Gurdaspur byelection today, over to voters now

Gurdaspur, October 10: The police districts of Batala, Pathankot and Gurdaspur have made tight security arrangements to ensure peaceful polling in the Lok Sabha byelection.

Following an Election Commission directive, several politicians who were camping in the constituency for the past few days have left. There were reports that some senior Congress leaders refused to leave. However, Returning Officer GS Sidhu claimed that no “outsider” was present. “Only the contesting candidates and the state heads of the parties have been allowed to stay,” he said.

Paramilitary forces have been deployed in all polling stations which have been declared sensitive or hypersensitive. Gurdaspur will become the first parliamentary constituency in the country where all polling stations will have Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines. This device gives the voter using an EVM confirmation about his vote.

Security personnel have been stationed at every 20 yards and vehicles are being checked randomly. Checking was intensified today after reports that crates of liquor were being transported to villages from the city , despite the prohibition order.

Meanwhile, the ECI has allowed voters to use alternative identity cards as proof of identity. A spokesman said those who did not have the elector photo identity card (EPIC, also called voter ID card) could exercise their franchise using documents such as the Aadhaar card, passport, driving licence or service ID cards (with photo) issued by central/state governments or public sector undertakings. The EC has also allowed the use of bank or post office passbooks with photos, PAN card, MGNREGA job card, health insurance smart card, pension documents and authenticated voter slips for the purpose.

The Gurdaspur byelection has underlined the fierce rivalry between Congress and Akali leaders in Majha. The result, to be declared on October 15, will tell who gets to boast about “Majhe da sardari”. Congress leaders Navjot Singh Sidhu and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa have thrown their weight behind party candidate Sunil Jakhar, while prominent Akali leaders — party president Sukhbir Singh Badal and former minister Bikram Singh Majithia are backing BJP’s Swaran Salaria.Majithia.

Seven of the nine Vidhan Sabha seats under the parliamentary constituency are held by the Congress — Gurdaspur (Barindermeet Singh Pahra), Pathankot (Amit Vij), Bhoa (Joginder Pal), Dinanagar (Aruna Chaudhary), Dera Baba Nanak (Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa), Fatehgarh Churian (Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa) and Qadian (Fateh Jung Bajwa). Dinesh Singh Babbu (BJP) and Lakhbir Singh Lodhinangal (SAD) represent Sujanpur and Batala, respectively.