Nearly 72 per cent of the electorate turned out in wet, chilly weather to vote in Punjab on Tuesday. The counting of votes will take place on February 27. Results are expected the same day.
Polling took place for 115 of the 117 seats in the assembly, and for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat. Voting for the Valtoha and Beas assembly seats has been deferred.
The largely peaceful polling picked up in the afternoon in many places after it stopped raining, and continued even after the scheduled closing time of 5 p.m. Some 65 per cent had voted in the assembly elections of 2002.
Polling was most vigorous at Dirba in Sangrur district where a record 90 per cent cast their votes, the Election Commission said in Chandigarh. The lowest polling percentage — 52 — was recorded at the Amritsar (north), Amritsar (south) and Gardhiwala (SC) constituencies.
Both Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Parkash Singh Badal — whose party has contested the elections in alliance with the BJP — expressed confidence that they would form the next government. Amarinder is the Congress candidate from Patiala; Badal is contesting from Lambi.
Others whose political fortunes were sealed in the voting machines on Tuesday include former SGPC president Bibi Jagir Kaur (Bholath), Punjab Congress president Shamsher Singh Dullo (Khanna-Reserve) and Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Lehra Gagga).
Cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, whose conviction in a case of road rage was recently stayed by the Supreme Court, is the BJP candidate for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat. An FIR was registered against his Congress rival, Punjab Finance Minister Surinder Singla, on the directions of the Election Commission for allegedly slapping a polling officer in Majitha in Amritsar.
Exit polls carried out by major media houses agreed on a tight finish. An HT-CNN IBN poll projected between 50 and 60 seats for both the Congress and SAD-BJP. Star News-AC Nielsen gave the Congress 48 seats and SAD-BJP 60; NDTV gave Congress 45-55 and SAD-BJP 55-65.