Chandigarh: Finally the time has come when 1.98 crore eligible voters of Punjab will exercise their franchise in the high- stake three-cornered Vidhan Sabha polls on Saturday for electing their 117 legislators. Election Commission has deputed over 200 companies (each comprising 80-100 personnel) of paramilitary forces to ensure the poll process passes off peacefully. The state was otherwise proceeding towards a peaceful polls but a car blast which was reportedly targeted to eliminate the Congress candidate from Maur assembly segment in Bathinda district, in which seven persons were killed and various sustained multiple injuries, has terrorised a section of society in the state.
Apart from thousands of Punjab Police jawans, over 200 companies of paramilitary forces will also be on their toes to ensure polling passes off peacefully
The counting of votes will take place on March 11.
Further, discussions about the importance being give to radicals in the canvassing has also come as a major factor that is disturbing the peace-loving voters. The two arch rivals-Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance- are united in slamming the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for its open proximity with the hardliners. As many as 22,615 polling stations have been set up across the state. Further, out of total 117 constituencies 83 Assembly seats are of general category and 34 have been demarcated as reserved.
This time the elections are politically different from the past as earlier there used to be a bipolar contest but the AAP has this time left all political observers confused with no clarity about the masses’ move till date. The SAD-BJP alliance is going to polls with its 89-year-old five-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal as the face for sixth term and the Congress has declared 74-year-old former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh as its chief ministerial face but the AAP has not yet revealed its cards on this front.
Though Sucha Singh Chhottepur’s Apna Punjab Party (APP), Bahujan Samaj Party, Communists and hundreds of independent candidates are also in the fray, the general notion is that the contest is still between three main players only. A section of political observers also foresees strong chances of a hung assembly ahead. While the SAD-BJP is fighting the polls on its favourite poll plank of development, the rivals are banking upon the anti-incumbency factor, which can’t be ruled out. It was also interesting that at many points the Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance targeted the AAP commonly. It is commonly said that enemy’s enemy is friend and making it a base, the AAP hit out both projecting them hand-in-glove to ensure checking the third party enter in the ruling cycle.
The Congress, while battling through its highly prevalent infighting, kept on assuring good governance under Amarinder’s rule, the AAP has appealed all to vote for change. And amid this high-pitch round of allegations and counter allegations, the voters have opted to keep the cards close to chest, despite the fact that various opinion poll surveys are favouring different parties. The AAP has fielded its candidates in 112 seats, while its ally Lok Insaf Party, led by Ludhiana based Bains brothers, have fielded nominees in five seats.
If one goes in details, apart from the drug menace, the contentious SYL canal issue and the sacrilege of holy books were the prominent issues which the parties other than ruling alliance tried their best to take among the masses while seeking votes.
WHO’S WHO CAMPAIGNED FOR THEIR CANDIDATES
As Punjab keeps high importance in the nation’s political graph, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley along with various other Cabinet ministers addressed public gatherings in the state in the past few days. Similarly, AICC vice president Rahul Gandhi along with many of his party senior leaders visited Punjab, seeking support for the Congress candidates. To seek votes for AAP candidates, the party’s national convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy in Delhi government Manish Sisodia and various other senior leaders of the party toiled hard in the state for numerous days.
HEAVYWEIGHTS IN THE FRAY
Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia (Majitha), cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu (Amritsar East), former Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Lehragagga), Indian Youth Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring (Gidderbaha), CM’s estranged nephew Manpreet Singh Badal (Bathinda Urban) are the key personalities in whose fate every Punjabi voter is interested.
POLLING FOR LS BYEPOLL
It is also pertinent to mention that apart from the Vidhan Sabha polls for all 117 seats, the Election Commission is also conducting the by-election for Amritsar Lok seat as well, which was declared vacant after Amarinder Singh had resigned from the membership few months back. Prominent among those in the fray are 66-year-old BJP leader Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina who is up against Congress’ Gurjit Singh Aujla, 44 and Aam Aadmi Party’s Upkar Singh Sandhu, 63 from Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.
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