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Assembly polls: High-pitch campaigns end in Punjab, Goa; voting on February 4

Campaign for the Assembly elections in Punjab and Goa, being touted as a referendum on Narendra Modi government's demonetisation move, ended on Thursday evening.

India TV Politics Desk, Chandigarh/Panaji [Published on:02 Feb 2017, 6:39 PM IST]
Assembly polls, Punjab, Goa, Punjab polls,Goa Poll
Photo: PTI Punjab and Goa will vote for new government on February 4

The high-voltage and no-holds-barred campaign for the Assembly elections in Punjab and Goa, being touted as a referendum on Narendra Modi government's demonetisation move, ended on Thursday evening as leaders and workers of major political parties made last-ditch efforts to woo voters.

Both the states will vote on February 4 in single-phase polling. 

While 117 Assembly seats in Punjab are up for grabs, Goa will vote to elect 40 members of the Assembly. 

The fight in both Goa and Punjab, where it has usually been two-way, has turned interesting with the entry of the Aam Anadmi Party (AAP).

It was for the first time in recent memory that Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who has not been keeping well, did not go stumping and the task of spearheading the electioneering was left to her heir apparent and deputy Rahul Gandhi. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah and a battery of Union Ministers Including Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar plunged into electioneering for BJP and its allies in the two states. 

Punjab, where the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine has been in power over the last decade, saw bitter exchanges with the two other major contenders for power--Congress and AAP -- over drug menace, corruption and law and order. 

Arvind Kejriwal's AAP is contesting Assembly elections in both the states, where BJP and Congress have been traditional political rivals, for the first time and is said to be a potential contender for power. 

Apart from the drug menace, the contentious SYL canal issue and sacrilege of holy books of Sikhs were among the major issues flagged by the electoral rivals. 

Prime Minister Modi held two elections rallies in Jalandhar and Kotkapura in the state where he flagged the issue of threat from Pakistan to seek votes for SAD-BJP combine, which he claim alone could provide a stable government that would guarantee safety and security of the state. 

Rahul Gandhi took Congress' campaign to the pocket boroughs of the ruling Badal clan, including Lambi, Majitha and Jalalabad, to target it over alleged corruption, playing dynastic politics and promoting drugs and mining mafia. 

The AAP, which had won four Lok Sabha seats in 2014, has plunged into the contest whole-heartedly with Arvind Kejriwal criss-crossing large parts of the state. It has fielded candidates in all the 117 seats and is expected to fare well. 

After initial dithering, Rahul Gandhi declared Patiala royal family scion Amarinder Singh the party's chief ministerial face. Amarinder, 74, has already announced it would be his last election. 

A clutch of AAP leaders including Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh and Bhagwant Mann, a potential candidate for chief ministership if the party wins, added heft to the party's campaign. 

Interestingly, in Goa, where the BJP is facing a rival in a rebel RSS leader, the party has not projected incumbent Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar as chief ministerial face and has often hinted at a Manohar Parrikar's return to the hot seat, apparently to cash in on his enduring popularity in the state.

In the coastal state, apart from Rahul, members of his youth brigade including Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot and Randeep Surjewala sought votes for Congress. 

Apart from Modi and Amit Shah, Parrikar extensively campaigned for BJP. Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani were among its other star campaigners IN Goa. 

Kejriwal, too, campaigned in several parts of the state where his party had been doing the ground work for entering the electoral contest for a long time. 

Both Kejriwal and Parrikar got embroiled in controversy for allegedly encouraging bribery when they reportedly asked the electors to accept money from others but vote for their respective parties. They have been issued show cause notices by te Election Commission. 

The BJP is going to the hustings without Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, its ally in the last elections, which has teamed up with rebel RSS leader Subhash Velingkar's Goa Suraksha Manch and Shiv Sena. The new alliance is contesting 28 of the state's 40 seats. 

The contest in Goa, in all probability, will mainly be three-cornered between BJP, Congress and AAP. The new alliance may be able to make it four-cornered in some places. 

The BJP is contesting 36 seats and supporting four independents, while Congress has fielded its candidates in 38 seats and is supporting two others, including an independent. 

AAP nominees are in the fray in 39 seats after nomination of one of its candidates was rejected. 

In Punjab, the death of six people, including children in a car bomb explosion at Maur Mandi in Bathinda has raised the political temperature further with the Akalis and their rivals accusing each other of patronising extremist elements, and warning of a return of terrorism.             

Tough contest appears on cards for the Lambi seat where Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, 89, is crossing swords with state Congress chief and party's CM face Amarinder Singh.  

Amarinder is also trying his luck from his pocket borough of Patiala, where he is locked in a keen contest with former Army chief JJ Singh of SAD.  

Badal's son and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir is contesting Jalalabad against two sitting MPs Ravneet Singh Bittu (Congress), grandson of late chief minister Beant Singh and comedian-turned-politician Bhagwant Mann.  

Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who recently left BJP to join Congress is in the fray for Amritsar East constituency represented in the current assembly by his wife.  

Alongside the assembly polls, by-poll for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat will also take place on Saturday. The seat fell vacant after Amarinder Singh resigned as MP to protest against Supreme Court's order on Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal.  

BJP has fielded Rajinder Mohan Singh Chhina, who is trying his luck against Congress' Gurjit Singh Aujla and Aam Aadmi Party's Upkar Singh Sandhu for the seat.  

In Goa, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar is facing a four-cornered fight in his constituency of Mandrem which he has been representing for last four terms.  

Panaji, the constituency represented by Manohar Parrikar till his elevation to the Union Cabinet, has BJP's sitting MLA Siddharth Kuncolienkar contesting against Congress-backed Atanasio Monserratte. 

(With PTI inputs) 

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