Polling to the zila parishads and panchayat samitis took place across Punjab on Thursday amid stray reports of clashes between Congress and SAD workers. The voting began at 8 am and went on till 4. The counting of votes will take place on September 22.The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) accused the ruling party of electoral fraud. Former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal alleged that a large number of Congress workers, brandishing swords, were involved in booth capturing. He accused the police of being a “mute spectator”.
“Booth capturing is taking place and as an MLA I will not tolerate this in my area. Police was not performing its duty. What kind of elections were these, where booths were captured and nomination papers of Akalis rejected,” he asked. Further, the SAD alleged bogus votes were polled at some locations.
Clashes between Congress and Akali workers were reported from Raja Sansi in Amritsar, Jhoke Harihar in Ferozepur, Lodhi Gujjar in Ajnala and Sohia Kalan in Majitha.During the clashes members of both factions pelted stones at each other and used sticks as weapons causing minor injuries to a few.
In Bathinda, former minister and Akali leader Sikandar Singh Maluka accused Congress workers of booth capturing at Kangar, Bhai Rupa and Salabatpura.Akali workers led by Maluka blocked Bhagta Bathinda Road to register their protest against the ruling party.A total of 17,268 polling booths were set up, 35 observers appointed and around 50,000 police personnel deployed for the polls in Punjab.The opposition parties had on Tuesday expressed fear of “large-scale booth capturing”. They had claimed the ruling party wanted to win the polls “by hook or by crook”.With the Congress touted as the favourite to win the zila parishads and panchayat samitis after a gap of 10 years, the main contest will be between the ruling party and the SAD-BJP alliance.
A total of 354 zila parishad and 2,900 panchayat samiti members are to be elected through these polls. There are 22 zila parishads and 150 panchayat samitis in the state.Thirty three candidates were earlier elected unopposed to various zila parishads and 369 nominees were elected unopposed to the panchayat samitis.There are a total of 1,27,87,395 registered voters in Punjab, comprising 60,99,053 women and 97 third-gender voters