Punjab Sweep

Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu show their fingers marked with phosphoric ink after casting their votes in the Amritsar Municipal elections Dec. 17. Congress swept the poll in the Punjab municipal elections Dec. 17. (IANS photo) 

CHANDIGARH —Punjab’s ruling Congress swept the state's municipal elections Dec. 17 even as the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP alleged booth capturing and misuse of power.

The Congress won 58 wards in the Patiala municipal corporation, while the opposition failed to open its account.

In Jalandhar, the Congress won 66 wards while the Akali Dal-BJP won 12. In Amritsar, the Congress won 69 wards while the Akali Dal-BJP combine won 12.

Voting was held Dec. 17 for three municipal corporations of Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala, and 29 municipal councils and Nagar Panchayats.

Minor clashes between Akali Dal-BJP workers and those from the Congress were reported in Patiala city and a few other places.

In Patiala, the hometown of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, police had to resort to a baton charge to disperse activists from both sides as the situation turned violent.

The Akali Dal demanded immediate countermanding of the elections, citing gross poll code violations in all wards.

It further demanded a high-level inquiry into the violence and alleged poll rigging by Congress, and a registration of cases against civil and police officials, whom it accused of acting like Congress agents.

Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal accused the State Election Commission of “becoming party to the Congress conspiracy to defeat the voice of the people in the civic body elections.”

“We will approach the high court and expose the conspiracy of the SEC, the ruling Congress and police officers,” he said after the results were announced.

“The party would also demand the immediate dismissal of State Election Commissioner Jagpal Singh Sandhu for becoming a Congress stooge and lowering the dignity of the high office held by him. If he has any self-respect he should resign immediately as he has betrayed the faith of the people who have high respect for the office of the Election Commissioner and don’t expect such partisan behavior from him,” Badal said.

“The SEC acted in a biased manner from the beginning. Akali delegations met him five times. He did not even give justice once. We protested against late receipt of voter lists and denial of no objection certificates to SAD-BJP candidates. He did not act on this complaint. The SEC failed to act even when officials refused to receive nomination papers of Akali candidates,” he added.

Chief Minister Singh hailed the poll results as a “clear vindication of the Congress policies and a resounding defeat of the opposition’s deceitful propaganda.”

“I congratulate the people of Punjab for not succumbing to the pressure tactics of the opposition,” he said in a statement Dec. 17.

Akali Dal and BJP leaders held a protest outside the state election commission office in Chandigarh Dec. 17 afternoon alleging rigging by the ruling Congress.

“We have not seen such murder of democracy as what happened today,” Akali Dal leader and former Minister Daljit Singh Cheema told media there.

The main contest was between the Congress, the main opposition Aam Aadmi Party and the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance. Local issues of towns and cities and the respective wards dominated the campaigning for the municipal elections.

The election for the municipal corporation of Punjab’s largest city, Ludhiana, was not held as the electoral rolls were not updated.

This is the first big election in the state since the Congress government, led by Singh, came to power after the assembly polls in March.

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