The stage is set for counting of votes tomorrow for 117 assembly seats in Punjab with pollsters predicting the exit of the ruling SAD-BJP alliance and a neck-and-neck fight between the debutant AAP and the Congress.
The stage is set for counting of votes tomorrow for 117 assembly seats in Punjab with pollsters predicting the exit of the ruling SAD-BJP alliance and a neck-and-neck fight between the debutant AAP and the Congress. Counting of votes will commence at 8 AM at 54 centers in 27 locations, an election office spokesman said here. More than 14,000 officials have been deployed at the counting centers, where tight security arrangements have been made to ensure that the exercise is completed peacefully. Unauthorised persons would not be allowed to enter the counting centers. Nobody, barring the election observers, would be allowed to carry mobile phones there, the spokesman said. Live results will be shown on TV screens at district election offices, prominent public places and malls.
Poll results will also be updated at regular intervals on the Election Commission’s website.
Despite the exit polls predicting a total rout for the ruling SAD-BJP alliance, which is targeting a third term in the state, 89-year-old Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal claimed the combine will win 72 seats.
State Congress chief Amarinder Singh claimed his party would emerge victorious on 65 seats, while the AAP was confident of bagging close to 100 seats.
The state went to polls in single phase on February 4 and recorded 78.60 per cent polling as against 78.57 per cent voter turnout in 2012.
As many as 1,145 candidates are in the fray, 81 of whom are female and one transgender.
The SAD contested 94 seats and its ally BJP 23. The Congress contested all the seats. The AAP and its ally Lok Insaf Party, led by the Bains brothers of Ludhiana, are fighting on 112 and 5 seats respectively.
The Congress and the SAD have been alternatively forming the government after the reorganisation of Punjab in 1966.
In 2007, the SAD-BJP alliance came to power. As per the trend of politics in Punjab, it was the turn of the Congress in 2012 but it happened otherwise and SAD-BJP got the second term.
Key constituencies whose results would be keenly watched include the Lambi seat, where the CM is locked in a triangular contest with Amarinder Singh and journalist-turned-politician Jarnail Singh (AAP).
Patiala is another key seat where Amarinder Singh is fighting against SAD candidate and retired army Chief General JJ Singh.
Jalalabad, considered a pocket borough of the ruling Badal family, has two sitting MPs — Ravneet Singh Bittu (Congress) and comedian-turned-politician Bhagwant Mann (AAP) — taking on SAD president and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Veteran Congress leader and former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal is fighting it out against Finance Minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa (SAD) from her traditional bastion of Lehragagga.
AAP’s Himmat Singh Shergill is fighting against Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia from Majitha while Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi (AAP) is giving a challenge to Congress stalwart Ashwini Sekhri from Batala.
Navjot Singh Sidhu, who after several flip-flops had joined the Congress, contested the Amritsar East seat against Rajesh Kumar Honey of the BJP.
The CM’s estranged nephew Manpreet Singh Badal is trying his fortunes from Bathinda Urban seat on a Congress ticket while Indian Youth Congress chief Raja Amarinder Singh Warring is contesting Gidderbaha seat.
The results are crucial for Congress, which is seeking to wrest power after failing in previous two Assembly elections fought under the leadership of Amarinder Singh.
Meanwhile, after witnessing a high-profile battle between political stalwarts — BJP’s Arun Jaitley and Congress’s Amarinder Singh in 2014 — the Amritsar Lok Sabha by poll was overshadowed by the Assembly polls this year.
The BJP has fielded 66-year-old leader Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina against Congress’s Gurjit Singh Aujla (44) and Aam Aadmi Party’s Upkar Singh Sandhu (63).
The by-poll to Amritsar seat was necessitated after Amarinder Singh resigned in protest against the Supreme Court’s verdict on the SYL canal issue.
The SAD-BJP alliance had won 68 of the 117 seats it contested in 2012 to retain power for the second successive term.
The SAD had won 56 of the 94 seats contested and its ally BJP had won 12 of the 23 seats it contested.
The Congress under the leadership of Amarinder Singh had managed to win 46 of 117 seats. Three seats had gone to Independents.
The SAD had got 34.75 per cent votes, the BJP 7.13 per cent and Congress 40.11 per cent votes.