Amid cries of rigging, Congress sweeps civic polls in Punjab
The chief minister’s home town saw violence amid allegations of rigging, and the party won all 59 seats for which results were declared. In Jalandhar, Congress won 66 of 80 seats, and in Amritsar it won 71 of 80; and there the polling was largely peaceful. The SAD’s saving grace was Begowal nagar panchayat in Kapurthala where it won the majority.punjab Updated: Dec 18, 2017 06:17 IST
As the state’s ruling party Congress swept the municipal elections in Punjab on Sunday, Patiala stood out at as an example. The chief minister’s home town saw violence amid allegations of rigging, and the party won all 59 seats for which results were declared. Repoll at one booth in one ward of the municipal corporation was postponed due to an electronic voting machine (EVM) being vandalised by a former councillor of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
In all, elections were held to three municipal corporations, also including Jalandhar and Amritsar, besides 29 municipal councils and nagar panchayats. In three councils, Congress had emerged unopposed anyway.
In these polls held nine months after the assembly polls, Congress won majority of the wards across the state, dislodging the SAD-BJP combine in the three marquee corporations that the alliance had ruled during its reign in the state.
In Jalandhar, Congress won 66 of 80 seats, and in Amritsar it won 71 of 80; and there the polling was largely peaceful. The SAD’s saving grace was Begowal nagar panchayat in Kapurthala where it won the majority, while in five municipal bodies, independents had most seats.
In Patiala, alleged booth-capturing prompted the SAD-BJP to declare boycott around 1 pm, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), reduced to a non-player, had already packed up and left.
The SAD demanded dismissal of state election commissioner Jagpal Singh Sandhu for his “partisan” role. SAD-BJP leaders led by MP Prem Singh Chandumajra staged a dharna outside the residence of chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh.
Former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, in a statement issued by the party, described the process of civic polls as “utterly uncivilised” and said, “This day will be remembered as a Black Sunday for democracy in Punjab.”
A delegation of the SAD-BJP alliance staged a dharna outside the office of the state election commission in Chandigarh too, led by former minister Daljit Singh Cheema who even claimed they have submitted videos as proof.
Those allegedly thrashed by Congress supporters in Patiala included former mayor Amarinder Bajaj. Some mediapersons were threatened too when they were trying to capture live pictures of “goons” inside the polling stations.
AAP MP Dharamvira Gandhi, too, demanded a repoll.
The SAD-BJP further alleged that violence against their supporters was widespread, and in Mullanpur Dakha a SAD candidate’s mother was attacked by Congress workers led by MLA Bharat Bhushan Ashu. In Ghanaur, when Akali-BJP supporters protested casting of “fake” votes, they were thrashed by Congress workers. “What can we expect from a puppet body like this (SEC) which is playing into the hands of Congress leaders?” said Cheema.
Patiala, meanwhile, witnessed the highest turnout among corporations at 62.2%, up from 60& last time; followed by Jalandhar at 57.2% and Amritsar at 51%, both of which saw 63% in 2012. Councils and nagar panchayats stayed between 60-86%.
Congress got majority in the smaller municipal bodies too, winning 267 of the 414 wards.
A total of 8,000 election staff and 15,500 cops were deployed at the polling stations.