This year’s turnout in Goa broke last election record of 81.7 per cent. The two states are the first of the five to go to polling ahead of Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Uttarakhand which are being held simultaneously in the months of February and March.
The counting of votes for all five states will begin on March 11. Voting for 40 seats in Goa began at 7.00 am and Punjab, which has 117 assembly seats, an hour later.
Barring minor skirmishes and technical glitches in EVMs and Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines which delayed voting for some time, polling passed off peacefully in Punjab where nearly 79 per cent electors had cast their votes in the 2012 polls.
This is the first electoral test for the BJP after Modi’s demonetisation drive of November 8, which has been vociferously criticised by the opposition.
The single-phase elections in the two states see a high-octane three-way battle between the BJP, Congress and a debutante Aam Aadmi Party.
Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was among the first to cast his vote in Goa, could make a return to state politics after BJP chief Amit Shah said at a rally that the new government would work under the leadership of Parrikar, should the BJP retain power in the Goa.
Meanwhile, in Punjab, the Badal family voted in patriarch Parkash Singh Badal’s Lambi constituency.
Punjab witnesses intense competition in Lambi – where incumbent Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will face his predecessor Amarinder Singh – and the Jalalabad seat, where AAP MP Bhagwant Mann seeks to dethrone Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal.
Former BJP MP and newly-inducted Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu contested from Amritsar East whereas Amarinder Singh will also face former Army chief General JJ Singh in Patiala.