Polling under way in Punjab (Lead)

January 30th, 2012 - 10:04 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Chandigarh, Jan 30 (IANS) Casting of votes started across 19,841 polling stations in Punjab’s 117 assembly seats at 8 a.m. Monday, Election Commission (EC) officials said here.

Despite the winter chill, some polling booths, especially in rural areas, saw people lined up for voting before the booths were officially opened. In most parts of the state, it was a bright and sunny day.

In Jalandhar, voters started queuing up around 7.30 a.m itself despite the cold.

In Badal village, the ancestral village of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, villagers started arriving at the polling station before 8 a.m.

Over 73,000 security personnel, including 200 companies of paramilitary forces, have been deployed to ensure smooth and peaceful polling.

The fate of 1,078 candidates, including 417 independents and 93 women, will be decided by the over 1.76 crore eligible voters.

The main contest is between the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance and the opposition Congress. A third front, Sanjha Morcha, has been formed recently and is led by former finance minister Manpreet Badal’s newly floated People’s Party of Punjab (PPP).

Five assembly constituencies — Patiala, Lambi, Bholath, Majithia and Jalalabad — have been declared hyper-sensitive while 33 constituencies have been declared sensitive by the EC.

The total number of voters in the state are 17,683,559 out of which 8,361,014 are women voters.

The highest number of candidates, 16 each, are in the Jalalabad, Ludhiana-east and Patiala rural seats. The lowest number of candidates, four, are in fray in the Attari seat in border area of Amritsar district.

Parkash Singh Badal is facing his toughest political test as he faces his own younger brother, Gurdas Badal, 81, of the PPP and cousin Maheshinder Singh Badal of the Congress in a bitter triangular contest.

Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh is seeking re-election from the Patiala Urban seat while Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the deputy chief minister, is seeking re-election from the Jalalabad seat in Faridkot district.

Other prominent leaders in the fray include PPP president Manpreet Badal (Gidderbaha and Maur), former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Congress, Lehragana seat) and Amarinder’s son Raninder Singh (Congress, Samana seat).

In the 2007 assembly polls, the Akali Dal had 49 legislators with alliance partner BJP winning another 19 seats (total tally 68). The Congress had 44 legislators while five seats were won by independents.

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