Punjab and Uttarakhand go to polls on Monday to elect new assemblies with the Congress hoping to oust the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine in the country's grain bowl and the BJP in the hill state.According to the Election Commission, over 1.76 crore voters are eligible to vote in the 117 constituencies of Punjab in the second round of five-state elections that began on Saturday. The voter population is around 6.3 million in Uttarakhand, which has a 70-member house.
The Election Commission has deployed around 200 companies of paramilitary forces to oversee the Punjab ballot. Nearly 71,000 security personnel will be on duty for the smooth conduct of elections.
"All arrangements have been made for the smooth conduct of the election process. The polling teams have reached their destinations," Punjab's chief electoral officer Kusumjit Sidhu said in New Delhi.
Voting will start at 8 am and will continue till 5 pm. Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) will be used at all the 19,841 polling stations.
Of the 1,078 candidates in the fray in Punjab, 417 are independents. There are 93 women candidates.
The Congress led by former chief minister Amarinder Singh has levelled major charges of corruption and mis-governance against the government of Parkash Singh Badal.
Many seats will see a triangular contest between the ruling SAD-BJP alliance, the Congress and the Sanjha Morcha, which includes the Left and newly-floated People's Party of Punjab (PPP) led by Manpreet Badal, a nephew of the chief minister who broke away from the Akali Dal.
The main contestants include Badal (Lambi), Amarinder Singh (Patiala urban), Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal (Jalalabad), Manpreet Badal (Gidderbaha and Maur) and Amarinder's son Raninder Singh (Samana).
Congress leader and former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has been fielded from Lehragaga.
Two former officials -- DS Guru who was principal secretary to the chief minister and PS Gill who was a director general of police -- are contesting from Bhadaur and Moga respectively.
More than 63 lakh electorates are expected to exercise their franchise in the elections in which the ruling BJP is locked in a close fight with the Congress.
Polling parties have reached their destinations in high-altitude and remote areas, state's Chief Electoral Officer Radha Raturi said.
With electioneering for the Assembly elections coming to an end on Saturday evening, most of the candidates on Sunday remained busy in door-to-door campaigning.
A total of 788 candidates are trying their luck with BJP and Congress both contesting all the 70 seats.
The star campaigners from both the parties crisscrossed the hill state during the electioneering to boost fortunes of their candidates.
With the EC strongly enforcing the model code of conduct to check money power, the cacophony of the electioneering was missing this time.
Stating that elaborate arrangements have been made for the smooth conduct of polling, Raturi said the poll personnel deployed in high-altitude areas have been provided with sleeping bags, snow-boot and jackets.
An Indian Air Force helicopter has also been stationed at Sarsawa for rescue purpose to meet any eventuality, she said.
Chief minister BC Khanduri, who replaced Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank last year after corruption allegations, is trying to defend the turf for the BJP.
Khanduri, a BJP candidate from Kotdwar, is pitted against Congress nominee Surendra Singh Negi.
Dissent within BJP ranks could affect the party's prospects, party sources admit.
Manipur went to the polls on Saturday. Uttar Pradesh will see a seven-phase balloting from Feb 8 to March 3. Goa will see a one-day poll March 3.
Votes in all five states will be counted on March 6.
(With inputs from PTI, IANS)