Pre-empting defeat and to buy time for "somehow managing" the required number of councillors by its side to win the first ever mayoral elections in SAS Nagar, the SAD-BJP members on Tuesday created ruckus at the municipal corporation office in Sector 67, here, which resulted in the postponement of the polls by 10 days. Now, the elections will be held on August 28 at 3 pm.
Had the elections happened on Tuesday, Kulwant would have become the mayor as he was having the support of the Congress and two independent councillors.
The proceedings of the mayoral polls were scheduled to start at 11am. Divisional commissioner S Karuna Raju, who was the returning officer, was about to start the proceedings, but the SAD-BJP councillors did not even allowed him to speak.
When asked why the elections were postponed, Raju said, "Some councillors indulged in violence and the polls had to be postponed. Now the polls would be held on August 28."
The reason SAD-BJP councillors gave for doing what they did was that the Kulwant group and the Congress didn't allow them to "meet" all the councillors after the elections in February.
The SAD-BJP councillors, including Surinder Singh, Parminder Sohana and Bobby Kamboj, started banging the tables, while an Akali councillor threw a chair and broke the glass on the table. Following this, the returning officer postponed the meeting.
As per sources, Shiromani Akali Dal councillors held a meeting at 8am and had decided to create ruckus so that the polls could be postponed. Sources said, in the meeting it was decided that they will not allow Kulwant Singh to become the mayor at any cost.
The SAD-BJP councillors alleged that since Azad group led by real estate baron Kulwant Singh and the Congress were involved in horse-trading, elections should be postponed. On the other hand, the Azad group and Congress termed the day's happenings as "murder of democracy". They alleged that what the SAD-BJP members did was pre-planned as they could see the writing on the wall about their defeat.
Drama and violence
Soon after the news of postponement of polls reached the supporters of both the groups, who had gathered in large numbers outside MC Bhawan, clashed and pelted each other with stones and bricks for nearly 30 minutes. A few of them even fired gun shots in the air. The violence took place despite deployment of heavy police force at the MC building.
The SUV of Congress MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu and another one belonging to a sarpanch were damaged in the violence. Later, the Akali Dal supporters left the venue, but the Congress and Azad group continued with their protest for nearly two hours.
It was pre-planned, says Congress
Local Congress MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu said the intentions of the SAD-BJP could be gauged from the fact that there was no arrangement for videography of the poll proceedings, CCTV cameras had been put off and the entry of the media to the MC building had been banned. "It was all pre-planned and we never expected the Akali Dal-BJP combine to stoop so low. It is clear that they want to capture the mayoral seat by hook or crook," Sidhu said.
Sidhu alleged that MP Prem Singh Chandumajra and SAD leader Balwant Singh Ramowalia were acting like 'goondas' at the behest of Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. "Why the police did not enter the meeting room when the ruckus was going on. They cops were mute spectators," he alleged.
Azad group-Congress indulging in horse-trading: Akalis
Akali Dal councillor Bharat Bhushan Maini said it was unfortunate that the Congress and Azad group were resorting to horse-trading and did not allow them to meet all the councillors. "We requested the returning officer to hold mayoral polls through secret ballot and demanded postponement of the elections," Maini said.
Interestingly, Akali-BJP councillors were raising slogans "goonda raj band karo". Taking a jibe, the Congress members were heard saying, "You are the ruling party and thus should better tell state government the same."
Kulwant: All horses intact, where is trading?
Kulwant Singh, who was set to become the first SAS Nagar mayor had the polls occurred on Tuesday, said, "How can they say that we are involved in horse trading? Has any of their councillors joined us? It was frustration foreseeing imminent defeat that the SAD-BJP members resorted to violence and the administration sided with them," he alleged.
Mediapersons hold protest
Not allowed to enter the MC building where the mayoral polls were scheduled to take place, mediapersons staged a protest. They raised slogans against the administration, saying not allowing media to cover the mayoral polls had never happened before.
How the drama unfolded
9.45 am: 15 Congress councilors (including MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu) enter MC building
10 am: 12 councillors of Azad group led by Kulwant Singh reach
10.30 am: Akali-BJP councilors, along with supporters, turn up
11am: Meeting begins in the MC hall
11.05 am: Akali-BJP members start raising slogans against the Congress and Azad group; resort to violence
11.15 am: Retuning officer leaves the meeting hall
11.30 am: SAS Nagar SDM announces postponed of the polls
Azad group-Congress showed unity
As per an agreement between the Congress and the Azad group led by Kulwant Singh, the latter would be the mayoral candidate, while Rishabh Jain of the Congress will stake claim for the senior deputy mayor's post and independent councillor Manjeet Singh Sethi for the deputy mayor's.
The Azad group-Congress combine claimed having 27 votes, including two independent councillors.