A senior citizen being welcomed at a polling station in Punjab during elections to the state legislative assembly, on February 20, 2022.

A senior citizen being welcomed at a polling station in Punjab during elections to the state legislative assembly, on February 20, 2022.

Polling begins in Punjab and third phase of UP assembly elections

Chandigarh/Lucknow, February 20, 2022

Polling began this morning admist tight security in a single-phase poll to elect a new 117-member legislative assembly in Punjab as well as in 59 constituencies in the third phase of the elections to the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assemby.

In Punjab, more than 21.5 crore voters, including 1.02crore women, are eligible to exercise their franchise in these 117 constituencies, where a total of 1,304 candidates, including 93 women and two transgenders, are in the fray.

The Election Commission has set up 24,740 polling stations across the state and made several other elaborate arrangements to ensure a free and fair poll.

In Uttar Pradesh, the 59 constituencies going to the polls today have a total of 627 candidates, including 97 women. These constituencies have a total electorate of 2.1l6 crore, including 0.99 crore women.

The Commission has set up 25,794 polling stations in these 59 constituencies.

Polling began at 7 am today and will end at 6 pm.

In Punjab, the Congress is seeking a second straight term in office, with a new Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, a Dalit leader, at the helm.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which is in alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), and the Bharatiya Janata party, which is in alliance with the Punjab Lok Congress (PLC) of Amarinder Singh, who was replaced as Chief Minister by Channi, are the other main contenders in the contest.

All the parties are banking on freebies to woo the electorates. AAP has promised Rs 1,000 for all women, while the Congress has assured Rs 1,100 per month for needy women. The SAD-BSP alliance has promised Rs 2,000 per month to all women heads of BPL families.

The youngest in the political landscape is controversial and crowd-puller candidate Sidhu Moosewala, while the eldest one is Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patriarch Parkash Singh Badal, 94.

Some of the keen contests will be seen in places such as Amritsar (East) from where Congress state unit chief Navjot Sidhu is in the race to retain it; Patiala (Urban), the "royal" bastion of Congress rebel Capt Amarinder Singh, whose fledgling PLC is contesting the polls in alliance with the BJP and SAD (Sanyukt); and Dhuri from where AAP's chief ministerial face Bhagwant Mann is trying his luck for the first time.

The other hot seat to look out for is Chief Minister Channi's Chamkaur Sahib, a reserved seat that he has won three consecutive times. It is currently in the news for illegal sand mining.

Channi, the chief ministerial face who was elevated after Capt Amarinder Singh's resignation on September 18 last year, is the first Scheduled Caste Chief Minister of a state that is home to 32 per cent Scheduled Caste population, the highest in the country.

He is also contesting from Bhadaur in Barnala district, a second seat, apart from Chamkaur Sahib.

In the 2017 Assembly elections, the Congress had won an absolute majority by winning 77 seats in the 117-member Punjab assembly and ousted the SAD-BJP government after 10 years.

The AAP had emerged as the second largest party, winning 20 seats. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) won 15 seats, while the BJP, which had a coalition government with the Akali Dal in Punjab from 2007 to 2017, secured three seats.

In Uttar Pradesh, polling is being held in seven phases. The first phase of polling was held on February 10 and the second on February 14.

The 59 constituencies that are going to the polls in the third phase of voting today in Uttar Pradesh are spread across 16 districts.

These districts are Hathras, Firozabad, Etah, Kasganj, Mainpuri, Farrukhabad, Kannauj, Etawah, Aurraiya, Kanpur Dehat, Kanpur Nagar, Jalaun, Jhansi, Lalitpur, Hamirpur and Mahoba.

Key contests include the Karhal seat from where Samajwadi Party leader and former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is seeking election. The BJP has fielded Union Minister SP Singh Baghel from the seat.

Polling on Sunday will also seal the fate of the Samajwadi Party chief's uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav, who is contesting from his traditional Jaswantnagar seat.

In the 2017 elections, the BJP won 49 of the 59 seats while the SP had to settle for nine. The Congress got one seat, while the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) drew a blank.

The Samajwadi Party hopes to regain lost ground in this Yadav belt. The party had suffered major reverses in 2017, mainly due to the split in the family and party, following the Akhilesh and Shivpal tiff.

The BJP is working to retain it seats in this phase while the BSP hopes to open its account this time.

This phase has witnessed a high pitch campaign with all political parties bringing maximum leaders and holding an unusually high number of rallies, road shows and meetings.

Of the five states that are going to the polls in this round of assembly elections in the country, Goa and Uttarakhand had single-phase polling on February 14.

Manipur will vote in two phases on February 28 and March 5 to elect its new assembly.

The remaining phases of polling in Uttar Pradesh are scheduled to be held on February 23 and 27 and March 3 and 7.

Counting of votes in all five states will be taken up on March 10 and all the results are expected to be out by that evening.

(With inputs from IANS)

NNN

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