Congress makes clean sweep in Patiala MC; amid clashes, allegations of rigging
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Congress makes clean sweep in Patiala MC; amid clashes, allegations of rigging

Ruling party bags 59 of 60 seats, SAD-BJP, AAP draw blank; polling for one seat to be held later

punjab Updated: Dec 20, 2017 12:39 IST
Navrajdeep Singh
Navrajdeep Singh
Hindustan Times, Patiala
Clean sweep,Allegations of rigging,Clashes in wards
Former mayor Amarinder Singh Bajaj of the SAD argue with police during MC elections in Patiala on Sunday.(Bharat Bhushan/HT)

The Congress on Sunday made a clean sweep winning 59 of 60 seats in the Patiala municipal corporation (MC) elections that concluded amid allegations of electronic voting machines (EVMs) being rigged and booth capturing.

The polling for ward 37 will be held later. Also, there were reports of skirmishes between the Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) workers as well.

As per information, 62.2% voting was recorded against the 60% in the 2012 MC polls.

The Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) accused the police and the district administration of working in connivance with the Congress in booth capturing. The civic poll debutant AAP remained a silent spectator to the Congress’ and SAD’s high drama, as their workers remained low-key on the polling day.

As per information, 62.2% voting was recorded against the 60% in the 2012 MC polls.

The AAP bundled its booths from all polling stations early in the day, while the SAD workers left their booths at around 12:30pm.

Clashes in many wards

Tension gripped the city throughout the day after the first incident of disturbance was reported from ward 14. The police had to use mild force to disperse the Congress and SAD workers, who exchanged blows over cross-allegations of casting bogus votes. Three SAD workers were reportedly injured during the clash.

In ward 53, former mayor Amarinder Singh Bajaj’s turban was tossed in the air during a clash with the Congress workers. Bajaj’s wife Manpreet Kaur was contesting from the ward.

A firing incident was reported from ward 60, following which heavy police force was rushed to the spot on the Patiala-Nabha road.

Minor incidents were also reported from wards 20, 39, 58, 49 and 13 as well.

‘Booths hijacked by Cong’

Akali leader and Anandpur Sahib MP Prem Singh Chandumajra termed the civic body elections in Patiala as the “murder of democracy by the ruling alliance”. “This is no way to hold elections in a democratic set-up,” he said.

“The entire system collapsed like pack of cards. Booths were captured in all the wards. The SAD will move an adjournment motion for the cancellation of this civic body election,” Chandumajra said. The MP, along with former cabinet minister Surjit Singh Rakhra, toured several polling stations in the city.

He said the Congress came to power with substantial mandate of people and now it is stopping people from exercising their franchise. “Masked youth with support from the police and patronage of local MLAs were freely roaming all over the city, capturing booths and preventing people from voting,” he alleged.

“The SAD is forced to boycott the elections. We will not take this lying down and will approach court against these polls,” said Rakhra. The AAP vice-president Balbir Singh alleged that the Congress even surpassed the SAD in booth capturing and using force to hijack MC polls.

“It is a black day for the Indian democracy. The Congress has captured all booths in the city. Our polling agents have been thrown out of the polling stations in all wards,” he said.

Cong refutes allegations

Refuting the allegations of EVM rigging and booth capturing, cabinet minister Brahm Mohindra said the Congress had registered a huge victory from all polling stations even during the assembly polls.

“The leaders of opposition parties are making an unnecessary hue and cry. Their allegations of EVM rigging and booth capturing are completely baseless,” said the state health minister.

‘Tit for Tat for SAD’

Sanjeev Sharma (of Congress), a front-runner for the mayoral post and was elected unopposed, said it is a tit-for-tat situation for the SAD-BJP alliance, which won the MC elections for two elections (in 2007 and 2012), through unfair means, including booth capturing and threatening Congress leaders and workers.

“It was the SAD that started the trend of rigging in the Patiala MC polls back in 2007. What they sowed in 2007 and 2012, is what they are reaping in 2017,” said a Congress leader.

SAD’s Chandumajra said that the party will give a befitting reply to the Congress once it comes to power. “The Congress first used violence in 2002 and had to remain out of power for 10 years. But after what they have done now, they will remain out of power forever,” he said.

SAD stages protest

Alleging rigging and mass booth capturing, the SAD leaders, led by Chandumajra and Rakhra, staged a protest near the residence of chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh near YPS School at around 1pm.

After police cordoned off the roads leading to the CM’s residence, the leaders staged a protest outside the deputy commissioner’s office. Rakhra said the Congress workers stooped to a new level in these polls.

“It is shameful that the Congress, which had won with a margin of over 1 lakh votes during the 2017 assembly polls from the areas, has resorted to such tactics,” he said.

First Published: Dec 18, 2017 09:48 IST