Ruling Congress on Sunday swept the three municipal corporation polls – Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala, even as the opposition SAD-BJP alleged misuse of official machinery. The Congress swept most of the wards in the three municipal corporations as results were declared late evening, prompting celebrations in the ruling camp. The Akali-BJP alliance, however, demanded countermanding of the Patiala corporation polls citing gross poll code violations. Polling was also held in 29 municipal councils and nagar panchayats today, amid tight security arrangements. For the three municipal corporations, Patiala registered the highest poll percentage of over 62.22 per cent followed by Jalandhar at 57.2 and Amritsar at 51 per cent while the voting percentage in the 29 municipal councils and nagar panchayats ranged between 60-86 per cent. Congress swept the Patiala municipal corporation winning 59 wards while the opposition failed to open account. In Jalandhar, 66 wards fell into the Congress’s kitty followed by BJP (8) and SAD (4). In Amritsar, Congress won 64, SAD 7, BJP 6 and 8 wards went to the independents.
Overall, the Congress won 189 wards in the three municipal corporations followed by BJP with 14, SAD with 11, while ten were won by independents. In the municipal council and nagar panchayat polls, the Congress won from 267 places as against 37 by SAD, 15 by BJP, 94 by Independents. The AAP received a severe drubbing winning from only one place.
The voting started at 8 AM and continued till 4 PM, a spokesman of the state election commission said here. Tight security arrangements were made to ensure fair and free polling, which by and large remained peaceful barring a stray incident, officials said.
The major political outfits: ruling Congress, SAD-BJP and AAP were contesting the civic polls on their party symbols. A total of 8,000 election staff and 15,500 police personnel were deployed at the polling stations. The Election Commission (EC) had ordered videography of 103 hyper sensitive wards. Polling was held in 222 out of 225 wards in the three municipal corporations and 327 of the 29 municipal councils and nagar panchayats.
In 90 wards, the candidates had earlier won unopposed and out of these three candidates belonged to the Patiala Municipal Corporation and 87 to municipal councils and nagar panchayats. Nearly 900 candidates were in fray for the elections to the three municipal corporations of Amritsar, Patiala and Jalandhar. The civic polls were held nine months after the assembly elections after which the Congress had wrested power from SAD-BJP combine in the state. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh hailed the poll results as a “clear vindication of the Congress policies and a resounding defeat of the opposition’s deceitful propaganda.”
Meanwhile, SAD-BJP demanded countermanding of the Patiala Corporation elections. A SAD-BJP delegation submitted a memorandum to State Election Commissioner Jagpal Singh Sandhu here and also sat on a dharna outside his office. The SAD-BJP leaders claimed that they had vidoegraphic evidence of blatant rigging and violence in Patiala. Former minister and SAD leader Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, who led the SAD-BJP delegation, alleged “the Congress had murdered democracy in the State by using police force to commit atrocities on Akali-BJP cadre”.
Cheema said even former SAD Mayor from Patiala, Amarinder Singh Bajaj, was manhandled. He alleged that in Mullanpur Dakha a SAD candidate’s mother was attacked and injured by Congress supporters. “Similarly SAD polling agents were attacked by Congressmen in Sahnewal who barged into their booths with a group of outsiders. In Ghanour when Akali-BJP supporters protested casting of fake votes they were thrashed..,” he said adding the SAD-BJP would now take recourse to democratic protests as well as legal remedy.
BJP demanded a repoll in Patiala, Ghagga and some wards in Mullanpur Dakha and Jalandhar, alleging violation of model code and misuse of machinery. Former chief minister Parkash Badal described the entire process of civic poll as “utterly uncivilised” and a huge blow to democracy in Punjab. “This day will be remembered as a black Sunday for democracy in Punjab,” Badal said in a statement here. The AAP also alleged misuse of government machinery by the ruling Congress in the polls.
Meanwhile, Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar thanked the people and party workers for ensuring smooth and impressive turnout in the polls.” He expressed the confidence that with Rahul Gandhi taking over the reins of the party, the euphoria would translate into victories for Congress.