Campaigning for the 117 Assembly seats of Punjab came to an end on Friday evening even as political parties made last-minute efforts to mobilise support for their candidates ahead of the February 20 elections. The Congress released its manifesto earlier in the day, promising financial assistance for women, one lakh government jobs and creation of corporations for the sale of liquor and sand mining if it returns to power in the state.
Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, AAP leaders Arvind Kejriwal, Bhagwant Mann and Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia took out road shows in Bhadaur, Jalalabad, Raikot and Amritsar, respectively. Former chief minister Amarinder Singh and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took out a road show in Patiala.
Amarinder Singh’s wife and Congress MP Preneet Kaur also part in the road show. Former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and SAD president Sukhbir Badal also campaigned on the last day. A total of 1,304 candidates, including 93 women, are in the fray in the state. The voting will take place from 8 am till 6 pm, said Punjab Chief Electoral Officer S Karuna Raju.
The Election Commission had earlier postponed the date of voting for the Assembly polls from February 14 to February 20 in the wake of Guru Ravidas Jayanti. Electioneering was initially confined to door-to-door campaigning and through social media in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions. However, the ban on physical rallies was lifted in a phased manner by the EC from February 1 onwards.
Among the prominent candidates in the elections are chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi, Aam Aadmi Party's CM face Bhagwant Mann, Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, former CMs Amarinder Singh and Parkash Singh Badal, and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal Channi is contesting from two seats, Chamkaur Sahib in Rupnagar and Bhadaur in Barnala. AAP's Mann is contesting from Dhuri, which is part of the Sangrur parliamentary constituency, from where he is a two-time MP.
Sidhu is locked in a keenly watched contest with Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia from Amritsar East seat. Amarinder Singh, who was unseated from the post of the chief minister last year by the Congress, is in the fray from his family bastion Patiala Urban as the candidate of the Punjab Lok Congress, which he had formed after quitting the Congress last year. Sukhbir Badal is fighting from Jalalabad in Fazilka while his father 94-year-old Parkash Singh Badal, who is the oldest candidate in the elections, is contesting from his home turf Lambi in Muktsar district.
Balbir Singh Rajewal, leader of the Sanyukt Samaj Morcha, a political front of farmer unions, is contesting from Samrala in Ludhiana district. Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma is in the fray from Pathankot while former Union minister Vijay Sampla is contesting from Phagwara. The SAD is contesting in alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party.
The BJP has formed an alliance with Amarinder Singh-led party and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa-led SAD (Sanyukt). The SSM is contesting the polls in alliance with Haryana Bharatiya Kisan Union (Chaduni) leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni-led Sanyukt Sangharsh Party. While campaigning, PM Narendra Modi had launched a scathing attack against the Congress and AAP, accusing them of pretending to fight against each other. He also called the Arvind Kejriwal-led party as "photocopy of the Congress". PM Modi had hit out at the Congress over a host of issues, including the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, drug and sand mafias.
Asking voters to go for "double-engine government", Modi had said the BJP-led alliance had a vision for "Nawan" (new) Punjab. On Thursday, Modi had slammed Charanjit Singh Channi for his "UP, Bihar de bhaiya" remark. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had cautioned people against going for any "experiment" in the Punjab Assembly polls, saying that maintaining peace was most important for the state and only his party was capable of it. Taking on AAP, Gandhi had claimed that those seeking one chance to form the government will "destroy Punjab" and the state "will burn".
AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal pitched for providing "honest" government to the people of Punjab as he attacked all rival parties for joining hands to prevent his party from coming to power. The SAD called itself "Punjab's own party" and pitched for all-round development of the state while showcasing its development projects carried out in its 10-year-long term in the past.
With PTI Inputs