Punjab votes Wednesday, all eyes on Amritsar seat

Punjab votes Wednesday, all eyes on Amritsar seat

13Chandigarh, April 29 (IANS) Over 1.95 crore voters will be eligible to vote in Punjab Wednesday with the state being put under a comprehensive security of over 75,000 security personnel, senior officers said here Tuesday.

Director General of Police (DGP) Suresh Arora said 59,591 Punjab Police personnel, along with 16,119 personnel (199 companies) of para-military forces would be stationed to ensure security and peaceful polling across the state.

There are 253 candidates in the fray for all the 13 Lok Sabha seats.

The Election Commission (EC) is expecting up to 80 percent voting Wednesday, said Punjab’s Chief Electoral Officer V.K. Singh. Punjab recorded 70 percent polling in the 2009 general elections.

The main contest is between the ruling Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance and the Congress. The presence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is likely to make the contest three-cornered in some constituencies.

The major contest is in Amritsar, where senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley is locked in a fierce electoral battle with former Punjab chief minister and Congress candidate Amarinder Singh.

The Election Commission’s ban on Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia’s movements beyond his own polling station in Amritsar constituency has created some political tension on the eve of the elections.

The EC ordered that Majithia would not visit any part of any assembly segment of the Amritsar constituency, including Majitha assembly constituency which he represents, other than his polling station.

“The commission has also directed to keep his movements under surveillance and be videographed with immediate effect,” V.K. Singh said here.

The ban on Majithia’s movements has been strongly opposed by the Akali Dal which labelled it as “unprecedented, unwarranted and undemocratic”. The party sought its immediate withdrawal.

Majithia was the main campaign manager for Jaitley in Amritsar. He is the brother-in-law of Punjab Deputy Chief Minister and ruling Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal and heads the party’s youth wing.

The opposition Congress and Amarinder Singh had complained to the EC that Majithia was allegedly intimidating voters in Amritsar.

The entry of AAP could change the equation on at least 7-8 seats in the state. Some of the AAP candidates like comedian-actor turned politician Bhagwant Mann (Sangrur), lawyer-activist H.S. Phoolka (Ludhiana) and cardiologist-social activist Dharamveer Gandhi (Patiala) have campaigned hard for their respective seats.

Senior leaders in the fray include Punjab Congress president and sitting MP Pratap Singh Bajwa against three-time BJP MP and actor Vinod Khanna (Gurdaspur), union minister and Amarinder Singh’s wife Preneet Kaur who is a Congress candidate (Patiala), former union minister and Congress candidate Ambika Soni (Anandpur Sahib) and former chief minister Beant Singh’s grandson, Ravneet Bittu (Ludhiana).

This time, the Congress has fielded bigwigs like Amarinder Singh to take on the Akali Dal-BJP alliance, which has been ruling Punjab since 2007.

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