Allegations fly thick as campaign ends in Punjab

CHANDIGARH, OCT. 11. While the curtains came down today on campaigning for the upcoming by-elections for the two Punjab Assembly seats of Kapurthala and Garhshankar, rival parties levelled serious allegations against each other. Different parties organised major rallies in the two constituencies to make the final appeal for votes.

While the State Home Department claims to have made elaborate security arrangements to ensure smooth polling on Wednesday, an official spokesman of the Election Department said the voters would have to carry their electoral photo identity cards (EPICs). Those who do not have EPICs could furnish any of the documents which the Commission has notified as an alternate evidence for proof of identity.

The Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, has alleged that sensing defeat, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had begun to threaten police officers, who prevented the Akalis from attempting to overwhelm the voters with open display of muscle power. He said that the Akalis had booked four marriage halls in Kapurthala to provide accommodation for its henchmen. He pointed out that the authorities had seized 550 cases of liquor from Akali leaders and their supporters.

Capt. Singh reiterated the commitment of his government to ensure a free and fair polling. He rubbished all charges levelled against him asking the Akali chief, Parkash Singh Badal, to accept that police officers and bureaucrats could help any party win polls. However, he reiterated that barring senior leaders, nobody from outside the respective constituency would be allowed to stay on during the polling period.

The Chief Minister said the Congress had gone to the people with its development agenda and the victory of its candidates would mean a vindication of the programmes of the State Government. Meanwhile, the Akalis accused the Congress of misusing official machinery, when it charged the Chief Minister of having deputed Senior Superintendents of Police (SSPs) from five districts to carry out a massive rigging operation in favour of the ruling party.

In a communication to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), party General Secretaries, Kanwaljit Singh and Balwinder Singh Bhunder claimed "definite information'' about a meeting where the Chief Minister allegedly passed instructions to these officers asking them to "arrange minimum of one thousand persons each for bogus voting and booth capturing as well as illegal confinement of the senior Akali-BJP leaders and workers before the start of polling.''

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