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Punjab municipal polls under way: First litmus test for Congress govt

For the first time, the state election commission has ordered videography of 103 hypersensitive wards.

punjab Updated: Dec 17, 2017 11:43 IST
People waiting outside a polling booth in Jalandhar on Sunday. (Pardeep Pandit/HT)

The polling for three municipal corporations of Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala and 29 notified area committees in Punjab is underway. Elections for the Ludhiana municipal corporation are not being held as the electoral rolls are not updated.

While it is the first grassroots test for the Congress after coming to power, the Akali Dal-BJP alliance, which lost the assembly elections held in February this year, is trying to retrieve the lost ground. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is contesting elections on its party symbol (broom) is putting up a symbolic fight.

Also read | Punjab municipal elections LIVE: Voting begins, results to be declared by evening

“The process of voting to elect representatives to three municipal corporations and 29 municipal councils and nagar panchayats would begin on Sunday at 8am and end at 4pm,” a spokesman of the state election commission said. The results will be declared on Sunday evening.

Candidates in 90 wards have won unopposed, the spokesman said, adding that would be 873 polling stations in the state, having 1,938 polling booths. A total of 8,000 election staff and 15,500 police personnel would perform duties at these polling stations.

For the first time, the state election commission has ordered videography of 103 hypersensitive wards.

In the three municipal councils — Khem Karan, Baghapurana and Mallanwala — the Congress nominees were declared winners unopposed. However, the Akali-BJP coalition alleged that their candidates were not allowed to file nomination papers.

The AAP, which became the principle opposition party in Punjab after assembly polls, is taking it as first political test at the ground level pedestal of the democratic system. The party has fielded 149 candidates in three corporations.

A total of 413 candidates are in the fray in 85 wards of Amritsar where 769,153 voters will exercise their franchise. In Jalandhar, 305 candidates are in the fray from 80 wards. The number of voters there is 5.6 lakh. In Patiala, election will be held in 57 wards in which 2,60,664 voters can exercise their franchise.

Both Akali Dal-BJP coalition and AAP have accused the ruling Congress of misusing its power in the run-up to the municipal polls.

“We hope that government machinery and Congress workers don’t interfere in poll process,” said AAP co-president Aman Arora.

Former minister and SAD secretary Daljit Singh Cheema alleged that police and district administration offices were harassing their candidates at the behest of Congress leaders. Two Akali candidates in Khem Karan were summoned police stations, he said.

State Congress president Sunil Jakhar said the Akali-BJP leaders were levelling baseless allegations as they were staring defeat. “It was they who ruled the civic bodies for 10 years by manipulation. We are for free and fair polling,” he said.

First Published: Dec 17, 2017 09:44 IST