Polling for Gurdaspur Lok Sabha by-election started on Wednesday morning with the bypoll being seen as a test for the six-month-old Captain Amarinder Singh government’s popularity in Punjab.
The seat fell vacant following the death of BJP MP Vinod Khanna in April this year.The Congress has nominated its Punjab unit president Sunil Jakhar, a loyalist of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, as its candidate, while the BJP has decided to field Swaran Singh Salaria as its candidate. Salaria, 58, hails from Chauhana village of Bhoa assembly segment and is a member of the BJP’s National Executive.
Salaria was recently embroiled into a a controversy after a woman alleged that she had been sexually exploited by the BJP candidate for 32 years on the pretext of marriage.
Aam Aadmi Party, which had won four parliamentary seats in the last Lok Sabha polls, has fielded Major General Suresh Khajuria (retired) as its candidate from the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat for the said election. Khajuri is the leader of opposition in the Punjab Assembly.
The Election Commission of India has decided to use electronic voting machines fitted with voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) system for the bypoll in Gurdaspur. This is the first time that the VVPAT system is being used in this border district of Punjab.
Gurdaspur District Electoral Officer Gurloveleen Singh Sidhu said the VVPAT system would be used in all assembly segments in the parliamentary constituency — Dina Nagar, Gurdaspur, Dera Baba Nanak, Fatehgarh Churian, Batala, Qadian, Pathankot, Sujanpur and Bhoa.
VVPAT generates a receipt and allow people to verify if the vote went in favour of the candidate against whose name the button was pressed on the electronic voting machine (EVM).
Total 15,17,436 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise today. The counting will take place on 15 October.