56% voters turn up to elect new Mohali MC House
As many as 56% of the registered voters turned up to elect the 50-member General House of the Mohali municipal corporation, which went to the polls along with seven other municipal councils in the district on Sunday.
Mohali (urban) saw a drop of 5% in the turnout, as compared to 61% recorded in 2015, when elections were held for the first time.
Overall, the district reported 60% voter turnout, with Banur leading at 78% and Zirakpur lagging behind at 55%.
In all, 901 candidates are in the fray from 195 wards in the civic bodies of Mohali, Kharar, Kurali, Dera Bassi, Zirakpur, Lalru, Banur and Nayagaon. The counting will take place on February 17.
The polling largely passed off peacefully, though four people were injured in minor clashes in Dera Bassi and there was an allegation of booth capturing in Mohali city. Questions were also raised over the slow pace of work by officials at booths set up in villages and colonies.
EVM glitches delay polling in Lalru
It seemed like a festive occasion in several villages and towns of the municipal councils as voters started queuing up as early as 7:30am. Though officials were carrying thermal scanners at the entrance to every polling booth, most of them were found not using them. Most of the officials were also without masks despite directions issued in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Polling, which was supposed to begin at 8am across 509 booths in the district, was delayed by half an hour in Lalru due to a glitch in electronic voting machines. It took time to pick up the pace, and only 13% voters turned up in Mohali (urban) by 10am. However, the number shot up to 42% by 2pm and reached 56% in the next two hours as entry was stopped at 4pm and only those people still in the queue were allowed to vote.
All political parties had set up desks at all polling booths to assist of voters. Candidates, who had expected a higher turnout, said that many voters apparently chose to stay home due to the pandemic. In Mohali, long queues were seen only at a few polling stations, in Phases 2, 3 and 7.
Mohali deputy commissioner Girish Dayalan, who is also the district electoral officer and visited most of the polling booths, said: “Initially, there were some glitches, which were sorted out soon. Overall, voters expressed satisfaction over the arrangements, which included drinking water, seating and better queue management.”
Dayalan said the administration will study the reasons behind the drop in turnout despite organising extensive awareness programmes, “but it seems people did not turn up due to Covid-19”.
The district witnessed a multi-cornered contest between Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal, Bharatiya Janata Party and Azad Group-Aam Aadmi Party combine led by former mayor Kulwant Singh. In the previous elections to the Mohali MC, Kulwant had led the Azad group (of independents) and won 10 seats. With the support of Congress, he was elected the mayor. The five-year term of the House ended on April 26 last year.
“We are satisfied with the way the elections were held. We thank the administration and police for ensuring peaceful polling,” said Kulwant. Even Punjab health minister and local MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu expressed satisfaction over the conduct of polls.
Azad group candidate demands repolling
Paramjeet Singh Kahlon, Azad group candidate from Ward No. 10, has lodged a complaint with the state election commission against Congress candidate Amarjeet Singh Sidhu, demanding repolling in the ward.
In his complaint, he alleged that police forcibly removed his polling agents from the booth in connivance with Congress workers. Balbir Singh Sidhu, who is Amarjeet’s brother, rubbished the allegations.
Charanjeet Singh Brar, senior SAD leader and co-observer in Mohali, also claimed to have received reports about Congress workers deleting votes of Akali workers. “We will check it and lodge a complaint with the state election commission,” he said.
Meanwhile, six men of Mauli Baidwan village were arrested for uprooting a tent pitched by BJP candidate Rakhi Pathak to assist voters at Mohali’s ward number 31. Pathak’s husband Suresh Kumar alleged that around a dozen men reached the spot around 10:30am and said they won’t let a party that has enacted anti-farmer laws to pitch a tent there.
Four injured in minor clashes at Dera Bassi
Minor clashes left four people injured in different wards of Dera Bassi. BJP leader and lawyer Mukesh Gandhi was injured after being attacked at the party’s booth in Ward No. 12. He alleged he was attacked at the behest of a Congress candidate after he stopped the men from barging into a polling booth. The assailants were later arrested. In Ward No. 18, SAD candidate Harwinder Singh Pinka’s supporter Madan Lal was attacked with sharp-edged weapons by unknown men, who barged into his house. Madan had to be shifted to Government Medical College and Hospital in Chandigarh.
A scuffle broke out between former municipal council president Harjinder Singh Rangi and Congress candidate Ranjit Singh Reddy over alleged fake votes in Ward No. 18. Police had to intervene to bring the situation under control. In Ward No. 8, a scuffle broke out between BJP candidate Nirmal Singh Nimma and Congress candidate Jaswinder Singh. Deputy superintendent of police Gurbakhshish Singh said there were minor incidents in some wards, which were being investigated.