The Moga assembly byelection witnessed a good turnout of 71.18% in spite of the inclement weather on Saturday.
Polling was by and large peaceful across the 188 polling booths, even as there were reports of heated arguments between supporters of the Akali-BJP alliance and
the Congress in Godhe Wala Basti.
According to the chief electoral office, Punjab, the turnout was 79.42% in rural areas and 64.09% in urban areas. The counting of votes will take place on February 28.
Polling began at 8am amid heavy rain. In the first hour, only 10% voters turned up. Voting gathered pace around 11am as the rain subsided.
"Rain affected the turnout in urban areas, but we are confident of giving the ruling alliance a tough fight," said senior Congress leader Jagmeet Singh Brar, who spearheaded party candidate Vijay Kumar Sathi's poll campaign.
Deputy commissioner and district electoral officer Aarshdeep Singh Thind said no untoward incident was reported during the byelection.
The state Congress approached the Election Commission (EC) to extend the polling period by at least two hours in view of the heavy rain. However, the EC, after holding a meeting in New Delhi, rejected the request on the grounds that only 9mm rainfall was recorded. As per rules, the polling duration can be extended if the rainfall is more than 15mm and the turnout is less than 20% by 2pm in case of bad weather.
"Our request was turned down on technical grounds. The EC said nearly 55% polling had already taken place till the afternoon, but actually this was not the case," said Brar.
The constituency had recorded nearly 76% polling in the January 2012 assembly polls, when Congress candidate Joginder Pal Jain had defeated Akali nominee and former Punjab director general of police (DGP) Paramdeep Singh Gill by 4,526 votes. Gill had led by nearly 3,500 votes from rural areas, but Jain had raced ahead in urban pockets.
This time, Jain is contesting on the Shiromani Akali Dal ticket after he defected from the Congress in December last year.