Two Assembly segments in Punjab’s Doaba region that went to bypolls on Monday recorded lowest poll percentage in past four decades, barring 1992 when there was an election boycotted by the SAD and its supporters.
Compared to 2017 Assembly polls, Phagwara saw a dip of 17 per cent in polling, while Mukerian recorded a slide of 12 per cent. As voting wrapped up, Phagwara registered 55.97 per cent polling, Mukerian registered 59 per cent polling on Monday.
In Mukerian, the BJP had fielded Jangi Lal Mahajan against Indu Bala, wife for Rakesh Kumar Babbi, whose death necessitated the bypoll. The Phagwara contest is being seen as a fight between BJP’s Rakesh Bagha and former bureaucrat Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal of the Congress.
In 2017, Phagwara’s polling percentage was 72.83 per cent, while that of Mukeiran was 70.7 per cent. Before
The turnout in 1992 amid SAD boycott was — Phagwara (32.71 per cent), Mukerian (51.7 per cent). In that is taken into account, the lowest turnout before Monday’s bypoll was in 2002 for Phagwara (58.76 per cent) and 1980 for Mukerian (62.5 per cent).
Through the day, long queues were missing outside polling stations in both seats. Sources said that in Phagwara, BJP factions were stopping their respective supporters from casting their votes. Meanwhile, Congress’s Phagwara candidate Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal was slapped with a notice by the EC for wrapping a scarf carrying party symbol to the polling station.
Phagwara Mayor and BJP leader Arun Khosla said that lack of interest in people was evident as many shops opened by the afternoon in the city.
However, RSS workers were active in both the segments and bringing voters out of their houses to vote, an exercise that may benefit the BJP. They were ferried on cars, scooters to polling stations.
In Mukerian, AAP supporters were seen coming out to vote. Experts said that if AAP manages to fetch the general category votes here then it will dent BJP, while if the party gets Dalit support then the Congress will take a hit.
On polling day in both seats, people said that their main demand was development in the rural and urban areas and eradication of drugs.
Ajit Kumar of Bansawala Bazaar in Phagwara said: “People want good roads, clean drinking water and ban on drugs, but all these governments have failed to even deliver even that.”