Voting began for the high-stake by-poll to the Jind assembly constituency in Haryana on Monday at 7 am amid tight security. Voting will continue till 5 pm.

All necessary arrangements have been put in place for the smooth and peaceful conduct of polling, officials here said.

The constituency is observing a multi-cornered contest with prestige at stake for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Congress and the fledgeling Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), formed by Lok Sabha MP Dushyant Chautala after the split in the INLD.

The by-election was necessitated following the death of INLD legislator Hari Chand Middha last August last year.

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Nearly 1.70-lakh people, including 80,556 women, are eligible to vote, officials said. Braving cold weather conditions, people could be seen queuing up at various polling booths to cast their vote. There are 71 polling booths in rural areas of this constituency and 103 polling booths fall in urban areas.

As part of elaborate security arrangements to ensure smooth and peaceful conduct of polling, nearly 3,000 policemen have been put on duty, a senior police official said. Besides, 500 home guards and over 200 personnel drawn from the CRPF and the Rapid Action Force have also been deployed.

Additional police forces have been deployed at sensitive and highly-sensitive booths.

Jind assembly segment has been divided into 24 sectors, with six deputy superintendents of police being made in-charge to oversee security arrangements. Counting of votes will take place on January 31.

Twenty-one candidates, including two women, are in the fray.

Prominent among the candidates include senior Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala, who is also the party's sitting MLA from Kaithal, late Hari Chand Middha's son and BJP candidate Krishan Middha and INLD's Umed Singh Redhu.

The by-poll will also decide the fate of Digvijay Singh Chautala and Vinod Arshi, respective candidates of two newly-formed political outfits -- JJP and Loktantra Suraksha Party (LSP) of BJP rebel MP Raj Kumar Saini.

Arch rivals BJP, Congress, INLD and the JJP are eyeing the results as a self-assessment exercise ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

The election is considered as a referendum on the Manohar Lal Khattar government and also a semi-final ahead of the general election. 

(With inputs from PTI)