PUNJAB: Around 10 to 12 per cent of the total 1.98 crore electors have exercised their franchise till 10:30 AM to seal the fate of 1,145 candidates in the high-stakes Punjab Assembly elections. “8 to 10 per cent polling has taken place till 10 AM,” an election office spokesman said here, adding that the polling was peaceful.
The polling started around 45 minutes late at two polling booths in Jalandhar and Amritsar due to technical glitch in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). The early voters included General J J Singh (Red) of SAD, Pargat Singh of Congress, Sucha Singh Chhotepur of Apna Punjab Party (APP), and Bhagwant Mann, Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi and Sukhpal SIngh Kahiara of AAP.
Congress candidate Ravneet Singh Bittu said AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal had joined hands with fundamentalists to fight the state polls. General (Retd) J J Singh said SAD-BJP will perform a hattrick and form the government. The polling for 117 Punjab assembly seats is taking place amid tight security.
Punjab is witnessing a three-cornered contest between ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance, opposition Congress and new entrant Aam Aadmi Party. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has fielded candidates in 94 seats, while its ally BJP has nominated candidates in the remaining 23 seats. Congress is contesting alone on all seats.
AAP, which is contesting the state polls for the first time, has fielded candidates in 112 seats, while its ally Lok Insaf Party, led by Ludhiana-based Bains brothers, has fielded nominees in five seats. Other political outfits in the fray include BSP, former AAP leader Sucha Singh Chhotepur-led Apna Punjab Party, the Left comprising CPI and CPI-M, and SAD-Amritsar.
Over 200 companies of paramilitary forces have been deputed for the fair conduct of polls. Voting for Amritsar Lok Sabha seat by-poll is also being held amid tight security arrangements. The total number of electors in the state is 1,98,79,069, including 93,75,546 females. There are 415 transgender voters.
The total number of candidates in the fray include 81 women and a transgender. The polling commenced at 22,615 polling stations in the entire state. While 84 Assembly seats are of general category, 34 are reserved. Key contestants who are in the fray include Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh (Patiala and Lambi seats), Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal (Lambi) and his son Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal (Jalalabad).
The other prominent candidates are Congress veteran and former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Lehragagga), Indian Youth Congress chief Raja Amarinder Singh Warring (Gidderbaha), Badal’s estranged nephew Manpreet Singh Badal, who is fighting on a Congress ticket from Bathinda Urban, and AAP MP Bhagwant Mann (Jalalabad).
Amritsar Lok Sabha seat fell vacant following the resignation of Amarinder Singh to protest the apex court verdict on Punjab’s river waters. The voter strength in Amritsar Lok Sabha is over 14 lakhs. Prominent among the candidates in fray for the Lok Sabha seat are BJP leader Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, who is up against Congress’ Gurjit Singh Aujla and Aam Aadmi Party’s Upkar Singh Sandhu.
The counting of votes for the state polls will take place on March 11.