Punjab, Uttarakhand set to elect new assemblies

New Delhi : Punjab and Uttarakhand will vote Monday to elect new assemblies with the Congress hoping to oust the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine in the country’s grain bowl and the BJP in the hill state.

According to the Election Commission, 1.76 crore voters are eligible to vote in the 117 constituencies of Punjab in the second round of five-state elections that began Saturday. The voter population is around 6.3 million in Uttarakhand, which has a 70-member house.

In Punjab, the Congress led by former chief minister Amarinder Singh has levelled major charges of corruption against the government of Parkash Singh Badal.

Most seats in Punjab will see a triangular contest between the ruling SAD-BJP alliance, the Congress and the Sanjha Morcha, which includes the Left and People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) led by Manpreet Badal, a nephew of the chief minister who broke away from the Akali Dal.

The main contestants include Badal (Lambi), Amarinder Singh (Patiala city), Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal (Jalalabad) and Amarinder’s son Raninder Singh (Samana).

Congress leader and former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal has been fielded from Lehra.

Two former officials, D.S. Guru, who was principal secretary to the chief minister, and P.S. Gill, a former director general of police, are contesting from Bhadaur and Moga respectively.

In Uttarakhand, Chief minister B.C. Khanduri, who replaced Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank last year after corruption allegations surfaced against him, is trying to defend the turf for the BJP.

Khanduri, a BJP candidate from Kotdwar, is pitted against Congress nominee Surendra Singh Negi.

Dissent within the BJP ranks could affect the party’s prospects, party sources admit.

Of the 1,078 candidates in the fray in Punjab, 417 are independents. These include 45 women.

The Election Commission has deployed around 200 companies of paramilitary forces to oversee the Punjab ballot.

Manipur went to the polls Saturday. Uttar Pradesh will see a seven-phase balloting from Feb 8 to March 3. Goa will see a one-day poll March 3.

Votes in all five states will be counted March 6.

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