Amid tension over EC curbs, Punjab votes Wednesday
The Election Commission's ban on Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia's movements beyond his own polling station in Amritsar constituency has created a political tension on the eve of election for the 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state, for which 1.95 crore voters are eligible.
The Election Commission (EC) is expecting up to 80 percent voting Wednesday. Punjab recorded 70 percent polling in the 2009 general elections, said Punjab's Chief Electoral Officer V.K. Singh.
There are 253 candidates in the fray for all the 13 seats this time.
Over 180 companies of paramilitary forces will be stationed across the state along with 70,000 Punjab police personnel.
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 on some seats.
The big 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.
There was political tension for the Akali Dal-BJP combine after the EC ordered that Majithia would not visit any part of any assembly segment of the Amritsar constituency, including Majitha assembly seat, than his polling station.
"The commission has also directed to keep his movements under surveillance and videographed with immediate effect," V.K. Singh said here.
The ban on Majithia's movements has been strongly opposed by the Akali Dal.
Majithia was the main campaign manager for Jaitley for the Amritsar seat. 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 the 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.
(Posted on 29-04-2014)