Low polling marks Sangrur by polls

| | Chandigarh
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Low polling marks Sangrur by polls

Friday, 24 June 2022 | PNS | Chandigarh

Voting enthusiastically in the past, Sangrur’s electorate on Thursday surprised all political parties with only 36 per cent of the total 15.69 lakh eligible voters casting their vote in the by-election.

 

Attribute it to the low enthusiasm among the voters or the timing coinciding with the paddy transplantation, only 36.04 per cent of the electorate cast their vote in the bypoll to Sangrur parliamentary constituency — which had witnessed a voter turnout of 77.21 per cent in 2014, and 72.40 per cent in 2019 elections — till 5 pm.

 

Already witnessing a multi-cornered contest, the extremely low polling percentage has left all political parties baffled. The ones who were claiming huge victory till a day before were visibly ill at ease till the evening.

 

With 41.56 per cent, Malerkotla assembly constituency saw the highest voter turnout; while Lehra Gaga assembly segment witnessed lowest polling at 32 per cent. Other assembly segments of Dirba recorded 40.58 per cent turnout, followed by Bhadaur with 38.03 per cent, Mehal Kalan with 37 per cent, and Barnala with 36.23 per cent.

 

Polling began at 8 am amid tight security, and will continue till 6 pm, officials said, adding that the votes will be counted on June 26. The polling turnout figures were shared till 5 pm, with the final figures to be declared on Friday by the office of state Chief Electoral Office.

 

There are 15,69,240 eligible voters – 8,30,056 men, 7,39,140 women and 44 transgenders – in the Sangrur parliamentary constituency. A total of 16 candidates, including three women, are in the fray.

 

The state election commission has set up nine pink booths, one for each at a constituency, to encourage participation of women voters. The polling staff at these booths entirely comprises of women.

 

Among the first voters were AAP candidate Gurmail Singh, his wife and mother, who cast their votes at Gharachon village, while BJP candidate Kewal Singh Dhillon and his family exercised their franchise at Barnala. Punjab Finance Minister Harpal Cheema and Lehra MLA Barinder Kumar Goyal also cast their votes early in the morning.

 

Senior Shiromani Akali Dal (Sanyukt) leaders — Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Parminder Singh Dhindsa — voted at their native village, Ubhawal.

 

The bypoll is the first test of popularity for AAP after its impressive performance in the assembly elections. The bypoll comes at a time when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is facing heat over the law-and-order issue and the killing of Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala.

 

Election to this seat was necessitated after Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann resigned as Sangrur MP after he won from Dhuri Vidhan Sabha segment and was later swore in as CM. Mann had won his first election as Sangrur MP in 2014 with a record margin of over 2.10 lakh votes defeating SAD candidate Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.

 

In 2014, four AAP MPs won from Punjab and in 2019 Mann was the lone AAP MP in Parliament and he had defeated the then Congress candidate Kewal Singh Dhillon by more than 1.1 lakh votes.

 

In 2022, AAP got a record mandate from Punjab where 92 of their MLAs went in Vidhan Sabha, and all the nine Vidhan Sabha constituencies coming under Sangrur parliamentary seat was won by AAP MLAs with a record mandate.

 

Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency comprise nine assembly seats — Lehragaga, Dirba, Sunam, Dhuri, Sangrur (in Sangrur district), Malerkotla (in Malerkotla district), Barnala, Bhadaur, and Mehal Kalan (in Barnala district).

 

The seat assumes significance for the ruling AAP as the party has always won since 2014. In 2017, assembly polls, though the party could win only 20 seats in Punjab but five of these 20 were from Sangrur — Dirba, Sunam, Barnala, Mehal Kalan, Bhadaur.

 

Mann’s assembly seat, Dhuri, also falls in the same parliamentary constituency and so are the constituencies of Punjab’s Education Minister Harpal Singh Cheema (Dirba); and Education Minister (Barnala).

 

MANN APPEALS ECI FOR EXTENSION IN POLLING TIME

Observing the low polling percentage, AAP leader and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, in a late afternoon tweet, had urged the Election Commission of India to extend the voting time for the ongoing Sangrur parliamentary bypoll by an hour, till 7 pm.

 

Taking to Twitter, Mann said that a large section of electorate in rural area was busy in paddy transplantation and had been unable to exercise its franchise.

 

The same was followed by separate requests by the Returning Officer-cum-Deputy Commissioner and the Chief Secretary to the Election Commission to extend the timings.

 

BOX

ECI SEEKS EXPLANATION FROM PUNJAB CS, SANGRUR DC

Taking strong note, the ECI had sought explanation from Punjab Chief Secretary and Sangrur Deputy Commissioner asking why an extension in the polling time was sought towards the closing hours, while pointing out that it amounted to “attempt of unduly interfering in the election process and influence certain class of voters”.

 

The commission said the letter of the returning officer and subsequent request by the chief secretary at 4:05pm amount to “attempt of unduly interfering in the election process and influence certain class of voters by conveying them to expedite voting or wait for time extension.”

 

The commission condemns such behaviour by the officers during election process, it said.

 

In a strongly-worded letter to the chief electoral officer of Punjab, the EC expressed “displeasure” on the “unwarranted communication making request for extension of poll timing on the poll day for reasons which pre-existed even during notification of the by-election”.

 

Officials said the plea taken to extend time was that people were still working in paddy fields. It was a fact which was already known when the notification was issued.

 

“I have been directed to state that detailed explanation from the chief secretary and returning officer shall be called regarding reasons and circumstances and new facts that arose in the afternoon of polling day, necessitating writing of such letter so as to reach commission by tomorrow (Friday) 1pm to take further decision on initiating disciplinary proceedings,” the letter by an EC secretary said.

 

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