The residents of Chandigarh on Thursday came out in large numbers to cast their votes, with the turnout touching around 74 per cent. This is the highest polling ever witnessed in the city’s electoral history. The polling percentage during the last election was 65.7 per cent.
The second highest polling in the city’s history took place in 1984 when 68.93 per cent people cast their votes.
As the polling came to an end, the fate of the 17 candidates in the fray was sealed in the EVMs. Now it will be an anxious wait for them as counting will take place on May 16.
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The four-time Congress MP and former railways minister Pawan Kumar Bansal was in the fray against two actors —BJP candidate Kirron Kher and AAP candidate Gul Panag. Fighting anti-incumbency, Bansal was eying his fourth consecutive term and fifth overall as the city’s MP. For both Kher and Panag, it was the first time that they were testing the electoral waters.
Voters stood in queues from as early as 5 am, even though polling was to start at 7 am. The police personnel had a hard time managing the crowd with people jostling to get in.
Interestingly, a substantial number of urban voters turned up to cast their votes. Traditionally, the colonies and villages record high turnout. A change was visible this time with even the urban voters queuing up early in the morning.
The morning hours witnessed heavy polling which slowed down in the afternoon and then picked up later in the evening. Polling at most places ended by around 7 pm, at some places even earlier. However, votes were cast in rehabilitation colony at Dhanas till late into the night. While since morning there had been long queues in the area, it was only after power supply was cut off for around an hour that the voting process was prolonged. People created a ruckus in the area. BSP leaders alleged that this was a conspiracy.
The polling was largely peaceful with stray incidents of disruption being reported. At some places, the Electronic Voting Machines developed problems due to which the process was delayed. In certain areas, polling started late. At Mauli Jagran, the police carried out a flag march to ensure peace. The leaders of all parties visited the polling booths to see the progress of polling.
Among the issues that dominated the campaign was the contest between “insiders” and “outsiders”. The Congress claimed that both Kher and Panag were outsiders as they work in Mumbai and it would be difficult to find them when some work has to be done. However, both the candidates had claimed that they were from the city and would be settling here.
The BJP and AAP had been talking about lack of development in Chandigarh in the last 10 years. Bansal has been the MP for 15 consecutive years. He has also held charge of various ministries. The rail bribery scam was another issue that dominated the campaigning.
How they see the turnout
The political parties interpreted the high voter turnout to be in their favour. BJP city unit president Sanjay Tandon stated that the heavy voter turnout indicates that the city constituents wanted to get rid of the non-performing Congress and were eagerly waiting for the BJP to form government at the Centre under the leadership of the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narender Modi.
However, the president of the local Congress unit B B Bahl said that the Congress would emerge victorious. “We will win in the colonies and that will compensate for the loss, if any, of the urban vote. It is yet to be ascertained if there was a Modi wave in the city,” he added.