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Punjab Votes ’07
Fiercest poll battle ever
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 11
After three weeks of heightened political activity, Punjab went quiet this evening, indicating lull before the February 13 storm, the day state goes to the polls.

Apart from unprecedented bouts of mud slinging, allegations and counter allegations, both at election rallies and through media ads blitzkrieg, the state is heading for perhaps its fiercest poll battle ever.

The issues, for the first time, have been relegated to the background as the elections are becoming the battle of two political giants, Capt Amarinder Singh vs Mr Parkash Singh Badal. The stakes are high.

Described as a “war between the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh-led Congress and his predecessor Mr Parkash Singh Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dal, the ensuing battle of ballot is expected to be the fiercest ever witnessed in the state after the reorganisation of the state in 1966.”

Unlike previous elections, there are neither any Panthic issues nor the religious ones. Economic growth and development, unemployment, inflation and corruption, besides growing incidence of suicide among farmers due to mounting debts, improvement in infrastructure, including water and power supply, strengthening of both education and health care systems in the state appeared to be major issues which were debated upon throughout the three-week campaign period.

At places, local issues, including sanitation, sewerage, drinking water, missing roads and poor health care facilities also cropped up but focus mainly remained on economic development and growth.

Another issue that shook the electioneering was open support declared by the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda for the Congress. Purchase of photo ID cards was another controversy which remained in the headlines during the campaign period.

Today, it is not only campaigning which came to an end but also all liquor shops, pubs and bars downed their shutters for next 48 hours leaving the contestants for 115 of 117 Assembly seats praying for the inclement weather to end.

Polling in Beas has been deferred to March 11 while in Valtoha it will be held on March 3. As the campaigning drew to a close, deployment of police and paramilitary forces started throughout the state. Nakas sprouted on almost all important state and national highways and also at other vulnerable points.

Though incessant rain and heavily overcast sky had brought down the day and night temperatures considerably, restricting normal movement throughout, election managers of major political parties went ahead with their last round of campaigning. For example, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, flew to Gidderbaha where his chopper landed at a venue of Akalis’ rally. The Akali Dal chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, accompanied by senior leaders of the BJP, was in his home turf at Lambi.

Many of the corner meetings and rallies in small towns and villages had to be cancelled because of continuous rain and strong chilly winds.

The Congress candidates, their workers and supporters were feeling handicapped as they probably did not get enough time to campaign and reach everywhere in their respective constituencies.

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