Punjab Election 2017: Malwa region could play game-changer with its above 80% voter turnout
Of the 117 Assembly constituencies which underwent polling in Punjab, 43 constituencies recorded above 80 percent voter turnout majority of which fall in 12 of the 14 districts that form the Malwa region
Despite high anti-incumbency against the Shiromani Akali Dal, the state of Punjab voted below what was observed in the 2012 state Assembly election. According to the latest figures are available in Punjab Election Commission's website, the overall voter turnout in the northwestern state was just 77.36 percent as compared to the 78.20 percent reported in the 2012 Assembly Election.
A total of 1.98 crore electors were expected to exercise their franchise in the election to the 117 Assembly seats of Punjab which passed off peacefully, barring stray incidents of violence and technical glitches. Of the total electorate size, more than 1.5 crore voted in the current Assembly election.
Earlier, several reports stated that the polling percentage in Punjab was well above 78 percent. The discrepancies in the figures are likely to be a result of the repolling in some polling stations in 12 Assembly segments on 9 February. The repolling was done in some polling stations falling in Majitha, Muktsar, Sangrur and few other Assembly constituencies following malfunctioning in the Voter-Verified Audit Paper Trail (VVPAT) EVMs on 4 February.
Punjab saw a high-stake contest on 4 and 9 February among Congress, new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance, with all the key stakeholders claiming a victory.
Of the 117 constituencies which underwent polling, 43 constituencies recorded above 80 percent voter turnout majority of which fall in 12 of the 14 districts that form the Malwa region namely — Fatehgarh Sahib, Moga, Ludhiana, Ferozepur, Muktsar, Bhatinda, Faridkot, Mansa, Sangrur, Barnala, Patiala and Fazilka (see graph below). Several poll experts had stated that the region is going to play the role of a game-changer with several of the high-profiles candidates from all the parties contesting from this region. Not just that AAP, which is making its debut in Punjab Assembly Election, has focussed most of its campaigning in the Malwa region. The highest voter turnout combined with a high anti-incumbency in the region makes this a dangerous territory for Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal-led SAD-BJP alliance.
The maximum voting of 88.92 percent took place in the Sardulgarh constituency in Mansa district and the lowest of 60.01 percent in Amritsar West. The voter turnout in 2012 Assembly Election was 78.20 percent. The voter turnout of female voters was higher at 78.16 percent as compared to 76.73 percent male voters in the state (see graph below). The total number of male voters who exercised their franchise was 80.6 lakh whereas there were 73.3 lakh female voters who participated in the process followed by 98 third gender voters.
In Punjab, where SAD-BJP alliance has been in power for the past decade, the results on Saturday will decide the fate of a number of political bigwigs, including the 89-year-old chief minister, seeking a sixth term in office, his old political rival and Congress' chief ministerial face Amarinder Singh, who has declared it will be his last election, and Badal's son and deputy Sukhbir.
Parkash is locked in a keen battle with Amarinder for the Lambi seat, the pocket borough of the Badals. However, the exit polls which were unveiled on Thursday completely wrote-off the Badals with a prediction of a close contest between the Congress and AAP. The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP party has shown greater promise in the exit polls.
Amarinder, the scion of Patiala royal family, is also in the fray from his hometown were ready to give him a run for his money is the former army chief JJ Singh of SAD.
Stand up comedian and AAP MP from Sangrur, Bhagwant Mann, who is a probable candidate for chief ministership if the party wins the election, is crossing swords with Sukhbir in Jalalabad. Navjot Singh Sidhu, the voluble cricketer-turned-politician, who quit BJP to join Congress just ahead of the polls, is trying his luck from Amritsar East seat, part of his former parliamentary constituency Amritsar.
The other prominent candidates include 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 on Congress ticket (Bathinda Urban).
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