earlier postponed the date of voting for the assembly polls from February 14 to February 20 in the wake of Guru Ravidas Jayanti. A total of 1,304 candidates, including 93 women, are in the fray in the state. In the 2017 assembly polls in the state, the Congress had won an absolute majority by winning 77 seats, pushing out the SAD-BJP government, which had been in power for 10 years. This time, adding the much-needed spice to the mix is Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party, which is considered a strong contender by political pundits.
Some of the crucial names in the fray include Congress’s Navjot Singh Sidhu (contesting from Amritsar), AAP’s Bhagwant Mann (contesting from Dhuri), Congress’s Charanjit Singh Channi (contesting from Bhadaur, Chamkaur Sahib seats), SAD’s Sukhbir Singh Badal (contesting from Jalalabada), Punjab Lok Congress’s Capt Amarinder Singh (contesting from Patiala), Parkash Singh Badal (contesting from Lambi), Congress’s Sukhpal Khaira (contesting from Bholuth) and AAP’s Kulwant Singh (contesting from Mohali).
The Congress is banking on decisions like reducing electricity tariff and fuel prices, taken during current CM Charanjit Singh Channi’s 111-day tenure. The Aam Aadmi Party, which has emerged as a major contender, is eyeing to wrest power while projecting the Delhi model of governance. The stakes are also high for the Shiromani Akali Dal which is contesting the polls in alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party after breaking ties with the BJP in 2020 over the farm laws issue. With Sukhbir Singh Badal in the driving seat, the SAD called itself Punjab’s own party and promised all-round development of the state. The BJP, which used to be a junior partner during its previous alliance with the SAD, is fighting the elections as a major partner. Entering into an alliance with Amarinder Singh-led Punjab Lok Congress and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa-led SAD (Sanyukt), the saffron party has asked voters to go for a double-engine government for Nawan (new) Punjab.
The Sanyukt Samaj Morcha, comprising various Punjab farmer bodies, which had taken part in the stir against the Centre’s now-repealed farm laws, is contesting the polls in alliance with Haryana Bharatiya Kisan Union (Chaduni) leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni-led Sanyukt Sangharsh Party. Prominent faces who are in the fray are Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, Aam Aadmi Party’s chief ministerial face Bhagwant Mann, Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, former CMs Amarinder Singh and Parkash Singh Badal, and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma and former Union minister Vijay Sampla are also fighting the elections. All major political parties have promised a host of freebies to woo voters.
While AAP has promised Rs 1,000 for all women, the Congress has also promised Rs 1,100 per month for needy women. The SAD-BSP alliance has promised Rs 2,000 per month to all women heads of blue card holder families (BPL beneficiaries).
The Congress and the SAD-BSP alliance have promised one lakh government jobs. The SAD-BSP promised 75 percent reservation for state youth in public and private sectors. The BJP led alliance has made a similar promise, but for the government sector only.
AAP has promised up to 300 units of free power while the SAD-BSP promised 400 units of free electricity. The high-pitched campaigning, which saw participation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Union minister Smriti Irani, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal, came to an end on Friday.
Modi, who held three rallies at Jalandhar, Pathankot and Abohar, covering Punjab’s Doaba, Majha and Malwa regions, had accused the Congress and the AAP of pretending to fight against each. Rahul Gandhi had cautioned people against going for any “experiment” in the Punjab polls, saying that maintaining peace was most important for the state and only his party was capable of it.
There are a total of 2,14,99,804 voters, including 1,02,00,996 women. There are 24,740 polling stations, of which 2,013 have been identified as critical, said an official. Adequate security arrangements have been made for ensuring free and fair polling, said the official.
In the wake of elections, the state government has declared a paid holiday for employees working in shops, commercial establishments and factories on Sunday. In the 2017 Punjab Assembly polls, the Congress had ended the SAD-BJP combine’s 10-year-regime by bagging 77 seats.
The AAP had managed to get 20 seats while the SAD-BJP had won 18 and two seats went into the kitty of the Lok Insaaf Party.
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