Chandigarh: Punjab began voting to elect representatives for all the 117 Assembly constituencies in this border state on Sunday morning. Polling began at 0800 hours and will continue till 1800 hours and and counting of votes would be on March 10.
A total of 2,12,75,066 voters, including 1,11,87,857 male, 1,00,86,514 female, 695 third genders, 1,44,667 PWD, 1,601 NRI and 51,3229 above the age of 80, are eligible to decide the electoral fate of 1,304 candidates in these elections.
There are 24,689 polling stations on 14,751 polling locations of which 2,013 are identified as critical, while 2,952 are designated as vulnerable pockets. Special arrangements have been made for the differently-abled, pregnant women and senior citizens.
As many as 28,328 ballot units and 24740 EVM-VVPATs are being used in this election. All polling booths will be covered under web casting on polling day. Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Shiromani Akali Badal-Bahujan Samaj Party combine, BJP-Punjab Lok Congress-Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) alliance, the Aam Aadmi Party and farmers leader Balbir Singh Rajewal-led Sanyukt Samaj Morcha (SSM) and BKU leader Gurnam Singh Charuni-led Sanyukt Sangharsh Party (SSP) alliance have fielded candidates in almost all the 117 seats of the state.
While the ruling Congress party has announced Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi as its chief ministerial candidate, the AAP has declared Lok Sabha MP Bhagwant Mann as party’s CM face whereas BSP supremo Mayawati has declared SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal as the CM candidate of the SAD-BSP alliance.
The NDA alliance, comprising the BJP, Punjab Lok Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) has not announced its chief ministerial face.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Piyush Goel, Smriti Irani, Anurag Thakur, Gajendra Shekhawat and BJP president J P Nadda addressed public rallies and held road shows for the BJP-PLC-SAD(S) alliance candidates while for ruling Congress, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Chhatisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, Randeep Surjewala, Kumari Selja, Sachin Pilot, Rajiv Shukla etc campaigned for the party candidates in the state.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia, Satyendra Jain, Raghav Chadha and Party’s chief ministerial candidate Bhagwant Mann extensively campaigned for the AAP candidates. BSP supremo Mayawati, SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) leader Abhay Chautala canvassed for the SAD-BSP alliance candidates in Punjab.
While the Congress expects to cash in on the common man image of Chief Minister Channi and his 111-days rule in the state, the opposition parties are banking on anti-incumbency, drug menace, illegal sand mining and national security issues.
Prominent candidates in the electoral fray are CM Channi, PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, two Deputy Chief Ministers Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and O P Soni, several cabinet ministers, famous Punjabi singer Shubhdeep Singh alias Sidhu Moosewala and Bollywood actor Sonu Sood’s sister Malvika Sood (all Congress).
Opposition leaders Parkash Singh Badal, his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, Bikram Singh Majithia (SAD-BSP alliance), MP Bhagwant Mann, Aman Arora and Joginder Singh Mann (AAP), former chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, Parminder Singh Dhindsa, Ashwani Sharma, Vijay Sampla and Ashwani Sharma (NDA alliance) are also trying their luck in these assembly elections.