Amid reports that parties have bribed voters with cash and provisions, and the Aam Aadmi Party allegation that the Akali supporters attacked its Talwandi Sabo candidate, the day has arrived for two assembly byelections in Punjab.
On Thursday, more than 1.44 lakh voters will decide the fate of seven candidates in Talwandi, and another more than 1.51 lakh will pick from eight contenders in Patiala. In the last two byelections (Dasuya and Moga), the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has maintained its winning streak. Of the polling booths, 159 in Talwandi Sabo and 170 in Patiala are hypersensitive, with neutral paramilitary force deployed inside and Punjab Police outside.
The Talwandi Sabo byelection became necessary after Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu quit his legislator seat to switch from the Congress to the SAD; while the Patiala contest was called as Captain Amarinder Singh moved to Parliament on being elected member of the Lok Sabha from Amritsar.
At Patiala, Preneet Kaur (Congress), Bhagwan Das Juenja (SAD), and Harjit Singh Adaltiwala (AAP) are locked in a triangular contest. At Talwandi Sabo, Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu (SAD), Harminder Singh Jassi (Congress), Baljinder Kaur (AAP) and singer and AAP rebel Balkar Sidhu (independent) are in a quadrangular fight.
In Patiala, the lack of development in the constituency is the focus of the campaign, in which the Congress and the SAD have blamed each other, while the AAP has accused both parties. In Talwandi Sabo, the Congress and the AAP are focussed on punishing "turncoat Sidhu", while the SAD has tried to sell be benefits of going with the NDA government at the Centre.
In the last 21 days, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, state Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa, Amritsar MP Capatain Amarinder Singh, AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal were among the high-profile campaigners.