The Aam Adami Party candidate from Patiala, Dharamvira Gandhi, was assaulted and an electronic voting machine was smashed in some stray incidents of violence when approximately 73 per cent of the 1.95 crore electorate cast their votes for the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab on Wednesday.
While brisk voting was reported in the first half, when around 50 per cent voters had cast their votes, the turn out slackened
as the day progressed, with the estimated final tally falling shot of the 80 per cent target set for itself by the elections' department.
According to reports, Mr. Gandhi received injuries on the face, when a group of Akali Dal workers led by a councillor of the Patiala Municipal Corporation, R.S. Virk, attacked him in Rasoolpura Saidan village. The police have registered a case against Mr. Virk, though no arrests had been made so far. In another incident in Tripardi town under the same constituency, some Akali workers forced their way into a polling station and smashed a EVM. A case was registered there also.
At least four persons were hospitalised after a clash between the Akali Dal and Congress workers in Dulat village near Fatehgarh Churian town under Gurdaspur Parliamentary constituency. In another incident in Sangatpura village of Moga district, seven persons were injured in a clash, while the police arrested three involved in the violence.
Talking to reporters, the Chief Electoral Officer, V.K. Singh said that as compared to 44 FIRs on the polling day in the 2012 Assembly elections, only four cases were registered this time, which indicated that the voting remained peaceful. He said that as many as 400 EVMs were replaced after malfunctioning was reported. On the complaint filed by the president of the Punjab unit of the Congress, Partap Singh Bajwa, who is contesting from Gurdaspur, the Election Commission restricted the movements of about nine persons including a Chief Parliamentary Secretary, G.S. Babehali, former Speaker of the State Assembly, Nirmal Singh Kahlon, former Ministers Sucha Singh Langah and Sewa Singh Sekhwan. Along with their respective sons, these Akali leaders were not allowed to move beyond the area of the polling station in which they were scheduled to cast their votes.
Mr. Singh said that the Election Commission had also issued a notice to the Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal, for his speech in Jalandhar during the campaign, where he allegedly urged some industrialists to provide monetary support to the party candidate, Pawan Kumar Tinnu. Mr. Badal has been asked to send his reply within two days.
Meanwhile, accompanied by his son, Sukhbir Singh, who is also the Akali Dal president, daughter-in-law Harsimrat Kaur, who is the party candidate from Bathinda and grand daughter, Mr. Badal cast his vote in the native Badal village in Muktsar district early in the morning. However, former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh could not cast his vote in Patiala, where his wife Preneet Kaur is in the fray, as he decided to stay in Amritsar, where the Congress fielded him against BJP leader Arun Jaitley, who in turn began the day by offering prayers at the Golden Temple.