SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and two union ministers — Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Hardeep Singh Puri are among the 278 candidates including 24 women whose fate will be decided in the seventh and final phase of polls for 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab on Sunday.
Besides Punjab, more than 6 lakh voters in the union territory of Chandigarh will choose between sitting MP and BJP candidate Kirron Kher and former railway minister and Congress candidate Pawan Kumar Bansal on May 19.
Polling will be held from 7 am to 6 pm in the 13 parliamentary constituencies in Punjab and the lone Chandigarh constituency.
Actor turned politician Sunny Deol, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, Aam Aadmi Party’s Punjab unit chief Bhagwant Mann are among the prominent candidates who are in the fray.
Banking on his stardom and roots in Punjab, the Bollywood star, whose real name is Ajay Singh Deol, is contesting from Gurdaspur constituency where he faces sitting MP and Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar.
Badal, who is the Jalalabad MLA, is the SAD nominee from Ferozepur Lok Sabha constituency, considered a party stronghold.
He is pitted against Akali Dal rebel and now Congress candidate Sher Singh Ghubaya.
While Mann, the AAP’s “best bet” in Punjab, is seeking re-election from Sangrur Lok Sabha seat from where he is facing challenge from SAD’s Parminder Singh Dhindsa and Congress’ Kewal Singh Dhillon.
Union minister and Sukhbir Badal’s wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal is contesting from Bathinda Lok Sabha seat, SAD’s bastion, for the third time.
She is facing Congress candidate Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, AAP’s Baljinder Kaur and Punjab Ekta Party’s Sukhpal Singh Khaira in a high-stakes electoral battle.
Union minister and former diplomat Hardeep Singh Puri is the BJP candidate from Amritsar constituency from where Congress has fielded sitting MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla.
Among Congress heavyweights, former union minister Manish Tewari, who is fighting from Anandpur Sahib seat, is pitted against sitting MP and SAD candidate Prem Singh Chandumajra.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh’s wife Preneet Kaur is trying her luck from Patiala seat.
She is facing challenge from Nawan Punjab Party candidate and sitting MP Dharamvira Gandhi and SAD contestant Surjit Singh Rakhra.
On most of the 13 seats, the contest appears to be a direct fight between the Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance.
A conglomeration of several political outfits, the Punjab Democratic Alliance (PDA) led by AAP rebel Sukhpal Singh Khaira, is also contesting on all 13 seats while SAD (Taksali), the breakaway faction of SAD, has fielded one candidate from Anandpur Sahib.
The Punjab contestants include 10 sitting MPs and nine MLAs.
In 2014, the AAP and the SAD had won four seats each, the Congress three and the BJP two.
Meanwhile, Punjab has over 2.07 crore eligible voters including 98,29,916 female and 560 transgenders.
More than one lakh security personnel including paramilitary force have been deployed in the state for holding free and fair polling on 13 Lok Sabha seats, officials said.
Over 3.94 lakh voters in the age group of 18-19 would exercise their franchise for the first time in Punjab.
A total 23,213 polling stations have been set up and of which 249, 719 and 509 booths have been categorised as critical, sensitive and hypersensitive respectively.