Sixty-three per cent of over 2.14 crore voters in Punjab turned out on Sunday till 5 p.m. to elect 117 members of the Assembly amid minor skirmishes and snags in EVMs, officials said.
“The voter turnout was 63 per cent with chances of the final figures likely to increase over 70 per cent. Rural areas saw high percentage of polling compared to urban ones,” an electoral officer told IANS here.
The Malwa region, which has the highest number of 69 seats, saw the highest poll percentage compared to Doaba and Majha regions.
Except some incidents of minor clashes, no major poll-related violence has been reported in the state so far.
Punjab is witnessing a multi-cornered contest with 1,304 candidates, including 93 women and two transgenders in the fray.
The polling will be conducted till 6 p.m. and the counting of ballots will take place on March 10.
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the Sanyukt Samaj Morcha, comprising Punjab farmer bodies that had taken part in the agitation against the Centre’s now repealed agricultural laws.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 this 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 other party candidates of trying to buy off 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.