Mumbai/New Delhi: Voting began in Punjab and Goa on Saturday in the first round of a series of assembly elections that will see five states elect new governments over the next 5 weeks.
Punjab and Goa are in three cornered contest with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as the incumbent, Congress as the key challenger and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which is making a state election debut in both of states.
According to update by the Election Commission, as of 1pm Goa has seen a turnout of 53% voter turnout. South Goa and North Goa recorded 52% and 55% polling respectively.
Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar was among the early voters who voted at the polling booth located in the heart of Panaji city at around 7.20am. Goa chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar also cast his vote in Aarambol. A 78 years old man died of heart attack outside polling booth in Mala,Panaji.
Around 35% of the total 1.98 crore electors exercised their franchise till 1pm in the high-stakes Punjab assembly elections, wherein 1,145 candidates are in the fray. The state has taken off to a slow start specially given that in the 2012 assembly elections it had a turnout of 78.3%.
“35% polling has taken place till 1pm,” an election office spokesman said Chandigarh. “Polling is going peacefully,” additional director general of police (ADGP-elections) V.K. Bhawra said.
The 117-member Punjab assembly polls will see an incumbent Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine, in power for a decade now, fighting one of its toughest electoral fights against former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh led Congress party and AAP as key challengers.
Congress is contesting all seats on its own, AAP is contesting on 112 seats and five have been given to Lok Insaf Party of Bains brothers where as SAD is contesting 94 seats and has fielded BJP candidates on 23 seats.
In Goa, the ruling BJP faces a stiff challenge from Congress, AAP and an alliance among regional outfit Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM), and Shiv Sena.
Both the states traditionally have a high voter turnout. Polling for both the states happen on Saturday and results will be declared on 11 March.
In Punjab a total electorate of 1.98 crore people to decide that fate of 1,145 candidates, including 81 women and a transgender.
Around 1.08 million voters are eligible to cast votes in Goa at 1649 polling booths. In 2012 elections, Goa witnessed 82.94% polling. The Election Commission of Goa has taken measures to further improve the voting percentage to at least 90% this time around. The Election Commission has introduced a number of novel ideas in Goa since 2010—like preparing voter profile, using Real Time Poll Monitoring System, and Systematic Voter Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP)—to encourage voters to participate.
Except for the AAP, no political party or alliance in Goa is contesting all 40 seats. Even AAP is contesting 39 seats on its own and has supported a candidate in one seat. The incumbent BJP has put up its nominees on 36 seats and is supporting independents on 2. In the 2012 polls, the BJP had contested 28 seats and won 21.
The Congress has fielded 37 candidates while the MGP-GSM-SS alliance is contesting 35 seats. In total, 250 nominees have filed their nominations for 40 seats, up from 202 in 2012. South Goa, which accounts for 16 assembly constituencies, has more nominees though-131—than North Goa’s 119.