Kathua, Reasi, Ramban, Kishtwar and Doda, has a total voter strength of 16,65,467, including 78,9105 women, and the highest number of 43 transgenders, Kumar said.

Udhampur is going to polls in the second phase along with Srinagar constituency on April 18.

Union minister Jitendra Singh is seeking re-election from the Udhampur seat and is locked in a 12-cornered contest with his formidable opponents, including Congress candidate and scion of Dogra dynasty Vikramadatiya Singh, former BJP minister and founder of Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan Lal Singh and National Panthers Party chairman Harsh Dev Singh.

Srinagar parliamentary constituency, covering the central Kashmir districts of Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam, have the lowest number of 12,94,560 voters in the Valley, including 6,27,282 women, and 26 belonging to the third gender, the officer said.

National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, who wrested the seat from the Peoples Democratic Party in the by-election held amid large scale violence and low voter turnout in April 2017, is again contesting from the Srinagar parliamentary seat.

Abdullah, who is being supported by the Congress, is facing challenges from 11 other candidates from the seat.

Kumar said there are 13,93,251 electorate, including 6,72,879 women, and 35 transgenders registered in Anantnag parliamentary constituency, which is spread over south Kashmir districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama and given the challenging security situation, the seat is going to polls in three phases on April 23, 29 and May 6.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti had won the seat in 2014 elections but the constituency fell vacant after she became the first women chief minister of the state in April 2016.

However, the by-election to the constituency was cancelled a day before the polls in 2017 and could not be held during the previous PDP-BJP government which collapsed after the national party withdrew support to the regional party in June last year.

Mehbooba is trying her luck from the seat again and is facing a challenge from 17 other candidates who included state Congress chief G A Mir.

Mir has a considerable support base in south Kashmir.

Monday is the last date for the withdrawal of the candidature form the constituency.

The Chief Electoral Officer said Baramulla parliamentary constituency, covering north Kashmir districts of Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara, has a total of 13,12,148 electors, including 6,36,059 women, and 31 transgenders.

The Baramulla seat was won by the PDP in the last elections. This time its candidate Abdul Qayoom Wani, a new face, is facing eight other candidates who have jumped into the fray.

The formidable among the contestants include veteran National Conference leader Mohammad Akbar Lone, former MLA Sheikh Abdul Rashid and Peoples Conference’s Raja Ajaz Ali.

Kumar said the voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) would be used for all the polling stations and the commission have so far covered 50 lakh voters across 6,500 villages about the functioning of the machine.