As many as 49 polling booths in Leh district will have all women staff as all arrangements have been put in place to ensure free and fair polling in the Ladakh parliamentary constituency on Monday, officials said.
The Ladakh Lok Sabha seat is the largest in India in terms of area. But out of six parliamentary constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, it has the least number of polling stations, 559, for the lowest number of over 1.74 lakh voters.
The polling parties along with Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and Voter-verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines have been dispatched to their designated booths in the constituency which is spread over Leh and Kargil districts and having four assembly segments -- Kargil, Zanskar, Leh and Nubra, the officials said.
The polling in the constituency will decide the fate of four candidates, including Congress' Rigzin Spalbar and BJP's Jamyang Tsering Namgyal.
The other two are independents -- Congress rebel and former MLA Asgar Ali Karbalai and journalist-turned-politician Sajjad Hussain.
"This time Leh district will have 49 such polling stations which have purely female polling staff," District Election Officer (DEO), Leh, Avny Lavasa said as she gave a send off to the buses carrying 172 polling parties for different destinations.
Ms Lavasa said polling staff for rest of the 122 polling stations in the district has already been dispatched that include eight cut-off polling stations of Dipling, Skyumpatta, Skyumpatta Gongma, Jingchen, Lingshet, Kartse, Nyaraks and Yulchung. The polling staff has been sent through helicopters well in advance in these stations, she added.
Ms Lavasa said the district election authorities have taken every necessary measures such as working out a better communication plan, provision of reserved EVMs and VVPATs, issuing of extra batteries for machines and an improved transportation plan.
Besides, all the polling officials have been imparted comprehensive hands on training about the operating and functioning procedures of EVM and VVPAT, she said.
She also mentioned that every polling station across Leh district will have ample arrangement of Assured Minimum Facility for the overall convenience of the electorates. District Election Officer (DEO), Kargil, Baseer ul Haq Choudhary said all the polling parties for the 265 polling stations in the district have been dispatched.
The polling parties for the far flung areas of the district including Rangdum, Tashi Stongday and Pangbar were dispatched on Saturday, while the polling party for Itchu polling station was dispatched through IAF helicopters on the same day, he said.
Before departure for the polling stations, the polling personnel took part in the signature campaign "pledge to ensure free, fair, transparent and ethical elections".
The DEO while expressing satisfaction over the overall preparedness said all necessary arrangements have been put in place to ensure that the elections are conducted in a smooth, free, fair and ethical manner.
Mr Choudhary appealed to people to enthusiastically participate in the voting process and to cast their vote without any fear.
Thupstan Chhewang of the BJP had won the 2014 election from the constituency by a wafer-thin margin of 36 votes, defeating independent candidate Ghulam Raza and two others in the contest.
Mr Chhewang resigned from the BJP and the Lok Sabha last year, accusing the party of not fulfilling the promises made to the people of Ladakh during the elections five years ago.
Gaik polling station (Leh segment) and Washi polling station (Nubra segment) each have only seven registered voters eligible to cast their votes.
The highest number of voters -- 1,301 -- are eligible to exercise their franchise at Shynam polling station in Leh.
The highest polling station, Anlay Pho (Changthang), has been set up in Leh district at an altitude of 15,000 feet above the sea level.\
The booth is barely 50 metres from the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The polling in the constituency will begin at 7.00 am and end at 6.00 pm, the officials said.