Amid a few incidents of violence and alleged attempts at booth-capturing, Amritsar witnessed about 65% turnout for the municipal corporation (MC) polls on Sunday.
Police personnel deployed on poll duty were on their toes throughout the day and were rushed to violence-prone areas to defuse tension and restore order. Although there were no major violence, incidents of stone-pelting and baton charge by police and even booth-capturing in one of the wards were witnessed. About a dozen supporters of different political parties sustained minor injuries.
Although polling was peaceful in the morning, incidents of violence started around noon. In booth number 1 of ward number 3, some unidentified men entered the booth and started pressing the buttons on the electronic voting machine (EVM). When the presiding officer Pardeep Malik and his staff tried to stop them, they were slapped and beaten up.
"Polling was going on peacefully, but suddenly a few men entered the booth and tried to capture it," Malik said. "When I objected to their behaviour, they slapped me and manhandled my staff, including women."
Polling was suspended for about 45 minutes and resumed only after a police team led by deputy superintendent of police Harjit Singh assured security for the polling staff.
Later, in ward number 49, one person was injured when supporters of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate Ram Chawla and Independent nominee Kuldeep Pehalwan clashed. After heated arguments, when the two groups started pelting each other with stones, police baton charged them. District election officer Rajat Aggarwal along with police commissioner RP Mittal also rushed to the spot.
In ward number 64, Congress workers gheraoed a private vehicle outside the government senior secondary school where votes were being cast. They deflated the tyres of the vehicle after finding three EVMs inside it. The Congress workers alleged that the EVMs were to be used for casting bogus votes.
As the tension began to rise, deputy commissioner-cum-district election officer Rajat Aggarwal and police commissioner RP Mittal reached the spot and pacified the agitated party workers.
"The EVMs inside the vehicle were kept as reserve and were to be used if some machines were found faulty," said Aggarwal.
In Khalsa College polling booth of ward number 3, there was a minor clash between the supporters of Independent candidate Raj Kumar and SAD nominee Raj Kumar Jolly. At Rani Ka Bagh in ward number 52, there was heavy stone pelting between Congress and BJP supporters.
"Except minor incidents of violence, polling was largely peaceful," Aggarwal said. "Cases will be registered on genuine complaints. The attack on the presiding officer and his staff has come to notice, but we are verifying his claim of booth- capturing."
Mittal said: "About four to five cases will be registered where scuffles took place. Overall, the polling was peaceful. We reached the spot wherever incidents of violence were reported and controlled the situation."
"Five laptops were seized," said Mittal. "The person using the laptop was recording the proceedings inside the polling booth by connecting it to a mobile phone."
However, only a few Congress legislators were seen actively working throughout the day. While Congress MLA OP Soni visited tension-prone areas in Amritsar (West), the party's representative from the constituency, Raj Kumar, was conspicuous by his absence. Former Congress MLA Jasbir Dimpa was seen in Amritsar (South) constituency.
The MC poll would decide the fate of 369 candidates who are contesting in 65 wards with a total of 7.47-lakh voters.