A low turnout of 44.41 per cent was recorded in the bypoll to Punjab's Sangrur Lok Sabha constituency, according to official figures released on Friday morning. Voting was held on Thursday from 8 am to 6 pm, and until late evening, the provisional figures stood at 37.01 per cent. Polling officials had earlier said that the numbers might increase once the data was compiled.
The Sangrur Lok Sabha seat had recorded 72.44 per cent polling in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Most of the nine assembly segments of the constituency recorded poor turnout throughout the day. Earlier in a tweet, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had demanded that the Election Commission should extend the voting time till 7 pm. He said many people were working in the fields until late due to the paddy-sowing season. Following this, the Election Commission asked Punjab's chief secretary and the deputy commissioner of Sangrur to explain why they sought extension of the polling time towards the closing hours.
It amounted to an "attempt of unduly interfering in the election process and influence certain class of voters by conveying them to expedite voting or wait for time extension," the poll body said. The commission condemns such behaviour by the officers during the election process, it added. The bypoll was necessitated following the resignation of Bhagwant Mann from the Lok Sabha after he was elected as an MLA in the state assembly elections earlier this year. Mann had won the Sangrur seat in the 2014 and the 2019 parliamentary elections.
There are 15,69,240 eligible voters -- 8,30,056 men, 7,39,140 women and 44 belonging to the third gender -- in the Sangrur parliamentary constituency. Sixteen candidates, including three women, were in the fray. The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is facing its first test of popularity after its impressive performance in the assembly polls. The bypoll was held at a time when the AAP is facing opposition heat over the law-and-order scenario in the state and the killing of singer Sidhu Moosewala. Mann had campaigned extensively and also took out a road show with AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal on Monday, urging voters to ensure the victory of Gurmail Singh, the party's Sangrur district in-charge.
The Congress, the BJP and the SAD had hit out at the AAP government over "deteriorating" law and order in the state and also raised the issue of Moosewala's killing. The opposition parties also slammed the AAP government over "unfulfilled promises". The main opposition Congress fielded former Dhuri MLA Dalvir Singh Goldy, while the BJP fielded former Barnala MLA Kewal Dhillon, who had joined the party on June 4. Kamaldeep Kaur, sister of Balwant Singh Rajoana, a convict in former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh's assassination case, was fielded by the SAD. Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann is also in the fray.
(With PTI Inputs)