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Punjab bypolls: Campaigning ends, voters to decide fate of 33 candidates on Oct 21

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: October 19, 2019  | 20:02 IST

Chandigarh, Oct 19 (PTI) The campaigning for the bypolls to four assembly segments in Punjab ended on Saturday with 33 candidates in the fray. Now, around 7.68 lakh voters in the assembly segments of Phagwara, Dakha, Jalalabad and Mukerian will decide the fate of the candidates on October 21. The results of the elections will be declared on October 24. In the last elections, while the SAD-BJP combine had bagged two of the four assembly segments, one each was won by the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). This time, the main contest is between the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine. While the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is contesting the Jalalabad and Dakha seats, its ally BJP has fielded candidates in Phagwara and Mukerian. The ruling Congress would like to maintain its winning momentum in the bypolls while the SAD-BJP alliance and AAP are looking at their political revival. In Phagwara, the main contest is between Congress candidate and former IAS officer B S Dhaliwal and BJP's Rajesh Bagha. Besides, the AAP, BSP and the Lok Insaaf Party have also fielded their candidates. The Phagwara seat fell vacant after sitting MLA Som Parkash was elected to the Lok Sabha from Hoshiarpur. On the Dakha seat, the Congress has fielded Sandeep Sandhu, political secretary of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. The SAD nominee from the seat is former MLA Manpreet Singh Ayali. The Dakha seat got vacant following the resignation of former AAP leader and noted Supreme Court lawyer H S Phoolka from the state assembly. Phoolka had resigned in October last year over the Congress government's alleged failure in taking action against those involved in the desecration of religious sects in 2015 in the state. In Jalalabad, considered an Akali bastion, there is straight contest between SAD's Raj Singh Dibipura and Congress's Raminder Singh Awla. The Jalalabad seat fell vacant after sitting MLA and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal was elected to the Lok Sabha from Ferozepur parliamentary segment in the 2019 General Election. From Mukerian, the Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded Jangi Lal Mahajan. The Congress nominee is Indu Bala, the wife of the late Congress MLA Rajnish Kumar Babbi, whose death necessitated the byelections. The bypolls are not going to be a cakewalk for the ruling Congress as the Akalis are giving it a tough fight in Jalalabad and Dakha. The ruling Congress has sought votes in the name of debt waiver for farmers, health insurance scheme and employment generation. It claimed to have fulfilled 125 of 161 promises made during the 2017 assembly elections. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has dismissed claims that the elections would be a referendum on the state government's performance. He slammed the SAD for putting the state's claim on river waters at stake by entering into an alliance with the Indian National Lok Dal for the Haryana assembly polls. He also accused SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal of trying to scuttle the joint celebrations of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev next month. On the other hand, the Akalis lambasted the state government for the "lack of development" and "faltering" on poll promises. They also accused the state government of misusing the official machinery and targeting their supporters to win the elections. In the 117-member Punjab assembly, the Congress at present has 77 legislators. The SAD has 13 MLAs while the strength of AAP legislators is 19. The BJP and Lok Insaaf Party have two MLAs each. PTI CHS VSD RDK RDK

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