As many as 38 sarpanches have been elected unopposed in Dharamkot constituency in the district, ensuing a war of words between the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress leaders, with the ruling party leaders claiming that most of the sarpanches owed allegiance to their party.
The residents of Nihalgarh village had gone a step ahead to ensure that the panchayat is elected unopposed. When the residents failed to draw a consensus between two candidates for panch's post, they conducted the polling on their own and declared the winner.
There are 150 villages in Dharamkot constituency and 298 candidates are in fray for the sarpanch's post. Additional deputy commissioner Amit Kumar said for the election of panchs, 1,137 are in the fray. “Nomination papers of 17 candidates for sarpanch's post were rejected in Dharamkot, while there was rejection of papers of only three candidates for the sarpanch's post in other four blocks of Moga district. For the panch's post, papers of 80 candidates were rejected, of which 57 were from Dharamkot,” he said.
Former agriculture minister Tota Singh said, “Of the 38 sarpanches who have been elected unopposed in Dharamkot area, 36 are from SAD.”
However, senior Congress leader and SGPC member Sukhjeet Singh Kaka Lohgarh rubbished his claims. Lohgarh alleged that Akalis were threatening Congress-backed candidates withdraw or face false drug smuggling cases. “Akali leaders had been threatening candidates being backed by the Congress. Police officers too were pressuring candidates to withdraw,” Lohgarh alleged.
Denying Lohgarh's allegations, Tota Singh said, “Lohgarh and other Congress leaders indulged in malpractices when they were in power. The Congress has lost political ground in Dharamkot area and its leaders are making wild allegations against SAD.”
Meanwhile, Kulveer Singh, a Congress-backed candidate for sarpanch's post from Longiwind village of Dharamkot, alleged that he was called to the Kot-Ise-Khan police station and threatened of dire consequences if he fought the election. “A police party even raided my house, but I had left the house before they could arrest me. I have recordings of phone calls with me as proof,” he alleged.
Senior superintendent of police, Moga, Surjit Singh Grewal, denied allegations of the Congress leaders. “The police never summoned Kulveer Singh or any other Congress leader and never raided their houses. If Kulveer has recordings, he should produce these before senior police officials and I will take action against the guilty cops,” Grewal said.