Chandigarh: Voting is currently underway for the by-election in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat in Punjab on Wednesday.
The bypoll is expected to witness a three-corner race between the Congress, the BJP and the AAP. The bypoll is being viewed as a barometer for the popularity of the six-month-old Congress government in the state.
The Lok Sabha seat fell vacant following the demise of actor-turned-politician Vinod Khanna of the BJP in April due to cancer.
While the Congress has fielded its Punjab unit chief Sunil Jakhar, the BJP has put up businessman Swaran Salaria. The AAP has placed a bet on Major General (retd) Suresh Khajuria.
— ANI (@ANI) October 11, 2017
A total of 1,781 polling stations have been set up at 1,257 locations, of which 457 have been declared vulnerable and 83 critical. The Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat has nine assembly segments.
Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) will be used at all polling stations. Votes will be counted on 15 October and the result will be declared the same day, the official said.
The Punjab government has declared a holiday for all offices, corporations, boards and all educational institutions in the district in view of the bypoll.
The bypoll will gauge the popularity of the Amarinder Singh government which is battling allegations of reneging on its pre-assembly polls promise of farm debt waiver and free smartphones.
The Congress, which had bagged 77 seats in the 117-member Punjab Assembly in February, is keen to keep the winning momentum going.
The BJP has also tried pulling out all the stops to retain the seat, which Khanna had won four times.
A victory would give much-needed boost to the BJP, which had bagged just one segment of Sujanpur out of the four seats it had contested in the assembly polls. The BJP’s win will also provide a breather to its ally Shiromani Akali Dal, which had been relegated to the third spot in the assembly polls.
The AAP, the main opposition party in Punjab with 20 seats in the House, is also looking to strengthen its presence in the state.
As many as 15.22 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in the by-election being fought by 11 candidates. Of the total electorate of 15,22,922 in the constituency, 7,12,077 are women and 14 belong to the third gender, official said.
Around 30 companies of paramilitary forces and 7,000 Punjab police personnel have been deployed in the constituency.
(With inputs from IANS/ PTI)