Maha: Over 33 per cent voting recorded till 1 pm in Pandharpur bypoll

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Pune, Apr 17 (PTI) Over 33 per cent voting was recorded in the by-election to the Pandharpur-Mangalvedha Assembly constituency in Maharashtra' Solapur district till 1 pm on Saturday, an official said.

The polling began at 7 am on Saturday amid the surge in COVID-19 cases in the state and the strict restrictions imposed by the state government to control the spread of the virus.

'The voting percentage was at 33.12 per cent till 1 pm, and the process at all polling stations in the constituency is going on smoothly in keeping with the social distancing norms,' the official from the district administration said.

Hand sanitisers have been kept outside the polling centres and voters are allowed inside only after their body temperature and oxygen level is checked, he said.

The ruling NCP and the opposition BJP are in a direct fight in this bypoll, which was necessitated following the death of NCP legislator Bharat Bhalke due to post-COVID-19 complications in November last year.

The NCP has fielded Bhagirath Bhalke, the late MLA's son, against BJP candidate Samadhan Autade, who had contested the 2019 Assembly elections as an Independent and the 2014 polls on Shiv Sena ticket.

Adequate police bandobast has been put in place to ensure that all social distancing norms are followed, additional superintendent of police Atul Zende said, adding that the polling will conclude at 7 pm.

According to the district administration, several voters above the age of 80, physically challenged persons and people engaged in essential services had exercised their franchise through postal ballots.

'Polling for these people was held on April 13, 14 and 15 through the postal ballot facility, and a total of 3,252 postal ballots were received,' an official from the district administration said.

There are 1,785 physically-challenged voters and 13,689 persons who are above 80 years of age, he said, adding that those who had not exercised their franchise through postal ballots can cast their votes at the polling booths.

There are a total of 3,40,889 registered voters in the constituency.

Political observers feel that this bypoll will prove to be a litmus test for the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies - Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress - three ideologically different parties that have been sharing power in the state for the last one-and-a-half years. PTI SPK NP ARU ARU