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Why these 3 Punjab seats bucked state trend and saw high voter turnout

The constituencies of Ferozepur, Bathinda and Sangrur recorded over 70% voter turnout even as polling in the rest of the state was at a 10-year low.

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Chandigarh: The Badals, the Dera Sacha Sauda and Aam Aadmi Party leader Bhagwant Mann are the reasons why Punjab’s three hotly-contested Lok Sabha constituencies recorded higher voter turnout, going against the state’s overall apathetic lowest-in-a-decade voting.

The three constituencies — Ferozepur, Bathinda and Sangrur — recorded voter turnout of over 70 per cent as opposed to the overall voting percentage of barely 66 per cent, the lowest in 10 years. In 2009, 70 per cent of Punjab’s electorate turned up to vote while the turnout almost touched 71 per cent in 2014.

A low voter turnout usually points towards a status quo in the political scenario and, in keeping with the trend, the three constituencies with the highest turnout are expected to be the most closely contested in Punjab.

Badal bahu’s stern Bathinda test

Of the three, Bathinda registered the highest voter turnout in Punjab at 74.10 per cent.

Political analysts, however, said this is not unusual for Bathinda, which has over 16 lakh voters. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, almost 79 per cent of the votes were cast and in 2014, the constituency registered 77.5 per cent voting.

One reason for this, said Kanwalpreet Kaur, a Chandigarh-based political scientist, is the presence of Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the daughter-in-law of former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who has three consecutive victories from here.

“Since she represents the Badal family, which is the state’s most powerful, her presence forces other parties to take her on and try and become giant slayers,” Kaur said.

This time around, Harsimrat had to contend with three sitting MLAs — Congress’ former youth body president and Gidderbaha MLA Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, rebel AAP MLA from Bholath Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who floated his own Punjab Ekta Party, and AAP MLA Baljinder Kaur.

“Bathinda was the most hotly-contested seat in the state. One MP trying to defend her seat pitted against three MLAs,” Kaur said.

“Another reason is the large chunk of the Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda votes. These votes are cast en bloc and that is also the reason why all candidates try to woo the Dera,” Kaur added. “Moreover these votes are cast in a disciplined regimented manner. Before the rest of Bathinda wakes up, the Dera voter has already cast his or her vote.”

Also read: No joke, AAP’s comedian-MP Bhagwant Mann gets all serious as his party struggles in Punjab

The Mann seat

Sangrur, another key seat, saw 72.44 per cent voting. The hugely popular outgoing AAP MP Bhagwant Mann is defending his seat against sitting MLA and former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa of the SAD, former Congress MLA Kewal Singh Dhillon and Jasraj Singh Longia, a rebel AAP leader and singer who was fielded by the Lok Insaaf Party.

The constituency witnessed record voting of 84 per cent in the 2014 elections. Mann had then garnered 5.3 lakh of the total 10 lakh votes cast. Parminder’s father, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, had then secured over 3.2 lakh votes.

This time Dhillon, a money bag candidate, too has put in his best foot forward and all eyes are now on 23 May, counting day.

Another Badal at Ferozepur

Ferozepur witnessed marginally less voting than Sangrur at 72.3 per cent. The contest on this seat was largely between the SAD president and former Punjab deputy chief minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the sitting Jalalabad MLA, and outgoing rebel SAD MP Sher Singh Gubhaya who joined the Congress on the eve of the polls.

Ferozepur has been different from the rest of the state on two accounts. The number of voters in the constituency is over 18 lakh and in terms of the sheer number of votes, the highest was cast here. Also, Ferozepur voted more than it had in 2009 (71.4 per cent) and only marginally less than 2014 (72.76 per cent).

“The reason Ferozepur has witnessed this voting pattern is that Sukhbir is in the fray. In a way, he represents the whole of Akali Dal and for him a victory is essential. The momentum of campaigning rubs off on the voting day and it’s clear that keen campaigning by SAD in Ferozepur and Sangrur has led to a large turnout,” said professor Satnam Singh of the department of political science Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU), Amritsar.

“SAD had left nothing to chance and roped in its cadre from Haryana and Delhi for these key contests.”

If breathless campaigning contributed to a high turnout in Ferozepur, an uninspiring campaign in Amritsar likely led to its lowest turnout in a decade. Amritsar saw 56 per cent of its electorate turning up to vote this time as against 66 per cent in 2009 and 68.5 per cent in 2014.

“This is reflective of a lacklustre campaign converting into a lacklustre polling day,” says Kaur of the constituency where the BJP’s union minister Hardeep Puri was up against outgoing Congress MP Gurjit Aujla.

Also read: Why no one’s talking about Punjab’s drug problem in these elections


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