Polling began in Goa and Punjab amid heavy security on Saturday morning, launching the first phase of the staggered legislative assembly elections to be conducted across five states through February and March.
While Punjab recorded a polling percentage of 12% till 10.30 am, 15% of Goa’s electorate came out to exercise their franchise by 9 am.
The day will feature key contests in Punjab, including a direct electoral clash between chief ministerial candidates Parkash Singh Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal and Captain Amarinder Sigh of the Congress at Lambi, and a mega-battle between deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal and Bhagwant Singh Mann — seen as the leading Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) contender for the hot seat — at Jalalabad.
The state is witnessing a three-cornered contest this year, with the Akali Dal-BJP alliance locking horns with AAP and the Congress to remain in power.
Nearly 2 crore voters are expected to decide the fate of 1,145 candidates, including 81 women, in Punjab. As many as 22, 615 polling stations have been set up, and over a lakh security personnel deployed to ensure free-and-fair voting.
Goa, on the other hand, is witnessing a four-pronged battle between the ruling BJP, Congress, AAP and an alliance comprising three minor parties. Around 11.10 lakh voters are expected to elect 40 members to the legislative assembly from a total of 251 candidates — including 19 women.
With women voters outnumbering men in the state, as many as 40 ‘all-women’ polling stations have been set up to encourage their participation in the electoral process.
Though speculations abound that defence minister Manohar Parrikar may return to Goa politics if the BJP were to win, probably as its chief minister, he left everybody guessing by describing himself as a humble party worker who will abide by the directives of his seniors. Parrikar cast his vote early on Saturday.
The other states that will go to the polls between February and March are Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Uttarakhand. The results for all the five states will be announced on March 11.