High-pitched end to Haryana poll campaign
A nearly three-week high-pitched campaign by various political parties eyeing their share in the Haryana Assembly election ended on Saturday evening, with two major public meetings by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Besides the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) and other players are in the contest for the October 21 single-phase election to 90 seats in the BJP-ruled state.
Political observers say the main contest is largely between the BJP and the Congress.
Riding high on pro-incumbency and the Modi wave, BJP's Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar believes he will take his party's tally to '75 plus' from the present 47 legislators, while Congress' two-time Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has been raising the pitch against unemployment, law and order and lack of development.
Focusing on farmers, labourers, youth and industrialists, the saffron party manifesto pledges to give an interest-free crop loan of up to Rs 3 lakh to farmers and promises to complete a target of Rs 5,000 crore interest and penalty waiver on crop loans taken from cooperative banks.
The Congress is trying to woo the youth, farmers and women with the promise of an allowance of Rs 10,000 per month to all unemployed post-graduates and Rs 7,000 to all unemployed undergraduates in its manifesto.
It has also promised 33 per cent reservation to women in government jobs and 50 per cent reservation in Panchayati Raj institutions, in municipal corporations and city councils if it is voted to power in the state.
The Chautala clan-led INLD as well as its offshoot Dushyant Chautala's JJP are also trying to make a dent in the votes of the two parties. Some seats are likely to see a triangular contest.
In his addresses, Modi didn't forget to remind the public that Monday being a holiday owing to polling, making it an extended weekend, they should not miss the opportunity to exercise their franchise.
"Since October 21 is Monday, people will get two leaves -- Sunday (October 20) and Monday (October 21), the day polling will take place. You should remain present at their local booth and ensure huge turnout."
The Congress had a list of star campaigners, including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra but she did not step out to campaign for the party in Haryana.
Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi had to campaign in one rally but at the last moment it was cancelled due to her illness. Instead Rahul Gandhi addressed the rally. Rahul addressed three rallies in Haryana. The party could not match the BJP's carpet bombing by Modi and his Cabinet colleagues Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh.
The Prime Minister targeted the Congress and the Gandhi family but it was left to Rahul to defend the party on core issues.
A total of 1,169 candidates are in the fray for the state's 90 seats.
While the BJP and the Congress are contesting on all 90 seats, the BSP is in the fray on 87 seats, and the INLD is contesting on 81 seats. There are some 375 candidates contesting as independents.
According to the Election Commission (EC) data, of the total 1,169 candidates in the fray, 1,064 are men and 104 are women. One candidate is a transgender.
Hansi has the maximum of 25 candidates in the running, while Ambala Cantt and Shahbad have just six. Narnaul is the smallest constituency in terms of voters, with just 1,44,066 electorate, while Badshahpur is the largest, with 3,96,281 voters.
While one constituency has less than 1.5 lakh voters, some 47 constituencies have between 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh voters and 42 constituencies have more than 2 lakh voters.
The state has 19,578 polling stations, which will use 27,611 voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPATs) machines.
Chief Electoral Officer Anurag Agarwal told IANS the polling would be held on October 21 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. IANS