Except for some minor skirmishes at about a dozen places, zilla parishad and panchayat samiti elections passed off peacefully in Punjab on Sunday.
According to initial estimates with the State Election Commission (SEC), nearly 63 per cent of the 1.1 crore electorate across 12,000 villages exercised their franchise.
Following disputes, the SEC ordered re-poll at eight booths in Muktsar, Faridkot, Moga, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Gurdaspur and Patiala districts. The administration had deployed around 38,000 security personnel in 19,350 booths, including in 2,650, which were declared sensitive.
Polling was conducted in a single phase for 331 members of 22 zilla parishads and 2,902 members of 146 panchayat samitis. Counting is scheduled for May 21.
While in the last elections, it was a landslide for the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine, this year it faces a combined challenge from the Congress, the People’s Party of Punjab and the Left front. Electioneering saw some major violence this time.
In a statement issued here, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal described the smooth, peaceful and free and fair conduct of civic elections “a triumph of democracy.”
His deputy, Sukhbir Singh, who is also the president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, congratulated people and thanked party leaders, office-bearers and workers for their hard work. “I am proud of my workers for the way they resisted all provocations to violence and acted with restraint to ensure a smooth and peaceful poll. They raised the bar of self-restraint and responsible democratic conduct. They deserve to be congratulated and thanked,” he said.
Countering their claims, Congress State president Partap Singh Bajwa “strongly condemned “large-scale violence and booth capturing by Akali workers.” He thanked people for the huge turnout.
Mr. Bajwa claimed that in Lambi, which is the constituency of the Chief Minister, Akali men burnt vehicles, beat up voters and threatened poll staff. Reports of booth capturing and violence were received from all over the State, where police remained a “mute spectator,” he said.
At Sehna village in Bhadaur constituency, Akali workers arrived in two buses from Jaitu and captured booths. Similar incidents of booth capturing were reported from Hathara Zone in Malerkotla, at Sambhu Kalan, Loh Chimbari and Sekhupur Karkeri in Ghanaur and Kheri opposite Punjabi University in Sanaur, Tharuna in Shutrana, Samana, Muktsar, Gidderbaha, Jalalabad, Dharmkot, Guru Harsahai and Ferozepur rural, Mr. Bajwa alleged.