Minor clashes were reported between Congress and BJP-Akali Dal workers in some villages as voting began for the bypoll in the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat in Punjab today.
Election officials said 23-25 per cent voting was reported in the constituency. At some polling booths, long queues of voters were seen.
Meanwhile, voting is still underway for the high-stakes seat in which the BJP trying to retain the seat earlier represented by actor-turned-politician Vinod Khanna. The Congress, on the other hand, is hoping to consolidate its position.
Nearly 15.22 lakh voters will decide the fate of 11 candidates in the fray. Besides the BJP and the Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has also fielded its candidate. While the Congress has fielded its Punjab unit chief Sunil Jakhar, the BJP has fielded businessman Swaran Salaria. The AAP has placed bet on Major General (retd) Suresh Khajuria.
The seat fell vacant in April following the death of Vinod Khanna due to cancer. He won the seat in 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2014.
The BJP preferred Salaria over Kavita Khanna, the widow of the actor Vinod Khanna. Vinod Khanna had stormed the Congress bastion on his electoral debut in 1998, defeating five-time Congress MP Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder.
Of the total electorate of 15,22,922 in the constituency, 7,12,077 are women and 14 belong to a third gender, official said.
Voters were standing in queues at various polling booths in the morning for voting.
Around 30 companies of paramilitary forces and more than 7,000 Punjab Police personnel have been deployed in the constituency.
The voting on the parliamentary seat started at 8 am and will go on till 5 pm.
A total of 1,781 polling stations have been set up at 1,257 locations, of which 457 have been declared vulnerable and 83 critical.
Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) will be used at all polling stations. Votes will be counted on October 15 and the result will be declared the same day, the official said.
The Election Commission has allowed the use of alternative identity cards for the by-poll.
Barometer for popularity of Amarinder government
The bypoll will see a tough fight between the BJP, which held the seat, and the state's ruling Congress, which, fresh from its emphatic win in the state assembly elections, is set to give a tough fight. The Congress, which had bagged 77 seats in the 117-member Punjab Assembly in February, is keen to keep the winning momentum going.
The bypoll is being seen as a barometer for the popularity of the six-month-old Amarinder Singh-led Congress government which is battling allegations of reneging on its pre-assembly polls promise of farm debt waiver and free smart phones.
The BJP has also tried pulling out all the stops to retain the seat, which Khanna had won four times.
A victory would give much-needed boost to the BJP, which had bagged just one segment of Sujanpur out of the four seats it had contested in the assembly polls.
The AAP, the main opposition party in Punjab with 20 seats in the House, is also looking to strengthen its presence in the state.
The Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat has nine assembly segments--Bhoa, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Dinanagar, Qadian, Fathegarh Churian, Dera Baba Nanak, Sujanpur and Batala.