Maha: Over 66% polling for Pandharpur assembly bypoll

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Pune, Apr 17 (PTI) Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and strict restrictions, a voter turnout of 66.15 per cent was recorded in the by-election to the Pandharpur-Mangalvedha Assembly constituency in Maharashtra' Solapur district on Saturday, an official said.

This constituency had recorded the voter turnout of more than 71 per cent in 2019 elections.

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

Voting began at 7 am. Hand sanitisers were kept outside the polling centres and voters were allowed inside only after their body temperature and oxygen level is checked, the official said.

Adequate police bandobast was put in place to ensure that all social distancing norms are followed, additional superintendent of police Atul Zende said.

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 test popularity of 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 NSK