Two days before the municipal committee goes to the polls, the police on Monday recovered the body of a niece of a Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate from a canal near Malerkotla.
The police also arrested the accused identified as Mohammad Shareef, 28, within hours of recovery of the body, defusing the tension in the area.
Soon after the news about the recovery of the body spread, tension gripped the town, which has more than 80,000 voters and 70% of whom are Muslims.
The family members said the girl had been missing from the house since Sunday evening.
Paramjeet Singh Gill, inspector general of police, Patiala, said: “The accused is a distant relative of the family of the girl, who is mentally unstable. The accused lured her with some sweets at around 6:30pm on Sunday and took her under a bridge on the outskirts of the town where he raped her before strangulating her to death.”
Soon after the recovery of the body, the police formed a team of senior officers, that solved the case within hours, Gill said, adding that the accused was a divorcee and father of two children.
Sangrur senior superintendent of police Mandeep Singh Sidhu said the accused had admitted to having committed the crime.
He has been booked under sections 302 and 376 of the IPC on the complaint of the girl’s uncle. The girl was a niece of Mohammad Ismail, who is contesting from ward 6 on a SAD ticket.