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Punjab bypolls: More than 60 pc polling on four assembly seats

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: October 21, 2019  | 21:51 IST

(Eds: Updating with more details, quotes) Chandigarh, Oct 21 (PTI) An overall turnout of more than 60 per cent was registered in the bypolls to four assembly seats -- Phagwara (reserve), Jalalabad, Dakha and Mukerian -- in Punjab, with the chief electoral officer saying that voting was peaceful. Officials said the polling percentage will change as the data was being tabulated. Although the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal claimed that one of their workers was injured in a firing incident in Dakha assembly constituency, the election office said it was not a poll-related incident. "The polling was peaceful," Punjab Chief Electoral Officer S Karuna Raju told PTI on Monday evening. He further said two to three EVMs developed technical snag at some polling stations and they were immediately replaced. Polling began at 7 am on Monday and voters in the queue were allowed to exercise their franchise even after 6 pm, officials said. Polling was slow in the morning, but as the day progressed it picked up pace. Around 7.76 lakh voters were eligible to decide the fate of 33 candidates. 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. For the ruling Congress, the bypolls was seen a litmus test for Chief Minister Amarinder Singh-led government over the acceptability of its policies and programmes. The Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance and AAP also hope to make a comeback in these bypolls. While the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is contesting the Jalalabad and Dakha seats, its ally BJP has fielded candidates in Phagwara and Mukerian. On the Dakha seat, the Congress has fielded Sandeep Sandhu, the political secretary of Chief Minister. It is being seen as a keen contest between the Congress and the Akalis. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had himself taken out two roadshows to canvass for Sandhu, while the SAD charged the state government with "high-handedness" and "misuse" of official machinery to influence voters in this seat. The Dakha seat fell vacant following the resignation of former AAP leader and noted Supreme Court lawyer H S Phoolka from the state assembly. SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema alleged on Monday that a party worker was seriously injured in a firing incident in Jangpur village of Dakha after he tried to stop "Congress goons" from casting bogus votes. Punjab CEO said one person suffered bullet injury on his leg and that the DIG of Ludhiana has been asked to probe the incident. The Election Commission issued directions on October 20 that the Deputy Inspector General of Ludhiana Range would take over supervision of the model code of conduct and other security measures from the SSP (Rural) in Dakha assembly constituency. The poll panel had also directed the DIG to keep a watch over the activities of SSP (Rural) in Ludhiana. The Akali Dal has lodged a complaint against the SSP (Rural) and sought that he be replaced, SAD's Cheema said on Monday. The Punjab CEO said a show cause notice was issued to Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu and Congress MLA Kulbir Singh Zira for alleged violation of the model code of conduct. The SAD had complained that Zira was "intimidating" voters of Dakha assembly segment. In Phagwara (reserve) seat, the main contest is between Congress candidate and former IAS officer B S Dhaliwal and the BJP's Rajesh Bagha. The AAP, BSP and the Lok Insaaf Party have also fielded their candidates in this seat. Dhaliwal was issued a show cause notice for allegedly wearing a scarf with party symbol printed on while casting his vote. Returning Officer (RO) cum SDM (Phagwara) Latif Ahmed said he had received a complaint in this regard and thereafter, a show cause notice was served to the Congress nominee. The Phagwara seat fell vacant after sitting MLA Som Parkash was elected to the Lok Sabha from Hoshiarpur. In Jalalabad, considered an Akali bastion, there is a straight contest between the SAD's Raj Singh Dibipura and the Congress's Raminder Singh Awla. The 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. Dibipura alleged that SAD workers had caught a man for allegedly influencing voters with money. From Mukerian, the BJP 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 by elections. Seven companies of paramilitary forces have been deployed in four assembly segments, a poll official said. A total 920 polling stations have been set up. Some polling stations in Dakha and Jalalabad have been categorized as sensitive. 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 the LIP have two MLAs each. PTI CHS VSD NSD NSD

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