A day after being attacked by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) workers led by a municipal councillor, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Dr Dharamvira Gandhi said on Thursday that he and AAP workers were facing threat to life.
Gandhi has written to the Election Commission (EC) of India, seeking protection for him as well as AAP workers who were allegedly attacked by Akalis on the polling day.
Gandhi, who is contesting from the Patiala Lok Sabha seat, is pitted against sitting MP Preneet Kaur and SAD-BJP candidate Deepinder Dhillon. While Preneet has condemned the attack, Dhillon has remained silent on the matter.
In a related development, Akali councillor Rajinder Singh Virk, who was booked and arrested on Wednesday in connection with the case, was produced in court for seeking his police remand.
Charanjit Rakhra, brother of cabinet minister Surjit Singh Rakhra, Harinderpal Singh Tohra, and other Akalis were present in the court in support of Virk.
Earlier in the day, hundreds of AAP leaders and workers, including Gandhi, party candidates Bhagwant Mann (Sangrur), HS Phoolka (Ludhiana) and Jassi Jasraj (Bathinda), on Thursday sat on dharna in front of the deputy commissioner's office to lodge a protest against the assault on Gandhi.
They said the police had registered a case against Virk, but appropriate sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for murderous assault (attempt to murder) had been excluded from the FIR, which clearly showed the complicity of the police and the ruling party.
Gandhi and others alleged booth capturing, Akalis' highhandedness and police inaction under the influence of the ruling alliance (SAD-BJP).
They also presented a memorandum to district returning officer Priyank Bharti, demanding action against the Akali workers who targeted AAP workers. The AAP listed four incidents where the police allegedly failed to take action against Akali workers who attacked AAP members.
The protesters alleged that Virk went to Rasoolpur Saidan and other polling stations, where he issued threats to workers, indulged in violence, bogus voting and booth capturing. Subsequently, complaints were made, but the administration and the police failed to curb his activities and virtually gave him a free hand.
And when Dr Gandhi reached there, Virk and his men attacked him.
In his speech, Mann said the rise of the AAP had baffled the SAD-BJP alliance, so they had started targeting the common man. Phoolka also condemned the police for failing to act.
The protesters demanded that Virk and his accomplices should be booked for attempt to murder and other appropriate sections of the IPC for vitiating the electoral process, besides seeking re-poll in all polling stations where violence took place. The AAP leaders also asked the police to protect Gandhi and party workers.
Meanwhile, senior superintendent of police (SSP) Hardial Singh Mann said, "The police can't add Section 307 to the FIR on its own. As per the medico-legal report, the offence is made of injuries only, then how can the police add the charge of attempt to murder?"
The police had registered an FIR under sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 323 (punishment for causing injury voluntarily), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 148 (guilty of rioting) and 149 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code against Virk on the statement of head constable Gurmit Singh, who is attached as gunman with Dr Gandhi during the poll process.
Later, the Patiala AAP unit said the police inaction would force them to intensify their protest. "We are peace-loving persons, but if the police fail to act, the AAP will start a series of daily protests outside the district administrative complex," AAP spokesman Chaitanya Sharma said.