As campaigning for the 23-ward local municipal council elections ended on Monday evening, fresh posters targeting local bodies minister Anil Joshi appeared in certain areas in the city to spark fresh fears of violence between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers and their Akali alliance partners after the recent clash.
Scheduled to go to the polls on Wednesday along with many other councils, Tarn Taran anticipates more tension during the process. The skirmish in the run-up to the polls became a key issue in the campaign.
For giving confidence to the 52,212 voters, including 25,248 women, the police have fanned out to almost every local street after several flag marches during electioneering.
Of the 88 booths in Tarn Taran, 51 have been declared hyper-sensitive, and another 37 sensitive. District election officer Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal, who is the deputy commissioner, confirmed the deployment of requisite police force at these points.
Senior superintendent of police Manmohan Sharma also claimed that the security arrangements were elaborate. An additional 3,000 cops have come from outside, including the anti-riot wing and Punjab Armed Police (PAP).
The posters spotted in Wards 21 and 14 accuse Joshi of being involved in large-scale corruption, questioning how a cloth merchant could make assets worth `500 crore, including a hotel in Dubai, so fast.
Joshi’s younger brother, Rajesh Joshi, is BJP candidate from Ward 14, where the Joshi family has its ancestral house.
Reacting to these allegations, the minister, who was busy canvassing for the BJP candidates in the town, said: “I am open to any inquiry. All this is being done to defame me.”
Even as the minister accused the Akalis of targeting him, Shiromani Akali Dal’s local legislator and chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Harmeet Singh Sandhu denied that he had a hand in the publishing of slanderous posters.
Posters accusing the minister of thrashing an Amritsar lawyer in May last year had come up in the town during the campaign before. The BJP had hit back and accused Sandhu of being part of the drug and sand mafias.
On February 10, when talks for seat-sharing between the SAD and the BJP were scheduled here, a group of Akali activists allegedly attacked Rajesh Joshi and fired shots during the scuffle the followed. It brought an attempt to murder case against some Akali leaders and forced the state government to form a special investigation team (SIT).
“We will contest all 23 wards or none. There will be no alliance with the Akalis,” Joshi had asserted after the clash, making it clear that the two allies would go their separate ways. On the last day of campaigning, Joshi, who has all along accused the administration of siding with the Akalis, accusing the SIT of holding back its report at the government’s behest. “Every hour, polling officials are being changed here. We don’t know who is where,” the minister said during a road show in Wards 14 and 21.
Sandhu also held small rallies and went door to door in some of the wards to seek votes for the Akali candidates, who will contest all 23 seats. No other Akali leader, including state revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia Majithia and chief parliamentary secretary Virsa Singh Valtoha, turned up in the city to campaign.
Since Sandhu is close to both SAD leaders, Joshi had accused even Majithia of being behind the attack on his brother.
The BJP is contesting 19 seats and supporting independents in four wards. The Congress is contesting nine seats; and its ally, the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP), has put up a candidate for one seat.
Cops threatening workers: BJP
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has warned the Punjab police officials against issuing threats to its candidates and party workers.
BJP national secretary Tarun Chugh, who was at Sanour in Patiala district on Monday, said policemen were threatening party candidates and members ahead of the civic body polls. He said the party would ensure the safety of BJP candidates.
Addressing BJP workers, Chugh said the BJP would prepare a list of policemen trying to threaten party workers. The list would be sent to the Prime Minister and the Union home minister, he said.
He said police officials were trying to weaken the SAD-BJP alliance. The alliance was contesting MC polls at most of the places except in Sanaur, Tarn Taran and Batala, said Chugh.