Punjab, Uttarakhand register record turnout

Elections to the assemblies of Punjab and Uttarakhand on Friday recorded a heavy turnout of over 77 and 70 % respectively.

Last Updated: Jan 31, 2012, 00:14 AM IST

Chandigarh/Dehradun: Elections to the Assemblies of Punjab and Uttarakhand today recorded a heavy
turnout of over 77 and 70 per cent with Akali-BJP combine and
BJP locked in a hard battle with Congress to retain power in
the two respective states.

While the polling figure in Punjab was expected to cross
the 77 per cent mark, voting percentage in Uttaranchal was
around 70 per cent, the Election Commission in Delhi said
quoting figures furnished the polling authorities in the two
states.

Barring stray incidents, the polling in the two states
was peaceful, Commission officials said. However, a report
from Firozepur in Punjab said that one person died of gunshot
injuries during a clash.

The key elections in Punjab and Uttarakhand, where NDA
government have been in power, will decide the fate of 1866
candidates including chief ministerial aspirants Prakash
Badal, Amarinder Singh and B C Khanduri.

Polling began on a dull note due to the morning chill in
both the states but picked as the day progressed. Long queues
of voters, including large number of women, were seen at the
polling stations. Earlier, various parties had complained that
the cold weather conditions might hamper the turnout.

Minor skirmishes were reported from Ludhiana, Bathinda
and Amritsar in Punjab. In Ludhiana, BJP Yuva Morcha General
Secretary Sanjay Kapoor received minor injuries in a clash,
while some people pelted stones at the office of Sirsa-
based Dera Sacha Sauda situated on Amrik Singh Road in
Bathinda.

While there are 1078 contestant vying for 117 seats in
Punjab, the number of candidates for 70 seats in Uttarakhand
is 866. Counting to votes will take place on March 6.
Talking to reporters before leaving for Patiala, state
Congress President Amarinder Singh claimed that Dera Sacha
Sauda, which had supported the party in the 2007 polls, was
backing it again. "This was expected the way Akalis had
treated the Dera followers," he said.

Claiming that there was a "clear wave" in his party`s
favour, Singh, who is the party`s chief ministerial candidate,
claimed, "We are winning hands down and as I have said we will
cross 70 seats...People of Punjab want to oust the Akalis."

Over 250 contestants including Singh, his wife and Union
Minister Preneet Kaur, had visited the Dera premises at Sirsa
and sought blessings from the sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim
Singh.

After casting his vote in his home constituency Lambi`s
Badal village, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said that
SAD-BJP would comfortably win on the basis of development
during the past five years.
In Punjab with a 1.7 crore electorate, polling took place
at 19,841 polling stations across 22 districts. A woman voter
died in the polling station compound at Anandpur Sahab,
election officials said, adding that as per reports her death
was natural and there was no foul play.

Voicing optimism, Khanduri, who is BJP`s chief
ministerial candidate in Uttarakhand, said, "There is very
good response (from the 63-lakh strong electorate for the
party). It is a very positive signal and that we feel we will
form the government comfortably but again it is for the people
to decide."

Khanduri, who is contesting from Kotdwar seat, said, "I
have gone to the town and the village areas and people are
coming in large numbers and that`s a good signal."

In Hoshiarpur in Punjab, Union I&B Minister Ambika Soni,
after casting her ballot, said the state was hearing for a
change the Congress will register a "landslide" victory.

On poll propects, 84-year-old Badal said,"Whatever the
Congress people may, it doesn`t matter. People know that this
government has worked for their betterment and today
pro-incumbency wave is sweeping the state."
His son and Deputy, Sukhbir Singh Badal said the people
will reject the Congress, which had no agenda for taking
Punjab forward.

Prominent candidates whose fate would be sealed today
include Raninder Singh (Samana, Congress), former chief
minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Lehra, Cong), former Punjab
top cop P S Gill (Moga, Akali Dal), former Principal Secretary
to the Chief Minister D S Guru (Bhadaur, Akali) and former
SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur (Bholath, Akali).

The other contestants include Manpreet (Gidderbaha
and Maur), his father and Badal senior`s younger brother
Gurdas (Lambi, PPP), and his cousin Mahesh Inder (Lambi,
Congress), former Deputy Speaker Bir Devinder Singh (Mohali,
PPP), turncoat Balwant Singh Ramoowalia (Mohali, SAD), former
Industries Minister and senior BJP leader Manoranjan Kalia
(Jalandhar).

Earlier, the Badals including the Chief Minister and
Sukhbir arrived together and cast their ballot in Badal
village.

However, Badal family`s estranged relative and chief of
People`s Party of Punjab, Manpreet Singh Badal, whose party is
also contesting the Punjab polls, was the first to arrive to
cast vote in Badal village.

In the 2007 polls, the SAD-BJP alliance came to power
with SAD winning 49 and BJP 19. Congress had got 44 seats and
remaining five seats went to the Independents.
In Uttarakhand, Khanduri, former Chief Minister Ramesh
Pokhriyal Nishank and Assembly speaker Harbans Kapoor were
among the early voters.

The elections will also decide the fate of top state
leaders including Khanduri, Nishank from Doiwala, Leader of
the Opposition Harak Singh Rawat from Rudraprayag and PCC
chief Yashpal Arya from Baajpur seats.

In the outgoing state Assembly, the BJP had a strength of
36 members followed by Congress with 20, BSP with 8 and UKD
with 3 while there were three independents.

PTI