Chandigarh: Over one lakh security personnel, including central paramilitary forces, will be on high alert as Punjab voters on Saturday exercise their franchise in 117 assembly segments as well as the by-election for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.
Punjab Chief Electoral Officer V.K. Singh told the media here on Friday that over 2.07 lakh state government employees would also be deployed to conduct the “mahayagya of democracy”.
Nearly 1.99 crore voters will decide the fate of 1,145 candidates, including 81 women and one transgender candidate, Singh said, adding that all arrangements were in place to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections.
Of the total voters, six lakh are first-time voters. “All district authorities are taking adequate steps to motivate first-time voters, including honouring them with certificates and mementos,” Singh said.
Voting will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A total of 22,614 polling stations have been set up with 31,460 electronic voting machines (EVMs).
“The Election Commission has identified 786 critical polling stations and 23 constituencies have been declared sensitive. As many as 5,573 trouble-makers have been identified and 4,200 people bound down (detained) to ensure free and fair elections,” Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Elections, V.K. Bhawra said.
Singh said for the first time, 45,000 police personnel opted for postal ballot and till the last reports came in, over 21,000 (45 per cent) had already exercised their franchise through postal ballot.
“This is a revolutionary step as last time only a negligible number of policemen could exercise their voting right through postal ballot,” the CEO said. Giving a demonstration of the VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail) system, Singh said: “Punjab is proud to initiate this experiment of transparent system of voting in 33 constituencies for the first time in India. This experiment will later be extended throughout the country after monitoring its success level.”
“Police teams will conduct thorough search to check the flow of liquor, narcotics and money. It was due to intensive searches that Punjab Police could make record seizure of liquor valued at Rs 80 crore and 416 illegal weapons during this period,” ADGP Bhawra said.
“All Deputy Commissioners and Senior Superintendents of Police are on their toes to check distribution of liquor, narcotics and money for inducing voters and raids will be conducted immediately on receiving information or complaints,” Singh said.