Goa registers record 83% voter turnout; 75% polling in Punjab
Voting ended in Punjab and Goa for the 2017 Assembly elections with Punjab registering 75 percent turnout of the 1.98 crore electors while Goa witnessed a record turnout of 83 percent as the first round of Assembly elections in five states concluded by and large peacefully on Saturday.
This year's turnout in Goa broke last election record of 81.7 percent. The two states are the first of the five to go to polling ahead of Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Uttarakhand which are being held simultaneously in the months of February and March.
The counting of votes for all five states will begin on March 11. Voting for 40 seats in Goa began at 7 am and Punjab, which has 117 Assembly seats, an hour later.
However, sporadic incidents of violence and widespread snags in voting machines marred a brisk day of polling across the two states.
Traditional rivals BJP and Congress are locked in a keen electoral battle in the two states where Arvind Kejriwal's AAP has made its maiden foray in the Assembly elections, seeking to play a killjoy for the two major contenders for power.
It is the first outing for AAP in Assembly elections outside Delhi where it rules with an overwhelming majority in the state Assembly and all eyes will be on it to see if it can upset the applecart of the two major national parties.
The BJP is in government in Punjab in alliance with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) for two successive terms, while it also helms Goa, despite ally Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party having drifted away just after the announcement of elections to form a three-party combine.
The elections to Punjab and Goa, which will be followed by those in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Manipur, beginning later this month and spilling over to March, are being billed as a major test of BJP and the Prime Minister's popularity post demonetisation.
In Punjab, where SAD-BJP alliance has been in power for the past decade, Saturday's polling will decide the fate of a number of political bigwigs, including 89-year-old Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, seeking a sixth term in office, his old political rival and Congress' CM face Amarinder Singh, who has declared it will be his last election, and Badal's son and deputy Sukhbir.
Badal Sr. is locked in a keen battle with Amarinder for the Lambi seat, the pocket borough of the Badals. Amarinder, the scion of Patiala royal family, is also in the fray from his home town.
Stand-up comedian and AAP MP from Sangrur, Bhagwant Mann is crossing swords with Sukhbir in Jalalabad. Navjot Singh Sidhu, the voluble cricketer-turned- politician of the Congress is trying his luck from Amritsar East seat.
Goa registered a record 83 per cent voter turnout with no incidents of violence and very little technical problems reported in the EVMs and VVPAT machines. In the 2012 Assembly elections, Goa had recorded an impressive 81.8 percent voting.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, widely seen as the CM face of the BJP, Union Minister Shripad Naik and Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar were among the early voters who cast their ballots. People in large numbers turned up at the polling stations right from the morning amid pleasant weather.
A total of 250 contestants are in the fray, which include many independents.
In an unfortunate incident, a senior citizen died of cardiac arrest at a polling booth in Goa, EC sources said. The deceased — Dr Leslie Saldanha (78) — collapsed at the entrance of Immaculate School polling booth in Panjim and was rushed to a nearby private hospital where he expired.
Meanwhile, calling it "spineless", Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday alleged that the Election Commission had "completely surrendered" before Modi. Kejriwal's remarks came in response to reports of people allegedly visiting polling booths with party symbols and also campaigning on social media and TV on polling day.
"Election Commission has completely surrendered before Modiji, just like the CBI and the RBI," Kejriwal tweeted. "This is a completely shameless and spineless Election Commission."
On the other hand, Kejriwal appeared bullish about his party prospects in Goa and Punjab, where polling took place on Saturday, adding that the states will create history even as he urged people to vote for honest politics. "Goa and Punjab will create history today," he said in a tweet.