Punjab headed to highest-ever polling

Chandigarh: Punjab was heading for an all-time high voter turnout of 73 percent with the balloting continuing beyond the 6 p.m. deadline as voters were still queued up, the Election Commission said here Wednesday.

Punjab’s chief electoral officer (CEO) V.K. Singh told media that voting was still continuing at various polling locations with people standing in queues beyond 6 p.m.

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“Those in the queue would be given opportunity to exercise their franchise. As per initial data collected by EC, the voting percentage was 68 percent that was expected to cross 73 percent with finalization of data at night,” he said.

In the 2009 general elections, Punjab had recorded 70.1 percent polling.

All 13 Lok Sabha seats went to the polls in a single phase Wednesday with over 1.95 crore voters eligible to cast their franchise to decide the fate of 253 candidates were in the fray.

Despite scorching heat of the day when temperatures stayed over 40 degrees Celsius in most places, balloting continued at a brisk pace.

Singh said that enthusiastic polling was witnessed in Sangrur, Patiala and Bathinda, whereas moderate polling was witnessed in Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur.

“The polling was largely peaceful. Only four FIRs of minor skirmishes were registered against 44 FIRs registered during 2009 Lok Sabha elections,” he said.

He said that at Rasoolpur village of Patiala constituency, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Dharamvir Gandhi was attacked by some political opponents and police has registered an FIR in this matter.

In the same constituency, miscreants entered a polling booth in Tripari village of Patiala-rural area and threw the control unit of the electronic voting machine (EVM) on the ground, damaging it. Singh said that two people have been arrested in this connection.

Small clashes were reported from three to four places across Punjab.

Earlier, balloting remained brisk across most parts of the state. People queued up even before 7 a.m. when the polling stations opened.

All eyes in the state were on the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat where Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley, fighting his first Lok Sabha election, was locked in a fierce contest with former chief minister Amarinder Singh of the Congress.

However, both Jaitley and Amarinder Singh could not cast their ballot as they are not registered voters in Amritsar.

Other prominent candidates are Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal (Bathinda) – the wife of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and BJP’s three-time MP and actor Vinod Khanna (Gurdaspur).

Over 75,000 policemen and paramilitary troopers had been stationed across the state to ensure peaceful polling, said Director General of Police Suresh Arora.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal, who is also the Akali Dal president thanked people for turnout out in good numbers to cast their vote.

Amarinder Singh also said that the record turnout was good for democracy.