The Assembly elections are a contest between those who love Punjab and the "mafia system" allegedly backed by the Badal family and former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu said after casting his vote today.
He appealed to people to vote carefully, underlining that the state had lost one generation to the terrorism and the next to the menace of drugs. "People will vote in large numbers to bring change," he said, according to news agency ANI. Mr Sidhu is the Congress's candidate in Amritsar East.
Mr Sidhu remarked that in the elections, on one side is the "mafias" of families of Captain Amarinder Singh and Prakash Singh Badal who "licked Punjab like termites" for their personal interests and on the other side are people who love the state and want to change the system.
On one side is the mafia system of Badal family & Capt Amarinder Singh. On the other side are those who love Punjab. We lost one generation to terrorism, the second to drugs, so, today we've to vote carefully. People will vote in large numbers to bring change: Navjot S Sidhu,Cong pic.twitter.com/A7nKBMz0Zg— ANI (@ANI) February 20, 2022
Voting is being held across all the 117 Assembly seats in Punjab which have a total electorate of over 2.15 crore. A total of 24,740 polling stations have been set up.
The run up to the Punjab election saw a high-voltage political campaign and heated verbal exchanges between rivals. The state is witnessing a multi-cornered contest this time, with political alignments much different from the last state polls.
The ruling Congress, which stormed to power in the 2017 election under the leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh, unseated him as Chief Minister a few months before polls.
The party has now gone into the poll fight with a power tussle raging within at the centre of which is Mr Sidhu.
The cricketer-turned-politician, who was at the forefront of the rebellion leading to Mr Singh's resignation, has repeatedly spoken out against the Charanjit Singh Channi government after it took over.
Following the high command's intervention to stop infighting from derailing its campaign, the state leaders put up a united front in the run-up to the polls.
The main challenger to the ruling Congress is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has tried to project itself as an honest and stable alternative. In the last leg of the election campaign, a former AAP leader's remarks prompted rivals to accuse party convener Arvind Kejriwal of backing separatists. The party has dismissed the allegations as "unfounded and fabricated" and alleged that its "corrupt" rivals have ganged up to prevent AAP from coming to power.
Mr Singh, who led the Congress into the last election, has founded a new party, Punjab Lok Congress, and is contesting the election in alliance with the BJP.
In another new political equation, Shiromani Akali Dal, which walked out of its long-term alliance with BJP over the farmers' protest against the now-repealed farm laws, has tied up with the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party.