Baroda bypoll: 1.8-lakh voters to decide fate of 14 candidates

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Chandigarh, Nov 2 (PTI) A total of 1.81 lakh eligible voters will decide the fate of 14 candidates, including wrestler and BJP candidate Yogeshwar Dutt, who are in the fray for the Baroda bypoll in Haryana on Tuesday.

Polling will be held from 7 am till 6 pm in the Baroda assembly seat in Sonipat district, officials said on Monday.

The counting will be held on November 10. The Baroda seat fell vacant in April after the demise of Congress MLA Shri Krishan Hooda, who had won the seat in 2009, 2014 and 2019 assembly polls.

'All the arrangements have been made for the bypoll,' Gohana Sub-divisional Magistrate Ashish Kumar said.

Voters will be screened through thermal scanners at each polling booth, the official said, adding that social distancing would be ensured at the polling stations as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus pandemic.

Hand sanitisers, masks and gloves will available at polling stations, which will be sanitised. Besides, PPE (personal protective equipment) kits, gloves and sanitisers have been arranged for the polling staff, the official added.

As many as 280 polling booths have been set up and 151 of them categorised as vulnerable. Security personnel, including three companies of paramilitary forces, have been deployed to ensure peaceful by-elections, the official said.

There are a total 1,80,529 voters, out of which 99,726 are men, 80,801 women and two transgenders, the official said.

There are a total 14 candidates in the fray for the Baroda bypoll, campaigning for which ended on Sunday.

The ruling BJP has again placed its bet on wrestler-turned-politician Dutt, who is backed by ally JJP. He had lost the 2019 assembly poll by about 4,800 votes to Congress candidate Shri Krishan Hooda.

The opposition Congress has fielded former Sonipat Zila Parishad member Indu Raj Narwal and the Indian National Lok Dal candidate is Joginder Singh Malik.

Seven Independents and four candidates belonging to other parties, including former Kurukshetra MP Raj Kumar Saini, who heads the Loktantra Suraksha Party, are in the fray from the constituency.

The Baroda bypoll is being seen as a direct contest between the ruling BJP and the Congress. The BJP would like to register a victory from the seat it had never won and the Congress would like to retain it.

The bypoll is also a battle of prestige for former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda as the seat, a Jat-dominated constituency, lies adjacent to his own Garhi-Sampla Kiloi seat in Rohtak and is considered as his stronghold.

Both Hooda and his son Deepender Hooda aggressively canvassed for Narwal.

During campaigning in the primarily-agrarian constituency, the Congress targeted the ruling party over the three central farm laws and accused the state government of neglecting this seat for six years of their rule in the state.

The ruling BJP centred its campaign on Dutt while highlighting his achievements in the field of wrestling at the international level.

Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, his deputy Dushyant Chautala and other senior leaders also highlighted achievements of the governance and development works.

While seeking votes on the development plank, the BJP also countered the Opposition's charge over farm laws and accused it of misleading farmers.

The bypoll is equally important for the INLD, which had slumped to its worst-ever performance when the party could win only one out of 90 seats in the 2019 assembly polls.

Baroda was a reserved seat till 2005 and before the Congress won it for three consecutive terms, it had been INLD's pocket borough for a long time.

The BJP had won 40 of the 90 assembly seats in 2019 and later formed the government with the JJP's support, which had won 10 seats.

A win in Baroda will take the saffron party's tally to 41, while if the Congress wins, its tally will remain unchanged at 31 as the seat was held by Shri Krishan Hooda.

The INLD's strength will rise to two if they win the seat. PTI CHS VSD HMB