New Delhi: Polling for the high-pitched by-election in the parliamentary constituency of Gurdaspur in Punjab began on Wednesday. Elections to the Lok Sabha constituency are being seen as a test for the Congress, which was elected to power in the state in March this year.

Polling is also taking place in the assembly constituency of Vengara in Kerala. The seat was previously held by Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). Counting of votes and results for both the constituencies will be held on 15 October.

The Lok Sabha constituency of Gurdaspur fell vacant after the demise of Vinod Khanna, who was a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a movie veteran. He had represented the constituency four times in Parliament.

According to PTI, 1,522,000 voters are eligible to vote in the by-election being fought by 11 candidates. Of the total electorate, 712,077 are women and 14 belong to a third gender. A total of 1,781 polling stations have been set up at 1,257 locations where voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) will be used.

The election is key for the Congress and Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh as it is the first poll being held in the state since the party came to power in the state assembly. The party won 77 seats in the 117-member assembly. The party has chosen senior leader and Punjab unit chief Sunil Jakhar to contest the election.

For the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the election is an opportunity to regain lost ground. The alliance saw a poor electoral performance in the state assembly polls. The alliance was in power for two terms until March this year. Swarn Salaria, a businessman, is the party’s candidate for the election.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has four members in the Lok Sabha from Punjab, made its electoral debut in the state assembly this year. The party which is in opposition in the state, has fielded retired major general Suresh Khajuria.

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