Even as the state machinery geared up to hold zila parishad and block samiti polls on May 19, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Partap Singh Bajwa on Saturday expressed apprehensions of rigging and intimidation of voters by the ruling SAD-BJP alliance.
Addressing a press conference here, he charged the alliance of making a "mockery of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) by adopting undemocratic means" to subdue to its opponents.
In this context, he claimed that at the very onset of campaigning for these elections, the SAD-BJP alliance had got the nomination papers of many Congress candidates rejected while forcing many others to withdraw from the contest with threats of implication in false criminal cases.
"As if this was not enough, the ruling alliance indulged in largescale violence to subdue those opposing it. The message was clear: the alliance will go to any extent to win the elections," claimed Bajwa while referring to violent incidents in Patti, Bathinda and near Lopoke, which had left four people dead so far and another in Ferozepur where a Congress MLA was attacked.
He appealed to the Punjab electorate to exercise franchise fearlessly in favour of the Congress to "save democratic institutions."
Referring to state election commissioner (EC) SS Brar as a "spineless officer", Bajwa said, "He seems to have mortgaged his conscience to the Badals." He contradicted Brar's claims that no written complaints with regard to polls was made by the Congress. Gurdaspur district congress committee (DCC) chief Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Jasbir Singh Dimpa and many other senior leaders present alongside Bajwa claimed personally meeting the EC and forwarding written complaints to him, on which no action was taken.
The PPCC chief said that he too had met with Brar and brought to his notice numerous cases of threats to voters and candidates and the "partial" behaviour of poll official. His demand for deployement of central security forces was rejected by Brar on the ground that this required time and such arrangement could not be put in place at short notice, the Congress leader claimed.
"Even a simple demand like videotaping inside polling booths and photography outside was not acceptable to the EC. His attitude clearly shows that he is outrightly favouring the ruling alliance," claimed Bajwa.
Akali block samiti member joins Cong
Meanwhile, Kashmir Kaur, a sitting block samiti member from Majitha, joined the Congress in the presence of Bajwa. Her husband and Dalit leader Ram Singh, recently expelled from the SAD, also joined the Congress.
They claimed that had left the SAD due to the "attitude" of personal assistant of revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia.