Moga: Over 70 per cent of the eligible voters cast their ballots on Saturday in the by-election to Moga Assembly constituency in Punjab, where the main fight is between the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and main opposition Congress.
The polling, which was held amid tight security, was dull in the morning due to rainy weather but picked up as the day progressed and people flocked the booths to cast their votes, Election Commission officials said.
The polling was peaceful, and there was no report of any untoward incident from the constituency, a senior official said.
"As many as 70.33 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise. The percentage can go up slightly. The polling remained peaceful and no untoward incident was reported," Punjab's Chief Electoral Officer, Kusumjit Sidhu told sources in Chandigarh.
At Moga grain market polling booth, 96-year-old Gyanwati was also among those who cast their vote.
In 2012 assembly polls, Moga, which is also birthplace of Lala Lajpat Rai, had registered a poll percentage of 78 per cent.
Polling, which started at 8 AM and ended nine hours later, had to be stopped for about 40 minutes at booth number 171 in the morning following some defect in an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), which was changed and the voting later resumed.
A total of 1,79,338 voters were eligible to exercise their franchise. While 69 booths were hyper sensitive, 90 had been declared as sensitive out of the total 188.
While a total of 10 candidates were in the fray, the main contest was between the ruling SAD-BJP's Joginder Pal Jain and main opposition Congress' Vijay Kumar Sathi.
In their poll campaign, the Congress had urged the voters to reject turncoat Jain while SAD had asked the people to vote for development.
Ravinder Singh Dhaliwal of People's Party of Punjab, a candidate enjoying support of the Sanjha Morcha, a group of various political outfits, was also in the fray.
Meanwhile, an MLA of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal was spotted standing near a polling booth in the morning and was asked to leave by the police.
The MLA, who is from outside Moga, was spotted by a social worker, who informed police officials on duty. The police asked the legislator to leave the constituency immediately and he complied, the sources said.
The district administration had ordered all political leaders from outside Moga to leave the constituency.
The bypoll was necessitated due to Congress MLA Joginder Pal Jain resigning from the party and joining the ruling SAD-BJP alliance.
Jain had quit the assembly seat and the Congress party on December 26, last year and joined the Akali Dal. He was elected from Moga seat on a Congress ticket in the 2012
A large number of paramilitary forces and Punjab Police personnel were deployed to ensure free and fair polling.
The security personnel had held flag marches on Friday in Moga town and in the rural areas to instill confidence among the electorates.
Meanwhile, Sukhbir Singh Badal, president of Shiromani Akali Dal and Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab has thanked the people of Moga, government officials and the election commission for ensuring a free, fair and peaceful by-poll.
"I take this opportunity to reach to all our party workers and leaders, elders, colleagues, members of various organisations and groups and journalists for extending their co-operation and help. This peaceful exercise was impossible without the support extended by them," he said.
Story First Published: February 23, 2013 19:20 IST