With two old, bitter rivals, Shiromani Akali Dal's (SAD's) Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu and Congress' Harminder Singh Jassi locked in a contest, Talwandi Sabo recorded 80% polling in the byelection on Thursday amid incidents of violence involving firing of gunshots, damage to vehicles, pelting of stones and lathicharge.
The keenly-contested Patiala byelection, where former MP Preneet Kaur is contesting the seat vacated by her husband, former Punjab chief minister and deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Capt Amarinder Singh, witnessed just 60% turnout. Though there were some reports of bogus votes and "buying" of votes, no untoward incident was reported and polling in Patiala remained peaceful.
Counting of votes for both seats will take place on August 25.
Talwandi Sabo remained tense throughout the day as SAD and Congress workers clashed outside polling stations. Violence broke out outside a polling station at Rama Mandi when Sidhu and Jassi had an altercation around 3pm.
Jassi alleged that anti-social elements owing allegiance to the SAD opened fire at him. However, Bathinda deputy commissioner-cum-district election officer Basant Garg and senior superintendent of police (SSP) Gurpreet Singh Bhullar, who reached the spot, said a preliminary inquiry revealed that some security guards opened fire following an altercation between two candidates.
During the last hour of polling in Talwandi Sabo, the police resorted to a lathicharge after SAD and Congress supporters had an altercation outside the polling station at Yadvindra College. Miscreants indulged in stone-pelting and some vehicles were damaged in the incident.
Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa said Akali workers led a "murderous attack" on Jassi at Ward No 3 of Rama Mandi.
Bajwa also alleged booth-capturing in villages such as Dunewal, Jeon Singhwala, Malkana, Giana, Bhagwanpur, some areas of Rama Mandi, Bangi Nihal Singh, Leleana and Shergarh and accused the ruling party of brazen misuse of the state machinery in an effort to facilitate the victory of the Congress deserter (Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu) who was fielded by the SAD.
However, the SAD termed the Congress allegation as an "attempt to cover up the defeat". "The Congress has sensed its defeat, thus its leadership is making baseless allegations to save its skin," said Sidhu.
In Patiala, SAD candidate Bhagwan Dass Juneja and Congress nominee Preneet Kaur were among those who cast their vote. Amritsar MP Capt Amarinder Singh took a round of the city to boost the morale of Congressmen after casting his vote. He left the city at 2pm to take a flight for England.
Claiming that the byelection results would set the tone for the 2017 assembly polls, Amarinder said the outcome would shock the SAD-BJP regime and prove to be a game-changer in Punjab politics.
However, SAD general secretary Prem Singh Chandumajra said, "The results will be a big shocker for Amarinder as the SAD will register a historic victory in Patiala."