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50% polling till 5 pm in Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypoll in Punjab

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JALANDHAR (PB), May 10 (PTI): A voter turnout of over 50 per cent was recorded till 5 pm on Wednesday in the bypoll to Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat which is witnessing a four-cornered electoral battle.

Voting began at 8 am amid tight security and continued till 6 pm, officials said, adding that voters still in queue would be allowed to exercise their franchise.

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The seat fell vacant following the death of Congress MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary due to a cardiac arrest during his party’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ in January. The AAP, which is the ruling party in the state, the Congress, BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal are vying to outdo each other in the Dalit stronghold.

Opposition party leaders accused the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of violating the model code of conduct by deploying outsiders at several booths, a charge denied by the ruling party.

According to the Election Commission’s voter turnout application, 50.27 per cent polling was recorded till 5 pm.

Till 9 am, the polling percentage was 5.21 and it rose to 41 till 3 pm.

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Counting of votes will take place on May 13.

The Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat had registered 63.04 per cent polling in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

After the polling began Wednesday morning, voters, especially elders and women, could be seen standing in queues at many polling stations in the constituency to cast their votes.

A few incidents of scuffle and altercations were reported between the AAP and opposition party members at some booths in Phillaur, Shahkot and other areas.

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AAP MLA from Baba Bakala assembly segment in Amritsar, Dalbir Singh Tong was arrested for violating the model code of conduct and was later released on bail, said Punjab Chief Electoral Officer Sibin C.

The action came after Congress MLA from Shahkot, Hardev Singh Laddi Sherowalia alleged that Tong, being an outsider, was moving in Shahkot which is part of the Jalandhar parliamentary constituency.

Sherowalia along with his supporters even blocked the vehicle of the AAP MLA and later called police. The AAP MLA was then taken to the Shahkot police station.

The opposition party leaders said as per the instructions of the Election Commission, outsiders were mandated to leave the constituency after the poll campaign period was over.

Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring accused the AAP leaders of flouting the ECI guidelines to allegedly intimidate voters.

Warring, in a statement, said the Congress has filed a complaint against Baba Bakala MLA Dalbir Singh Tong, Amritsar (West) MLA Jasbir Singh Sandhu, Ludhiana (East) MLA Daljit Singh Grewal Bhola, Ludhiana (West) MLA Gurpreet Gogi, Jaitu MLA Amolak Singh and Amritsar (Central) MLA Ajay Gupta for allegedly being present in the Jalandhar constituency despite ECI guidelines.

Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma too wrote a letter to the chief election commissioner, alleging several AAP MLAs and leaders were present in the constituency.

Sharma accused the AAP government of misusing the official machinery.

Congress candidate Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary, through her election agent, wrote a letter to the CEC, alleging AAP leaders and workers came from outside the constituency for campaigning and were present in almost every village and ward.

Akali leader Pawan Kumar Tinu alleged that some AAP workers from Attari in Amritsar were deployed at one of the booths in Adampur.

A total of 16,21,800 eligible voters will decide the fate of 19 candidates, including four women.

The AAP fielded former MLA Sushil Rinku, who quit the Congress, while the Congress has shown its faith in Karamjit Kaur, wife of Santokh Chaudhary.

The BJP fielded Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, a Dalit Sikh, who quit the Akali Dal to join the saffron party. Atwal is the son of former Punjab Vidhan Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, who had also joined the BJP.

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) fielded its two-time MLA from the Banga seat, Sukhwinder Kumar Sukhi, a doctor. The SAD candidate is backed by its ally Bahujan Samaj Party. The Simranjit Singh Mann-led Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) has fielded Gurjant Singh.

There were 1,972 polling stations in the constituency and 497 of them were identified as critical.

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