In a violent incident ostensibly related to the ongoing elections for Zila Parishads and Panchayat Samitis in Punjab, one person was killed and three were injured on Thursday when unidentified gunmen fired at them at Adampura village near Rampura Phul in Bathinda district.

The deceased has been identified as Jaspreet Singh, who owed political allegiance to the People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) headed by former Finance Minister Manpreet Singh, the estranged nephew of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. The injured include another PPP leader, Lakha Sidhana who had contested the last Assembly polls, Rajinder Singh Raju who is the son of a Congress candidate from Bhai Roopa zone, Malkiat Singh, and their associate Balbir Singh. While two were admitted to local hospitals, Raju whose condition was critical has been referred to a private hospital in Ludhiana.

The incident occurred soon after a joint public meeting organised by the Congress and the PPP. Malkiat Singh and Lakha Sidhana were walking to their vehicles when some gunmen emerged from two cars and fired at them indiscriminately. They immediately fled the spot.

PPP chief Manpreet Singh accused the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal of encouraging such elements to intimidate their opponents. He pointed out that more than a week ago, the local police had raided Mr. Sidhana’s house and seized a gun registered in his mother’s name. The incident was presented as a major arms recovery. He said the PPP would counter such intimidation.

State Congress president Pratap Singh Bajwa has demanded imposition of President’s rule in the State as incidents of political violence are increasing. He said there is sudden rise in incidence of crime including murders, robberies, thefts, rapes and kidnappings. Mr. Bajwa asked Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde to send a high-level team to take stock of law and order in the State.

Mr. Bajwa said that he had submitted a memorandum to Governor Shivraj Patil and State Election Commissioner S.S. Brar about the threat to Congress candidates. He reiterated his demand for the deployment of Central paramilitary forces to conduct Panchayat elections as the Akali Dal-BJP Government had forced a number of Congress candidates to withdraw and arethreatening other contesting candidates.

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