More than 10 per cent voting was recorded in the first three hours of polling to Punjab’s 13 Lok Sabha seats on Sunday in the seventh and final phase of the general elections, officials said.Voting began at 7 a.m. in the constituencies of Patiala, Amritsar, Khadoor Sahib, Jalandhar (SC), Hoshiarpur (SC), Anandpur Sahib, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib (SC), Faridkot (SC), Ferozpur, Bathinda, Sangrur and Gurdaspur.
Polling will end at 6 p.m.As of 10 a.m., the highest voter turnout was recorded in the high-profile seat of Patiala at 14 per cent where three-time Congress MP and wife of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Preneet Kaur, is in fray, followed by the Sangrur and Bathinda constituencies at 10 per cent each.The lowest poll percentage was in Amritsar where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in his electoral debut against sitting Congress MP Gurjit Aujla. In the state capital Chandigarh, more than 11 per cent voting was recorded for the lone seat.
Congress candidates Gurjit Aujla, Manish Tewari and Kewal Dhillion, Union minister and Akali Dal candidate Harsimrat Kaur Badal, her estranged cousin and state Finance Minister Manpreet Badal and cricketer Harbhajan Singh were among the early voters in the state.In the 2014 polls, Punjab saw 70.61 per cent of polling, while Chandigarh witnessed 73.71 per cent.A straight contest between the Congress and the Akali Dal-BJP has become three-cornered with the Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) fielding candidates in seven seats.However, all eyes are on two seats — Amritsar and Gurdaspur — witnessing a clash of personalities.
In Gurdaspur, actor Sunny Deol is the BJP candidate against Congress state President Sunil Jakhar, who won the October 2017 by-election by 1.92 lakh votes.But political dynasties continue to dominate the state politics. As many as four Congress and three SAD candidates belong to political families.Parkash Singh Badal’s daughter-in-law and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur is locked in a multi-cornered contest in the SAD stronghold of Bathinda.Two-term MP from the seat, she is taking on the PDA’s Khaira, AAP’s Baljinder Kaur and Congress MLA Amrinder Singh Warring.In 2014, Harsimrat Kaur scraped through by 19,500 votes against her estranged cousin Manpreet Badal.
In Patiala, former Union Minister Preneet Kaur was defeated by the AAP’s Dharamvira Gandhi by over 20,000 votes in 2014. This time Gandhi is in the fray as a nominee of the Nawan Punjab Party, a new outfit.In Ludhiana, Ravneet Singh Bittu, grandson of late Chief Minister Beant Singh, who was assassinated in 1995, is seeking re-election.Former Union Minister Manish Tewari (Congress) is in the fray from Anandpur Sahib, one of the holiest places of the Sikhs. Tewari is pitted against sitting Akali Dal MP Prem Singh Chandumajra. The Fatehgarh Sahib (reserved) seat is seeing a battle of former bureaucrats Amar Singh (Congress) and Darbara Singh (Akali Dal).The shadow of terrorism also hangs over electoral battle in one constituency, Khadoor Sahib.
PDA candidate Paramjit Kaur Khalra’s husband, Jaswant Singh Khalra, was allegedly abducted and killed by the police for exposing fake encounters in 1995, while Congress candidate Jasbir Singh Dimpa’s father, Sant Singh Lidher, was gunned down by terrorists in 1986.They are pitted against former Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief and Akali Dal candidate Bibi Jagir Kaur.Unlike 2014, the infighting-ridden AAP is now struggling to save its sinking ship, with several leaders either having defected or facing suspension.
Most Punjabi NRIs, who backed the AAP even with cash, have given it a noticeable miss this time.Countering defection within the party, actor-comedian Bhagwant Mann, the AAP’s only hope to retain the Sangrur seat, accused party rebel leader Khaira of being an agent of both the Congress and the Akali Dal and for engineering defections of AAP legislators to the Congress.Out of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab, the Akali Dal-BJP combine currently holds five (four Akali Dal; one of BJP), while the Congress has four seats and AAP another four.
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