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Shahkot assembly bypoll: 76.6% turnout amid peaceful polling

The bypoll is being seen as a popularity test of the 14-month-old Congress government in Punjab.

punjab Updated: May 28, 2018 22:03 IST
Parampreet Singh Narula
Parampreet Singh Narula
Hindustan Times, Shahkot (Jalandhar)
Shahkot bypoll,VVPATs replaced,Congress government
Long queues outside the polling booth in Lohian on Monday. (Pardeep Pandit/HT )

Braving the heat, 76.6% of the 1.7 lakh voters exercised their franchise in the Shahkot assembly bypoll on Monday. This is two percentage points lower than the polling reported in last year’s assembly election, in which Shiromani Akali Dal’s Ajit Singh Kohar, whose death necessitated this bypoll, defied a statewide anti-incumbency wave to win even as Congress formed the government. The result is scheduled for May 31.

Voting at all 236 polling booths, equipped with voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines, passed off peacefully, though 26 machines at different booths had to be replaced owing to technical glitches. The candidates, including Kohar’s son Naib Singh of SAD and Hardev Singh Ladi Sherowalia of Congress, cast their votes at their respective booths in the morning, while Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Rattan Singh Kakkar Kalan voted around 1pm. Environmentalist Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal also turned out to cast his vote at his village, Seechewal.

Heavy security, comprising over 2,000 personnel from the Border Security Force (BSF), were deployed.

Varinder Kumar Sharma, deputy commissioner, said machines will be sent to the counting centre at the office of the director, land records, where counting of votes will be done on May 31 amid tight security. SS Karuna Raju, Punjab’s chief electoral officer, thanked the people for the large turnout.

The bypoll is being seen as a popularity test of the 14-month-old Congress government as chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh’s regime has been facing criticism for not fulfilling promises. The party faced some criticism in Shahkot specifically after its candidate was booked in a case of illegal sand mining. His mentor Rana Gurjit Singh had quit the state cabinet after facing similar charges. Ladi and other Congress leaders stressed that development would be ensured if Shahkot too chooses the state’s ruling party.

90-year-old Gurjant Singh at the polling booth after casting his vote in Talwandi Madho village near Malsian in Shahkot on Monday. ( Pardeep Pandit/HT )

The SAD played an emotional card by giving the ticket to the son of Kohar, who was five-time MLA and remained a minister.

The AAP, after crushing defeats in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll and the civic polls, hoped it would be able to register its presence even as infighting has affected the party ever since it performed way below expectations in the 2017 assembly polls. AAP’s 2017 candidate had already joined the SAD.

Ladi got a booster dose with the CM’s roadshow in the constituency on the last day of campaigning. Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal too held his show, and earlier managed to bring three leaders of AAP and one of Congress into the SAD fold.

Must read | Bypolls Live: 10.20% voting recorded till 9 am in Kairana; EVM, VVPAT glitches reported at several polling booths

First Published: May 28, 2018 11:59 IST