Barring stray incidents of violence, the panchayat elections passed off peacefully in various districts of southern Malwa comprising Bathinda, Mansa, Moga, Muktsar, Faridkot, Fazilka and Ferozepur on Wednesday.
Violent clashes, firing and minor skirmishes between supporters of candidates were reported from Khudian village of Lambi, Kotla Rai Ka village of Baghapurana constituency, Kangar village of Rampura Phul and Teona village of Bathinda, besides reports of clashes from Maur and Faridkot constituencies.
The people in the Malwa countryside enthusiastically voted to elect their representatives and a heavy turnout was witnessed.
For the first time, it was an interesting phenomenon with Akalis pitted against the Akalis in a number of villages in Malwa as the Congress had either intentionally stayed away at several villages or the ruling party had manipulated the rejection of nomination papers of the opposition candidates on flimsy grounds, with little relief being provided by the state election commission.
In another first, villages were divided into wards for the purpose of panchayat elections. The counting was under progress till the filing of this report.
In the high-pitched election battle, in order to woo the voters, candidates not only used liquor but also offered soft drinks and fruits, especially to women voters. The practice of giving money in lieu of votes was also reported from various villages.
The elections assume significance for the villagers. Apart from the political power at the local level, the lavish grants from the state government have made the panchayats all the more important. For getting grants, a panchayat has to be on the right side of the ruling party. As such, the tendency is to go with the party, which is in power at the state level.
CM, Sukhbir, Manpreet skip voting
The rank and file of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal left no stone unturned to get the favour of the voters. But, ironically neither chief minister Parkash Singh Badal nor SAD president and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife, member of Parliament Harsimrat Kaur Badal chose to cast their ballot. Even People's Party of Punjab president Manpreet Singh Badal and his father Gurdas Badal skipped the voting at their native village.
However, arch rival Mahesh Inder Singh Badal, cousin of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who contested the last Vidhan Sabha election against the latter on Congress ticket did turn up along with his son to cast their vote at the polling booth of native Badal village.
Sukhbir Badal, who along with his wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal was reportedly abroad, failed to visit his village during panchayats polls, while the chief minister reportedly avoided visiting the area on the polling day as it was a contest between Akalis in most of the villages.
Around 2,200 votes were polled of nearly 2,700 at Badal village.