Campaigning ends for 13 seats in Punjab
Chandigarh: Curtains came down on Monday on the over-a-month-long high-voltage campaign for the April 30 Lok Sabha polls in 13 seats of Punjab, where 1.95 crore voters will exercise their franchise to choose from 253 contestants, including BJP`s Arun Jaitley and Congress` Amarinder Singh.
The campaign was dominated by a series of barbs, charges and counter-charges among the opponents, especially arch rivals SAD-BJP alliance and Congress.
Newly-formed Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made addition to the high-decibel canvassing by fielding contestants against the two main parties at all 13 seats.
Top leaders across the political spectrum-- Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Prakash Karat, Mayawati, Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav criss- crossed the roads and airspace of Punjab, lighting up the electoral battle.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has maintained a low-profile during the polls, however, avoided campaigning in Punjab.
BJP`s Prime Ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi addressed five back-to-back rallies on a single day.
Glamour was also added to canvassing with film stars like Akshaye Khanna, Vivek Oberoi, Kirron Kher, Gul Panag, Manoj Tewary, Poonam Dhillon, Sunny Deol and Suniel Shetty too seeking votes, besides cricketer Gautam Gambhir and former cricketer Bishen Singh Bedi.
The election is seen as one of the most closely fought ones, especially in Amritsar and Bathinda.
If the barbs fired by Amritsar candidate Amarinder Singh and his opponent Jaitley became the talking point of the state, the fight within the Badal clan between Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal and her estranged brother-in-law Manpreet Singh Badal of Congress too has generated interest.
The major issues that have emerged in this election are property tax, power tariff, fiscal health, inflation, drug menace and alleged "cartelisation" of sand, gravel, cable and tranport businesses by the Badal family.
Besides, Operation Bluestar, condition of Sikh farmers in Gujarat, unemployment, law and order situation and figuring of Bikram Singh Majithia`s name in drug trade also became campaign issues.
The voters include 92 lakh females and 9.35 lakh first- timers.
There are a total of 21,957 polling stations, for which 24,300 EVMs will be used. Some 180 companies of central security forces have been deployed, besdies one lakh each of police personnel and polling staff.