Nearly 59% cast vote in Punjab, amid minor clashes

Nearly 59 per cent of 2.07 crore voters exercised their franchise for 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab on Sunday, amid reports of minor clashes between Congress and SAD-BJP workers at a few places. About 64 per cent turnout was registered in Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat where polling remained peaceful, poll officials said.

Chandigarh: Nearly 59 per cent of 2.07 crore voters exercised their franchise for 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab on Sunday, amid reports of minor clashes between Congress and SAD-BJP workers at a few places.

About 64 per cent turnout was registered in Chandigarh Lok Sabha seat where polling remained peaceful, poll officials said.

The 13 seats in Punjab and the lone seat of Chandigarh went to polls in the seventh and final phase of the general election.

The poll percentage figures in Punjab and in the Union territory's lone seat were estimated at the close of polling at 6 pm, the officials said, adding that the exact turnout will be known later.

As many as 278 candidates, including 24 women, are in the fray and results will be declared on May 23.

Of the eligible voters in Punjab, 98,29,916 were female and 560 belonged to the third gender.

The LS constituencies in Punjab that witnessed a higher voter turnout included Patiala (64.18 pc), Ferozepur (63.11 pc), Sangrur (62.67 pc), Bathinda (62.24 pc), while Amritsar (52.47 pc) and Hoshiapur (56.27 pc) recorded a relatively low turnout.

Barring stray incidents of clashes, polling remained peaceful in Punjab.

At Talwandi Sabo, Moga and Sangrur, minor clashes were witnessed between Congress and Akali Dal workers.

At Talwandi Sabo, which falls under Bathinda parliamentary constituency, the opposition Akali Dal alleged that shots were fired by workers of the ruling Congress in Punjab.

Punjab's Chief Electoral Officer S Karuna Raju said, "An incident of firing was reported in Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda".

Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, after casting her vote in Bathinda, charged the Punjab government with "misusing" the official machinery to "intimidate" Akali supporters.

In the morning, there were reports of technical glitches in EVMs at several places including Ludhiana, Samana and Moga.

Eight ballot units, 13 control units, and eight voter-verified paper audit trailwere replaced, Raju said.

Raju said a voter was nabbed for clicking picture inside a polling booth in Ludhiana and a case has been registered against him under the Representation of People's Act.

As polling began at 7am, voters including elders, women and youth queued up at several polling stations to exercise their franchise.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, his wife Preneet Kaur along with his other family members also exercised their franchise at Patiala in the afternoon.

Earlier, former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, his wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal and their two daughters also cast their vote.

Cricketer Harbhajan Singh exercised his franchise in Jalandhar.

For Chandigarh seat, BJP candidate Kirron Kher is locked in an electoral battle against former railway minister and Congress candidate and four-time MP, Pawan Kumar Bansal.

Prominent faces among candidates who are in fray in Punjab included SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, Union ministers Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Hardeep Puri and Bollywood actor Sunny Deol.

Besides Sukhbir Badal, who entered fray from Ferozepur, his wife and Union minister Harsimrat Badal is seeking re-election from Bathinda for the third time. Union minister and BJP candidate Puri is contesting from Amritsar seat.

BJP's Sunny Deol is making his electoral debut from Gurdaspur constituency against State Congress chief and sitting MP Sunil Jakhar.

AAP's Bhagwant Mann is seeking re-election from Sangrur seat.

As many as nine sitting MLAs and 10 sitting MPs from various parties are in fray.

Among Congress's heavyweights, former Union minister Manish Tewari is in fray from Anandpur Sahib while former Union minister and wife of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Preneet Kaur, contested from Patiala seat.

On most of the 13 seats, the contest appeared to be a direct fight between the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance.

In 2014, the AAP and the SAD had won four seats each, the Congress three and the BJP two.

More than one lakh security personnel including paramilitary force had been deployed in the state for conducting free and fair polling.

A total of 23,213 polling stations had been set up and which 249 were categorised as critical while 719 and 509 booths had been declared sensitive and hyper sensitive, respectively.

In Chandigarh, over 6.46 lakh voters in Chandigarh were eligible to cast vote in which 36 candidates, nine of them women, are in the fray.