Punjab braves chill, 11% votes in two hours
Braving the winter chill, thousands of voters turned out on Saturday morning to cast their vote for the Punjab assembly elections.
Early reports indicated that five to 17 per cent voting was reported from constituencies in various districts. The overall poll percentage (till 10.30 am) was over 11 per cent.
Long queues were seen at most polling stations as voting began in all the 117 assembly constituencies.
Voting commenced at 8 a.m. and will continue till 5 p.m.
Reports from various places indicated that voters queued up at polling stations much before 8 a.m.
Over 1.98 crore electorates will decide the fate of 1,145 candidates, including 81 women and a lone transgender candidate. There are over six lakh first time voters this time.
Voting for by-election to the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat is also being held on Saturday.
The main contest is among the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance, which has been in power in Punjab since 2007, the Congress and the new entrant - Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
For the first time, Punjab is witnessing three-cornered contests on all the 117 assembly seats.
The enthusiasm of voters was almost equal in rural and urban areas.
First time voters were issued certificates by district authorities in various assembly constituencies.
Among early voters were former Army chief and ex-Governor Gen J.J. Singh (Patiala city) of the Shiromani Akali Dal, and former Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal (Badal village) of the Congress.
Others to cast their votes included former Olympian and now Congress leader Pargat Singh (Jalandhar Cantt), Sucha Singh Chhotepur (Gurdaspur) of Apna Punjab Party and Congress leaders Sunil Jakhar (Fazilka) and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Lehra).
Reports of faulty electronic voting machines (EVMs) were received during early voting in Gurdaspur, Rajasansi (Amritsar), Sahnewal, Pathankot, Kharar and Bhoa assembly seats. This led to some delay in voting process, election officials said.
Tight security arrangements were in place across Punjab and the state's borders with neighbouring states were sealed.
There are 22,614 polling stations in Punjab.
The counting of votes will take place on March 11.
In the 2012 assembly elections, 78.57 per cent of Punjab voters had exercised their franchise.