Punjab Election 2017: State records 78.6% voter turnout amid technical glitches, skirmishes at some places

Chandigarh: Around 78.6 percent of the 1.98 crore electors on 4 February exercised their franchise in the election to the 117 Assembly seats of Punjab which passed off peacefully, barring stray incidents of violence and technical glitches.

The figures, however, are expected to change with the Election commission ordering repolling in 48 polling stations falling in Majitha, Muktsar and Sangrur Assembly constituencies following malfunctioning in the Voter-Verified Audit Paper Trail (VVPAT) EVMs on 4 February. The repolling will take place on 9 February.

Punjab saw a high-stake contest on 4 February among Congress, new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine, with all the key stakeholders claiming a victory.

People showing their voter ID cards outisde a polling booth in a village near Amritsar. PTI

People showing their voter ID cards outisde a polling booth in a village near Amritsar. PTI

The maximum voting of 85 per cent took place in Mansa district and the lowest of 67 per cent in Amritsar. Over 79 per cent electors had cast their votes in the 2012 Assembly polls.

In Punjab, where SAD-BJP alliance has been in power for the past decade, today's polling will decide the fate of a number of political bigwigs, including 89-year-old Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, seeking a sixth term in office, his old political rival and Congress' CM 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. Amarinder, the scion of Patiala royal family, is also in the fray from his home town where ready to give him a run for his money is the former army chief J J 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).

SAD confident of win, so is AAP and Congress

Shortly before the polling was to end, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal "thanked Punjabis for peaceful polling and reposing faith in SAD-BJP alliance."

A statement issued by Badal's spokesman quoted him as saying, "Moved by people's love despite negative agenda."

However, this time around 78.6 percent out of the total 1.98 crore electors exercised their franchise to seal the fate of 1,145 candidates including Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, his son and deputy chief minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, Cabinet Minister Bikram Singh Majithia and Punjab Congress President and the party's chief ministerial candidate, Capt Amarinder Singh.

Amarinder Singh on Saturday termed the Assembly polls as a "vote for stability versus communalism and radicalism" and exuded the confidence of a clean sweep in the state, including the Malwa region, which poll pundits had been terming as an AAP stronghold.

The chief ministerial candidate of Congress who exercised his franchise at Government College for Women in Patiala, promised to usher in the "much-needed new dawn (navan savera)" in the state.

"The people have voted for stability versus communal and radical politics," he said adding that tThe people of Punjab want the experience and expertise of Congress to get the state back on the rails of progress and development.

Amarinder Singh dismissed any threat from either SAD, which had "ripped apart the state's social, religious and economic fabric" in the last 10 years, or AAP, whose "popularity graph has declined drastically" in the last two to three years with the "exposure of their misdeeds and failures".

People have not forgotten Badals' attempts to "polarise them on communal lines" through sacrilege incidents, Amarinder claimed, and also ruled out competition from AAP claiming that the purported popularity of Arvind Kejriwal's party is nothing more than a "creation of the media".

Congress candidate Navjot Singh Sidhu said that the will give Rahul Gandhi great gift with Congress', after casting his vote at a booth in Amritsar with wife Navjot Kaur.

Technical snags delay polling

A large number of voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines, installed for the first time in the ongoing Punjab Assembly polls, developed snags during the polling process in the state.

A technical snag was reported in VVPAT machines in Majitha and Sangrur, an election office spokesman said, adding that the matter had been referred to the ECI.

Due to a snag in the machines, polling had to be called off a number of times, VK Singh said, adding that these machines were replaced by others. He said that 242 EVMs were replaced due to malfunctioning at different places.

VVPATs were installed at 6,668 polling stations in 33 constituencies.

During the mock voting at Moga 50 votes were added at one of the polling stations. The votes could not be deleted, the CEO said, adding that the matter has been referred to the Election Commission.

VK Singh said polling was affected at 50 polling stations due to malfunctioning of VVPAT, adding that these include 25 polling stations in Majitha and 10 each in Sangrur and Muktsar.

Violent skirmishes noted

A few violent incidents were also reported from constituencies across the state.

Two persons were injured in a clash which took place between AAP and Congress workers at Sultanpur village in Sangrur district, police said.

In Tarn Taran district, a Congress worker identified as Jagjit Singh was injured when an Akali supporter allegedly opened fire at him outside a polling booth in Lalu Ghuman village, they said.

There was also an incident of firing at Guru Har Sahai in Ferozepur, VK Singh said.

Though officials said that one person sustained bullet injuries at Tarn Taran, reports from the districts said that a total of around 15 persons were injured, most of them with minor wounds.

"Barring stray incidents of violence the polling in single-phase remained peaceful," Additional Director General of Police (ADGP- elections) VK Bhawra said.

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.

Updated Date: Feb 08, 2017 11:32 AM

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