" He was the Akali Dal candidate from Talwandi Sabo."
New Delhi, Aug 21 - Lakhs of people turned up to exercise their franchise as 18 assembly constituencies spread across four states went for by-elections Thursday. This was the first poll in India after the Lok Sabha elections.

The by-polls remained largely peaceful, election officials in the states said.

By-elections were held in 10 assembly constituencies in Bihar, three each in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh and two in Punjab.

As per information received by the Election Commission, by-elections have been peaceful and largely incident-free, Election Commission Director General Akshay Rout told IANS here.

However, violent incidents were reported from the Talwandi Sabo assembly constituency in Punjab.

The opposition Congress alleged that activists of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal opened fire in Rama Mandi in Bathinda district. It also alleged that Akali Dal activists indulged in booth-capturing, intimidation, buying of votes and other illegal means during polling.

In Bihar, over 26.42 lakh voters were eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 94 candidates in the 10 assembly constituencies of Narkatiaganj, Rajnagar, Jale, Chapra, Hajipur, Mohiuddinnagar, Parbatta, Bhagalpur, Banka and Mohania.

A voter turnout of 46.42 percent was recorded, officials said.

A few incidents of minor clashes between supporters of rival groups were reported, a police officer said.

Additional Director General of Police Gupteshwar Pandey said elaborate security arrangements were made and paramilitary personnel were deployed as some areas were identified as Maoist-affected.

In Karnataka, 78 percent voting was reported in the three assembly constituencies of Bellary Rural (Reserved), Chikkodi-Sadalga and Shikaripura.

Voting percentage at 6 p.m. when polling officially ended was 86 in Chikkodi-Sadalga, 72 in Bellary (reserved) and 71 in Shikaripura, chief electoral officer A.K. Jha told reporters in Bangalore.

The main contest was between the ruling Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), while the regional Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) decided to stay away. The combined electorate in the three assembly segments was 5.57 lakh. In all, 22 candidates were in the fray.

In Shikaripura, BJP's B.Y. Raghavendra, son of former chief minister B.S. Yeddurappa was pitted against Shantahaveerappa Gowda of the Congress. The seat fell vacant following Yeddurappa's election from the Shimoga Lok Sabha constituency. Raghavendra was earlier a parliamentarian from Shimoga (2009-14).

In Madhya Pradesh, over 70 percent balloting was recorded in by-elections in the three assembly constituencies - Vijayraghavgarh, Bahoriband and Agar - to decide the fate of 25 candidates.

Polling was peaceful, but voters in one polling booth stayed away to press their various demands.

According to electoral officers, Bahoriband saw 75.2 percent voting while in Vijayraghavgarh and Aagar, it was 68.10 and 69.1 percent, respectively. Voters in Faisalpur of Bahoriband constituency boycotted the polls.

Meanwhile, Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa said the Akali Dal workers led a murderous attack on Congress candidate from Talwani Sabo, Harminder Singh Jassi, at Rama Mandi.

Bajwa alleged booth-capturing in villages like Dunewal, Jeon Singhwala, Malkana, Giana, Bhagwanpur, some areas of Rama Mandi, Bangi Nihal Singh, Leleana and Shergarh.

Talwandi Sabo and Patiala assembly constituencies recorded 82.3 and 60 percent polling respectively, as per last figures available with the state election office.

Voters queued up to exercise their franchise from early morning. Fifteen candidates were in the fray in Punjab.

The main contest was between the Akali Dal and the Congress. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which won four seats in the Lok Sabha election in Punjab, was also in the fray.

Former minister of state for external affairs Preneet Kaur, who lost the Lok Sabha polls, is contesting from Patiala.

The seat was vacated by her husband and former chief minister Amarinder Singh after he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Amritsar.

The by-poll in Talwandi Sabo is being held as Congress legislator Jeet Mohinder Singh quit the party and joined the Akali Dal.

He was the Akali Dal candidate from Talwandi Sabo.

Counting of votes in all four states will take place Aug 25.


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