Punjab campaigning ends; voting on February 4

Chandigarh, (IANS) A high-voltage and somewhat no-holds-barred campaign for the February 4 Punjab assembly elections ended on Thursday evening as leaders and workers of major political parties made last-ditch efforts to woo voters in the state.

Over 1.98 crore voters will now decide the fate of 1,145 candidates — including 81 women candidates and one transgender — in all 117 assembly constituencies on Saturday (February 4) from 8 a.m. onwards.

Voting in the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat by-election will also be held on February 4. The by-poll was necessitated due to the resignation of Congress Punjab unit President Amarinder Singh from the house over the Sutlej-Yamuna Link issue on November 11, 2016.

Authorities have ensured tight security, including deployment of central security forces, across Punjab, particularly after the car bomb blast in Maur Mandi town of Bathinda district on Tuesday evening.

The main contest is between the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance, the Congress and newest entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The last day of campaigning witnessed Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the Malwa belt of Punjab, apart from hectic canvassing by Congress Punjab unit President Amarinder Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal, Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu and AAP National Convener Arvind Kejriwal.

Different political parties held rallies and road shows at various places on Thursday.

Punjab Chief Electoral Officer V.K. Singh said all advertisements vis-a-vis candidates or political parties 48 hours ahead of the actual voting will be restricted.

“According to the renewed guidelines, all electronic media advertisements, including bulk SMSes, interactive voice response and social media have been completely banned during the last 48 hours ending with polling, that is, starting from 5 p.m. of Feb 2, 2017, to 5 p.m. of February 4, 2017,” Singh said.

He said all print media advertisements to be published in 48 hours ahead of voting ought to be certified by state-level media committee if it is a general party propaganda for the entire state.

Singh said as per the fresh guidelines, there will be no restrictions on the use of two-wheelers by the general public and an earlier instruction was only for use of vehicles by candidates on polling day.

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