Activists of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday clashed inside the subdivisional magistrate (SDM) office complex over discrepancies in the voter lists for the Tarn Taran nagar council polls, scheduled to be held on February 25.
The BJP claimed that the Akalis’ target was Raja Joshi, younger brother of local bodies minister Anil Joshi. They alleged that two or three shots were fired at Raja, who had a narrow escape. They also showed the three bullet marks on a pillar, beside which the minister’s brother was standing when the clash took place.
The clash, according to police officials, left three workers each of the BJP and the SAD injured.
Talking to the media, the minister claimed that his party leaders had gone to meet SDM Anupreet Kaur Dhillon to protest against discrepancies in the voter lists of certain wards. When they were coming out after registering their protest with the SDM, they were attacked by a group of Akali activists led by their local leaders, he claimed.
According to the minister, when his brother came to know about it, he rushed to the SDM’s office to rescue his party colleagues. He alleged that an Akali activist fired shots towards his brother and also snatched his brother’s licensed weapon and fired more shots.
“Luckily, no one was hit by the bullets,” Joshi added.
Meanwhile, the Akalis staged a dharna at Bohri Chowk in the town and accused the BJP of engineering the attack on them. They claimed that some of their workers were injured in the attack and had been admitted to hospital.
Local Akali MLA and chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Harmeet Singh Sandhu maintained distance from his party’s workers, though local BJP leaders claimed that he was fully backing his Akali colleagues.
In the last nagar council polls seven years ago, the supporters of Sandhu and Joshi had clashed with each other, with the latter having a narrow escape when his vehicle was set afire by Akali workers. Since then, the two leaders have not been on good terms.
Joshi rushes to Tarn Taran
No sooner was the incident reported to Anil Joshi on the phone by local BJP leaders, he immediately rushed to Tarn Taran, his home town. The minister had just reached Chandigarh when he was informed. CPS KD Bhandari, BJP MLA from Jalandhar, accompanied him.
On the outskirts of the town, he left his official vehicle and drove to the SDM’s office in a private vehicle since the model code of conduct is in force in the town. His brother and supporters were sitting on dharna outside the office, demanding the registration of a case against the Akalis involved in the attack.
“Enough is enough. We will not take this humiliation,” he said, addressing his party workers sitting on dharna.
Referring to state BJP chief Kamal Sharma, the minister said, “Of what use to us are the four ministries and three-four CPS posts that we hold in the government? Sharma-ji should do a rethink on the alliance with the Akalis.”
During his address to party workers, Joshi declared that under the current circumstances, the BJP would contest from all 23 wards of the nagar council or boycott the polls here.
“This is not democracy, it’s ‘goonda raj’. The chief minister needs to look into this matter. In Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) scored an outright victory and no one (from the central government or the BJP) tried to harass AAP supporters, but here things are different,” he added.
The minister made it clear that if any harm came to his brother or his family members, deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal and revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia would be held responsible.
“I will make an important announcement in the coming days,” he said when asked about his line of action.
Deputy commissioner BS Dhaliwal and SSP Manmohan Sharma later met Joshi, who sought action against those responsible for the attack on his party workers. On their assurance, the BJP lifted the dharna, with Joshi giving the administration 24 hours to take action.
When contacted, the SSP said six persons sustained minor injuries in the attack. He admitted that four bullet shots were fired, all by the Akalis. He said the police had got written complaints from the BJP as well as the SAD.
“All facts will be verified and then a case will be registered,” he added.