High-Octane Campaigning For Punjab's 13 Lok Sabha Seats Ends With PM Modi’S Big Push At Four Rallies

(MENAFN- IANS) Chandigarh, May 30 (IANS) The high-octane campaigning for Punjab's 13 Lok Sabha seats, witnessing a four-cornered contest, came to an end at 5 P.M. on Thursday, with all top leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi making a last attempt to woo 2.14 crore voters who are expected to exercise their franchise on June 1.

The BJP, which is contesting the parliamentary polls alone in Punjab after almost three decades, is largely banking on PM Modi's four rallies that it believes are pivotal in swaying and consolidating votes, particularly in urban, Hindu-dominated segments.

PM Modi held a big rally in Hoshiarpur, once a Congress bastion, making a last call to motivate the voters just hours ahead of the campaigning coming to an end.

From this reserved seat, the BJP has fielded Anita Som Parkash, the wife of outgoing Union Minister Som Parkash.

Punjab is all set for a four-cornered fight between the AAP, Congress, Akali Dal, and the BJP.

Political observers told IANS that AAP aims to repeat its 2022 Assembly poll success of sweeping 92 seats in the House of 117, while the main Opposition Congress and the Akali Dal look to regain ground. In 2022, the Akali Dal was reduced to three seats.

On the other hand, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, former party President Rahul Gandhi and General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, among other prominent leaders, addressed rallies in the state.

AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal and state Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann held roadshows and back-to-back public meetings, especially with traders, to woo the voters.

In Punjab, the AAP is contesting the elections alone without any alliance with the Opposition's INDIA bloc.

In the election campaigns, Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal, who's currently out on interim bail in the liquor policy case, came out with guns blazing at the BJP-led Centre and PM Modi.

Interestingly, while campaigning on the penultimate day for the AAP and Congress' joint candidate in Chandigarh, Manish Tewari, the Delhi CM said,“We have to defeat the BJP from Chandigarh.”

Taking a swipe at PM Modi, CM Kejriwal said,“Achhe din aane waale hain, Modiji jaane waale hain.”

CM Kejriwal, along with candidate Tiwari, led a massive roadshow in Chandigarh and appealed to the people to elect the joint candidate as“it is a fight to save our democracy and Constitution.”

Chandigarh will also go for the polls on its lone seat on June 1. Here the straight contest is between the BJP's Sanjay Tandon, who is making a debut in electoral politics and believes there is a 'Modi wave' in the country, and two-time MP Tewari.

Tewari is the outgoing MP from Anandpur Sahib in Punjab.

Addressing a rally in Patiala last week in favour of the party's candidate and four-time MP Preneet Kaur, PM Modi blamed the Congress for the Sikh pilgrimage site Kartarpur Sahib going to Pakistan during Partition.

Kartarpur Sahib is the place where Guru Nanak Dev spent his last years.

Saying that more than 90,000 Pakistani soldiers had surrendered in the 1971 Indo-Pak War, PM Modi said had he been in power at the time, he would have taken Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib from Pakistan before freeing their troops.

Besides Hoshiarpur and Patiala, PM Modi also addressed rallies in Gurdaspur and Jalandhar, which are the BJP's strongholds.

Previously these seats were won by the BJP in alliance with the Akali Dal.

Akali Dal President Sukhbir Badal, who is hitting out at the BJP for divisive politics and the Congress for Operation Bluestar, held several meetings across the state and claimed his party could take Punjab on the path of development.

This time Sukhbir Badal, who is the outgoing Ferozepur MP, is not in the fray.

However, a tough battle awaits his wife Harsimrat Badal, who held portfolios in both the PM Modi-led central governments.

She is eyeing to retain the politically-significant Bathinda seat, also known as Punjab's cotton belt, for the fourth-consecutive term.

Chief Electoral Officer Sibin C said the state has an electorate of 2,14,61,739, comprising 1,12,86,726 men, 1,01,74,240 women and 773 transgender voters.

According to him, 5,38,715 voters belong to the 18-19 age group, who will be casting their votes for the first time.

Similarly, 1,89,855 voters are aged above 85 years. The total number of 'Divyang' voters is 1,58,718.

For the 13 Lok Sabha seats, a total of 24,451 polling stations will be set up, with 16,517 in villages and 7,934 in cities.

In Punjab, 100 per cent photo identity cards (EPIC) have been made.

In 2019, the BJP in alliance with the Akali Dal had contested three Lok Sabha seats (Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur), while the latter contested the remaining 10 seats.

At that time, the state ruling Congress had won eight seats -- Amritsar, Faridkot, Anandpur Sahib, Jalandhar, Khadoor Sahib, Ludhiana, Fatehgarh Sahib and Patiala seats -- while the Akali Dal won Bathinda and Ferozepur and the BJP Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur seats.

The AAP won from Sangrur. Punjab had recorded a voter turnout of 65.96 per cent in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at ...)



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