Voting in the high-stakes Baroda bye-election in Haryana began on Tuesday morning amid tight security. The fate of 14 candidates will be decided by a total of 1.78 lakh eligible voters. Till 9 am, a total of 13% voter turnout was reported.

Voters started queuing up outside the polling booths from 6.30 am and the polling began at 7 am. Voting will end at 6:00pm in the assembly seat of Sonepat district, officials said.

Despite a multi-cornered fight, the main contest is between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress in the constituency. The seat fell vacant following the death of Congress MLA Sri Krishan Hooda on April 12.

While the BJP has fielded Olympian wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, who lost by about 4,800 votes to Sri Krishan Hooda in the 2019 assembly election, the Congress has put its money on a newcomer, Indu Raj Narwal, a former member of Sonepat zila parishad. The INLD is backing Joginder Singh Malik and Raj Kumar Saini of the Loktantra Suraksha party is also testing his fate in this Jat dominated seat.

BJP candidate Yogeshwar Dutt offered prayers at a small temple before casting his vote. Dutt, said the people should come out of their homes and cast their vote after seeing the achievements of each nominee.

Indu Raj Narwal said he will cast his vote at his native village Rindhana around 4 pm as he is busy in moving around other polling stations.

Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Hooda accused the BJP of purchasing votes with the help of money power.

“Our workers held two BJP persons who were distributing money at Madina village in the constituency but the election commission is yet to take any action. The BJP has reached to such a low level that it distributed money, liquor and gave gas cylinders to poor voters to influence the Baroda election. But our party will secure a thumping majority,” he added.

A total of 1.78 lakh voters – 97,819 males, 80,429 females and two transgenders will exercise their voting rights, according to figures released by the election commission officials. Of these, 5,092 voters are above 80 years of age and 1,860 service electors.

As many as 280 polling booths have been set up and 151 of them are categorised as vulnerable. Security personnel, including three companies of paramilitary forces, have been deployed to ensure peaceful polling, officials said.

One lakh single-use gloves for voters to put on when they press the EVM button to cast their votes, 57,500 surgical masks, 3,500 face shields, 1,650 bottles of hand sanitiser (500 ml each) and 3,500 each personal protection equipment (PPE) kits and N-95 face masks have been arranged for the polling takes place amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

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