Counting of votes for 117 assembly seats in Punjab began on Thursday amid tight security arrangements. As many as 7,500 personnel have been deputed for the counting process which began at 8 am at 66 locations across the state, officials said.
A three-tier security measure has been set up with the deployment of 45 companies of Central Armed Police Forces at the counting centres. Officials said CRPC section 144 has been imposed in all the districts and gathering of people outside the counting centres has been prohibited.
Polling in the state was held on February 20. The Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, which emerged as a major contender in the multi-cornered contest, is looking to get its first full state to rule while the Congress aims to retain power.
Various exit polls have predicted that the Aam Aadmi Party will form the next government in Punjab but a few have also forecast a hung assembly. As many as 1,304 candidates, including 93 women and two transgenders, were in the fray.
The state recorded a voter turnout of 71.95 per cent. It was the lowest compared to the voting percentage observed in three previous assembly elections. The AAP sought to project itself as an agent of change and designed its poll campaign likewise and accused its rivals of "looting" the state.
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Congress have alternatively been forming governments after the reorganisation of Punjab in 1966. The Congress fought the election with Charanjit Singh Channi as the chief ministerial candidate hoping for the consolidation of the Scheduled Caste votes.
The stakes are also high for the SAD which contested the polls in alliance with the BSP after breaking electoral ties with the BJP in 2020 over the farm laws issue. The BJP, which used to be a junior partner during its alliance with the SAD, fought this election as a major partner after allying with the Amarinder Singh-led Punjab Lok Congress and Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa-led SAD (Sanyukt).
The Sanyukt Samaj Morcha, comprising various Punjab farmer bodies which had taken part in the stir against the Centre's now-repealed farm laws, fought the polls in alliance with the Haryana Bharatiya Kisan Union (Chaduni) leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni-led Sanyukt Sangharsh Party. In the 2017 Punjab assembly polls, the Congress had ended the SAD-BJP's 10-year rule by bagging 77 seats. The AAP had managed to get 20 seats, while the SAD-BJP had won 18 seats and two seats went to the Lok Insaaf Party. In the 2017 Punjab assembly polls, the Congress had ended the SAD-BJP's 10-year rule by bagging 77 seats.