In the ongoing Punjab civic polls, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) workers led by Samana MLA and Punjab water supply and sanitation minister Surjit Singh Rakhra tried to capture polling booth in ward number 7 here on Wednesday, which lead to protest by Congress workers who blocked the state highway till last report came in.
Booth capturing reported in Samana
The Congress, though virtually relegated to the margins — thanks to infighting and a divided leadership — is looking for its revival in the state through these elections.
The three parties, in direct clash with each other in several wards, also face stiff competition from independents, many of whom are party rebels and have strong influence on voters at the local level.
The People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) has fielded a limited number of candidates on some wards, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), despite its historic win in the Delhi elections, has decided not to participate in state municipal council elections. The two parties are keeping a close watch on the performance of independents in as a possible pointer towards rejection of the three major political parties in the state.
Campaigning for the civic body polls remained high-pitched marked with violent clashes at several places. Akali leaders allegedly beat up BJP minister Anil Joshi’s brother in Tarn Taran while there was a clash between the Akalis and Congress workers in Ferozepur.
Fearing violence, the state election commission has appointed two senior police officers — DIG (crime) Nilabh Kishore and DIG (administration) as police observer for Tarn Taran and Ferozepur, respectively.
Bathinda has 226 wards, highest in the state, in 18 municipal councils and nagar panchayats.
Other than the 122 municipal councils, bypolls of one ward of the Bariwala nagar panchayat will also take place on Wednesday. The counting of votes will immediately begin after the polling ends. The authorities have made elaborate arrangement for free and fair elections.
State election commissioner Shivinder Singh Brar said district administrations had completed all arrangements for the smooth conduct of the elections. He said 16,715 employees (apart from the reserved force) had been deployed on election duty. The election staff has already reached their respective booths with the election material, he said.
“For security purposes, 15,689 police personnel have been deployed on election duty,” he said. A total of 163 polling booths have been declared hypersensitive and 940 sensitive.
District MCs/NPs* In the fray**
Amritsar 5 208
Barnala 4 254
Bathinda 18 479
Faridkot 3 260
Ferozepur 6 276
Fazilka 4 340
Fatehgarh Sahib 4 289
Gurdaspur 8 543
Hoshiarpur 7 289
Jalandhar 8 323
Kapurthala 4 139
Ludhiana 6 431
Moga 3 130
Mansa 6 395
Muktsar 3 291
Patiala 5 385
Pathankot 1 53
Rupnagar 6 328
SAS Nagar 7 536
Sangrur 9 742
Nawanshahr 3 154
Tarn Taran 3 158
Total 122 7,006