Around 45 per cent of the 1.76 crore electorate on Monday exercised their franchise till 1400 hours in Punjab to elect the 117-member state assembly.
"The polling percentage is up to 45 per cent till 1400 hours," Punjab's Joint Chief electoral Officer Gurkirat Kirpal Singh said Chandigarh.
Even as reports of minor clashes were received from Bathinda and Ludhiana, the electoral office maintained that the polling was peaceful as no untoward incident had occurred in the state.
Reports said that some persons attacked Ludhiana's Bharatiya Janata Party Yuva Morcha General Secretary Sanjay Kapoor following which he received minor injuries.
As per another report, stones were pelted at the Dera Sacha Sauda office located on Amrik Singh road at Bathinda. However, after police intervention the situation was brought under control.
With the People's Party of Punjab led by former Minister, Manpreet Badal alleging tampering of some EVMs in Buddhlada, the CEO said, "There were some machines from the reserve stock being adjusted when some member from PPP thought there was some tampering going on, which was not the case".
Reports said that some machines which developed technical faults resulting in minor disruption of polling process were immediately replaced from the reserved stock.
Serpentine queues were seen at different polling booths across the state, reports said.
The fate of 1,078 candidates, including two chief ministerial aspirants Parkash Singh Badal and Amarinder Singh in fray for 117 Assembly seats, will be sealed on Monday.
The polling is taking place at 19,841 polling stations across 22 districts of Punjab.
Prominent candidates whose fate would be sealed today include the Chief Minister from his traditional Lambi Assembly seat, his predecessor Amarinder Singh from Patiala city, their sons Sukhbir Singh Badal (Jalalabad) and Raninder Singh (Samana), former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Lehra), former Punjab top cop P S Gill (Moga), former Principal Secretary to the chief minister D S Guru (Bhadaur) and former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur (Bholath).
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Talking to reporters before leaving for Patiala, state Congress President Amarinder Singh claimed that Haryana's Sirsa headquartered-sect Dera Sacha Sauda was supporting his party. "The Dera is supporting the Congress. The message (from the Dera) has reached the premis (followers) and they are supporting the Congress. This was expected the way Akalis had treated the Dera followers," he said.
Singh claimed there was clear wave in his party's favour. "We are winning hands down and as I have said we will cross 70 seats."
"People of Punjab want to oust the Akalis. There has been no development and (Deputy chief minister and SAD president) Sukhbir Singh Badal is trying to sell dreams to people. No development can be seen on the ground," the Congress chief ministerial candidate said.
Over 250 contestants including Amarinder Singh, his wife and Union Minister Preneet Kaur, had visited the Dera premises at Sirsa and sought blessings from the sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. After casting his vote in his home constituency Lambi's Badal village, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said that the SAD-BJP would comfortably win on the basis of development during the past five years.
"Whatever the Congress people may, it doesn't matter. People know that this government has worked for their betterment and today pro-incumbency wave is sweeping the State," the Akali patriarch said. His son and Deputy, Sukhbir Singh Badal said the people will reject the Congress, which had no agenda for taking Punjab forward.
Earlier, the Badals including the chief minister and Sukhbir arrived together and cast vote in Badal village. However, Badal family's estranged relative and chief of People's Party of Punjab, Manpreet Singh Badal, whose party is also contesting the Punjab polls, was the first to arrive to cast vote in Badal village.
Manpreet is seeking re-election for the fifth time from Gidderbaha constituency. He was followed by another estranged relative of the Badals, Mahesh Inder Singh Badal, cousin of the chief minister who is contesting as the Congress candidate from Lambi, from where 84-year-old Badal is seeking re-election.
The chief minister is also pitted against his own brother, Gurdas Badal, father of Manpreet, from Lambi. After casting vote, Sukhbir Badal took a dig at the PPP and asked people not to waste votes on outfits, which are going to have no stake in government formation.
Manpreet Badal, while talking to reporters at the Badals native village, said that winds of change were sweeping around the world and they were also sweeping Punjab, where people were looking for an alternate front. "We will this time break the political monopoly of the SAD and the Congress. People now have a choice and they will vote for Sanja Morcha (Manpreet led third front that includes Left parties too)."
Taking a dig at both SAD and Congress, Manpreet said, "There is acute sense of embarrassment that Punjab has been left behind. Every fourth family living in Punjab migrated from Pakistan after partition. People left their businesses and homes in Sargodha, Lahore, Peshawar and other places in Pakistan hoping for better lives."
"The Punjabis gave maximum sacrifices during the country's freedom movement, but what have they got over the years," he added.
Mahesh Inder Singh said that this was his third election and with each poll he has been improving his performance and this time "as Congress wave is sweeping, my chances of victory are bright".
BJP MP, Navjot Singh Sidhu and his wife Dr Navjot Kaur, who is fighting as BJP candidate from Amritsar East, cast their votes.Both claimed that SAD-BJP will ride to power again and development works will be further accelerated. Congress' senior leader and Ludhiana MP, Manish Tewari also cast his vote in Ludhiana.
Prominent candidates whose fates will be sealed on Monday include the chief minister from his traditional Lambi Assembly seat, his predecessor Amarinder Singh from Patiala city, their sons Sukhbir Singh Badal (Jalalabad) and Raninder Singh (Samana), former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Lehra), former Punjab top cop P S Gill (Moga), former principal secretary to the chief minister D S Guru (Bhadaur) and former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur (Bholath).
Dera sources have, meanwhile, maintained that no formal nnouncement with regards to support to candidates or parties was made and the message to the grass root Dera followers is delivered through its own internal information mechanism making it hard for the outsiders to comprehend the same. The Dera had extended support to the Congress in the last assembly polls in 2007. The Dera chief, who is embroiled in a number of cases, had courted controversy in May 2007 after he hurt Sikh sentiments.
Strict security measures have been taken to maintain peace during the polling. A total of 70972, including 225 paramilitary force personnel have been deployed to conduct the elections. At least 2,627 video cameras and 554 digital cameras have been installed at polling booths. Around 203 polling stations are using live web-casting.
Of the polling stations, 2,718 have been identified hyper sensitive and 6379 as sensitive. Ludhiana East (16), Patiala rural (13) and Jalalabad (14) are the assembly constituencies where maximum number of contestants are in the fray. The least number of contestants are in Attari (4).
Out of the 1,078 candidates in fray 417, including 93 women. At the last hustings in 2007, after scrutiny and withdrawal there were a total of 1,055 candidates, including 56 women, in fray.
In the 2007 general elections, 76 per cent of the 1.67 crore voters had sealed the fate of 1,043 candidates against 65 per cent of the 1.58 crore voters sealing the fate of 923 candidates in the 2002 elections.
The security deposit of 798 candidates was forfeited in the 2007 polls which returned the SAD-BJP alliance to power with SAD winning 49, BJP 19, Congress 44 and remaining five seats going to the Independents.
Earlier, in the 2002 polls the Congress had returned to power winning 62 seats. The SAD won 41 seats, its alliance partner the BJP won three, CPI two and Independents won nine seats. The security of 655 candidates was forfeited in these polls.
Of the major contestants, the SAD had got a vote share of 37.09 per cent in 2007 as against 31.08 per cent in 2002. Its alliance partner BJP got a vote share of 8.28 per cent in 2007 against 5.67 per cent in 2002.
The Congress had got a vote share of 40.90 per cent in 2007 as compared with 35.81 per cent in 2002. The vote share of 431 Independent candidates in the 2007 polls reduced to 6.82 per cent from 11.27 per cent secured by 274 candidates in the 2002 general assembly elections.
The counting of votes will take place on March 6.