Voters waiting in a queue to cast their vote during the Punjab Assembly elections, in Amritsar, on Sunday, February 20, 2022. (Pawan Sharma/IANS)

Voters waiting in a queue to cast their vote during the Punjab Assembly elections, in Amritsar, on Sunday, February 20, 2022. (Pawan Sharma/IANS)

Punjab logs 70% voter turnout for 117-member Assembly

Chandigarh, February 20, 2022

Punjab registered about 70 per cent turnout in the single-phase polling to elect a new 117-member state legislative assembly on Sunday, election officials said.

About 2.14 crore voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in the 117 constituences, where a total of 1,304 candidates, incuding 93 women and two transgenders, were in the fray.

Voting began at 7 am and ended at 6 pm, with no major untoward incidents reported, barring some minor skirmishes and snags in the electronic voting machines.

The final voting percentage could be a tad higher because data from distant polling stations was still being collated, the officials said.

The Malwa region, which has the highest number of 69 seats, saw the highest poll percentage compared to Doaba and Majha regions.

The main contest is among the ruling Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which is contesting the polls in alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party after breaking two-decade old ties with the BJP in 2020 over the farm laws. The BJP-Punjab Lok Congress (PLC) alliance is also in the fray, besides the Sanyukt Samaj Morcha, comprising Punjab farmer bodies that had taken part in the agitation against the Centre's now repealed agricultural laws.

Congress leader Sunil Jakhar, who was among the early voters, cast his vote in Panjkosi village in Abohar constituency, while greenhorn Congress candidate Malvika Sood, who is the sister of actor Sonu Sood, cast her vote in Moga, while Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) CM candidate Bhagwant Mann exercised his franchise in Mohali.

Mann is contesting from the Dhuri Assembly seat.

Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Badal asked voters to choose carefully.

Ahead of casting his vote, Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi offered prayers to Lord Shiva at a temple in Kharar town.

He said the people of Punjab have decided to bring the Congress back to power with a huge majority. Talking to media before going to the polling booth to cast his vote in Kharar town, he said, "The position is clear, people want Congress back, and we are heading for a two-third majority."

He alleged that the Dera Sacha Sauda in connivance with the BJP has supported the Akali Dal in these Assembly polls.

"Dera was responsible for the incidents of sacrilege in Punjab and they are getting their support now in the polling," Channi said.

Meanwhile, Bollywood actor Sonu Sood accused candidates of other parties of trying to buy votes. However, the Election Commission restrained him from visiting polling stations in Moga over complaints that he was influencing voters. His vehicle was impounded and he was instructed to stay inside his house.

In the 2017 Assembly elections, the Congress had won an absolute majority by winning 77 seats in the 117-member Assembly, ousting 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.

Counting of votes will be taken up on March 10.

(With inputs from IANS)

NNN

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