Sixty sports kits and 20 bottles of liquor allegedly meant to be distributed ahead of polls were seized by a team of the Election Commission in Rampura Phul, from a club whose chairman is Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader and local municipal council president Sunil Bitta. Bathinda district’s Rampura Phul is the assembly segment from where SAD minister Sikander Singh Maluka is in the fray for another term.
The kits, on which was printed the Punjab government slogan ‘Raj Nahi, Sewa’ (service, not rule), were being loaded onto a truck from the premises of Panthers Club, where the team also found bottles of different premium brands of whiskey. The excise department has sought a case against club president Subhash Mangla, who is also a leader of the SAD, among others. “The excise department has mentioned the name of Mangla in the report, and we will act accordingly,” said senior superintendent of police (SSP) Swapan Sharma.
The poll returning officer for the segment, sub-divisional magistrate Narinder Singh Dhaliwal, said the kits — 36 for gym, 15 cricket and nine for volleyball — have been handed over to the district sports department while the excise department is looking into the seizure of liquor. “Police have been informed.” For now, a notice is being issued to the club, and “if required a notice will be issued to the SAD too”.
Club chairman Bitta, however, claimed that the kits had already been provided to the club by the state government and were being shifted to a new office location. As for the liquor, he said the bottles “could have been planted by Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) workers”.
‘Act against Maluka’
The seizure gave the rival parties a stick to beat the SAD with. Congress and AAP workers reached the office of the club and protested there. Congress candidate Gurpreet Singh Kangar said, “The SAD-BJP regime has ruined the youth of Punjab by getting them hooked to drugs, and now they are alluring them by distributing sports kits ahead of polls.” He demanded action against Maluka, who could not be contacted by HT for comment, despite attempts over the phone.