After a month of high-decibel campaigning, Dhuri will witness a byelection on Saturday. There are 12 candidates in the fray, but the real contest is between Congress-backed Sanjha Morcha nominee Simar Pratap Singh Barnala and Akali-BJP candidate Gobind Singh Longowal.
The bypoll, necessitated by the resignation of Congress MLA Arvind Khanna, is an acid test for the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) as well as the faction-ridden Congress, which considers Dhuri its traditional stronghold. If the SAD wins this seat, it will achieve majority (59 seats) on its own in the 117-member Punjab assembly and won’t have to depend any more on its coalition partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to run the government.
For the Congress, the Dhuri bypoll has turned out to be battle of one-upmanship between state party president Partap Singh Bajwa and former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh. The Captain withdrew from campaigning midway, ‘protesting’ against Bajwa creating a ‘parallel power centre’ in Dhuri against him. He, however, returned towards the fag-end of the campaign, putting his weight behind Simar Pratap, grandson of former Punjab CM Surjit Singh Barnala.
While the Congress is trying to ensure that the SAD does not use allurements to woo voters, the Akalis claim that they are not using any unfair means.
Meanwhile, administrative arrangements were being put in place on Friday for the byelection. Election observers SM Sarkunde and HP Meena took a round of the constituency with returning officer Rajesh Dhiman, subdivisional magistrate (SDM), Dhuri. “Things are under control and voting would be peaceful,” Dhiman said.
Senior superintendent of police (SSP), Sangrur, MS Sidhu was present here to oversee the arrangements. Talking to HT, he said, “We have divided the constituency into three zones. Each zone is being monitored by a superintendent of police (SP). Each zone has been further divided into two parts, to be overseen by one deputy superintendent of police (DSP) each.”
“We have not deployed any local resident on election duty so as to make the voting process more transparent,” Sidhu claimed.
1.52 lakh Total voters
766 Govt employees on poll duty
1,900 police/paramilitary personnel deployed
166 Total booths
8am to 5pm Voting hours