CHANDIGARH: The polling for the 22 Zila Parishads and 150 Panchayat Samitis in Punjab are underway amid tight security on Wednesday.
The voting began at 8.00 AM and will continue till 4.00 PM.
Polling is being held for a total of 354 Zila Parishad members and 2,900 Panchayat Samitis, according to the election officials.
There are 1,27,87,395 total registered voters, comprising 60,99,053 female voters and 97 from the third gender.
Tight security arrangements have been put in place with around 50,000 personnel from Punjab Police have been deputed to prevent any untoward incident.
A total of 17,268 polling booths have been set up and 86,340 personnel put on election duty.
A total of 35 observers have been appointed to ensure peaceful conduct of the polls, the officials said.
The counting will take place on September 22.
While the ruling Congress has expressed confidence over registering a "clean sweep" in the local body polls, both Aam Aadmi Party and the Akali Dal-BJP combine are optimistic about there chances "provided the state election commission ensures free and fair elections."
Alleging that the ruling Congress wants to win the elections "by hook or by crook", opposition parties have expressed fear of "large-scale booth capturing" by the ruling party workers.
With the Congress being regarded as the most likely winner of the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls after a gap of ten years, the main contest will be between the ruling party and Akali Dal-BJP combine.
Kin of a few state ministers, including Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sukhbinder Sarkaria, and some legislators, including Fatehjang Bajwa, Balvinder Singh, are trying their luck in the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls.
With Congress confident of victory on the back of fulfilment of poll promises - debt waiver and good governance, Akali Dal, BJP and AAP have targeted the state government for not honouring promises such as smartphones for youths, raising shagun scheme amount, among others.
Ever since the process of nominations started this month, opposition parties Akali Dal, BJP and AAP have accused the Amarinder Singh government of "murdering democracy" for allegedly stopping their candidates from participating in the upcoming polls by resorting to hooliganism.
The opposition has even accused the state election commission of acting at the behest of the state government.
A few clashes have also been reported between the Akalis and Congress workers during filing of nominations. Punjab cabinet minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa on Tuesday expressed confidence on registering a clean sweep by the ruling party in the polls.
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said he fears Congress workers will capture booths and instigate violence.
"I was told by a senior police officer that the CM has given directions to all the SSPs in the state to not take any action against Congress workers," alleged Sukhbir.
"The Punjab election commission chief should resign as he seems to be working as a Congress worker. If there is any incident of poll rigging and if our party worker is attacked, it will be the CM's responsibility," Sukhbir alleged.
Main opposition party leaders echoed Sukhbir's views.
Co-president of AAP's Punjab unit Balbir Singh said, "Our candidates are being threatened by Congress workers. Liquor is being offered to lure voters by Congress workers."