PANAJI: Panaji assembly constituency is likely to witness one of the keenest contests in more than a decade with over 22,000 voters set to elect their new representative from among four candidates contesting the by-election to the constituency on Friday.

The constituency has been a bastion of the Bharatiya Janata Party for the last five consecutive elections and the party has fielded Sidharth Kunkalienkar, a close confidant of Manohar Parrikar, who quit the assembly seat on assuming the charge of the post of Defence Minister, to contest the resultant by-election.

The Congress has fielded Surendra Furtado, the mayor of Corporation of the City of Panaji, to challenge the BJP nominee. Furtado is seen as a formidable opposition to the BJP candidate. The other two contestants are Samir Kelekar – Independent – (who has got the last-minute support from Aam Aadmi Party) and Sadanand Vaigankar – also Independent.

The election authorities have made elaborate security arrangements to ensure free and fair polls and all the polling personnel numbering 150 have been deployed at the 22 polling stations in the constituency.

There are no “sensitive” or “hypersensitive” polling stations in the constituency.

Besides, a company of central armed police force, together with a company each of Indian Reserve Battalion (Goa) and a company of Central Industrial Security Force and officials of state police force have been deployed in the constituency.

The voting will be held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the 30 polling booths at 22 polling locations. The votes will be recorded in 30 electronic voting machines.

Average of voters at each polling booth is 735, as per the information provided by election officials.

Of the 22,057 voters listed in the electoral tolls majority are women and their number has been put at 11,335 while the number of male voters is 10,722.  The highest number of 931 voters has been registered at the polling booth located at Goa College of Home Science in Campal, while the least number voters numbering 386 voters are registered at the primary school at Fondvem.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India has allowed voters to use 12 alternative documents besides the election photo identity card as proof of establishing voter identity while casting their votes. These include passport, driving licence, service identity card, pan card or passbook with photograph issued by either a bank or the post office.