As the campaigning in the Dhuri assembly byelection ended on Thursday, freebies started pouring for the voters.
The reports of distribution of atta-dal, utensils, provisions, and liquor to voters flooded the office of returning officer Rajesh Dhiman. His flying squads had no luck, but the Congressmen seized a truckload of sport kits (cricket bats and gear) on the Dhuri-Sherpur road and protested against the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
The kits carry the picture of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal. Dhiman sent a squad to the spot to seize the stock, impound the truck, and told the police to register a first-information report (FIR). “Yes, a lot of complaints have poured in, but except one, all have proved wrong,” said the returning officer, adding: “Still, we are alert to all violations of the election code of conduct.”
The outsiders have been asked to leave the constituency, but many leaders of the ruling party were still seen visiting the villages and doing “micro-management”. For avoiding controversy, they are giving voters `10 notes of a particular marked series that they can exchange for a liquor box at alcohol shops. Same is the modus operndi for distributing provisions at Dhadogal and Meemsa villages among the weaker section. “The Akalis are using corrupt practices to win the Dhuri byelection,” said Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa.
Commenting on the truck his party workers had seized, he said it was evidence of the panic in the Akali camp. “I did fear that they would now start distributing money to buy voters like earlier,” he said.
SAD minister Dr Daljit Singh Cheema said that Bajwa was levelling “baseless charges because he anticipated defeat. “The Shiromani Akali Dal has campaigned well and is confident of winning, he said. Asked about the sports kits seized, he said that it was Congress gimmick to defame the ruling alliance. “The returning officer is investigating the matter, and truth will come out,” he added.