Gurdaspur witnessed 56 per cent polling amid minor incidents of violence during the Lok Sabha bypoll that has witnessed a triangular contest between the BJP, Congress and AAP.
Interestingly, Dera Baba Nanak Assembly constituency witnessed highest 65 per cent voting even as former SAD leader from the area, Sucha Singh Langah, remained in police custody on rape charges. Batala town witnessed the lowest — 50 per cent — voting.
Polling remained largely peaceful except a minor clash between Congress and Akali-BJP workers in Pahra village in which five Akali workers including Happy Pahra, former village Sarpanch, sustained injuries.
“According to my information, one person suffered a head injury in Phara village in clash between Congress and Akalis. Otherwise voting was peaceful in rest of Gurdaspur. We haven’t received any complaint regarding this incident in Phara village so far and no case has been registered,” said Gurdaspur SSP H S Bhullar.
Sources said that incident at Phara village started as BJP candidate Sawarn Singh Salaria’s polling agent from SAD objected to alleged interference of Congress polling agent.
“I have knowledge about two such incidents of violence, including the one at Phara village,” said Salaria.
SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema alleged: “Congress workers thrashed Akali workers in Pahra village today and no FIR has been registered yet.”
Meanwhile, AAP candidate Major General (retired) Suresh Khajuria filed a complaint with the Election Commission (EC) alleging that a Congress worker was trying to influence voters inside a polling booth in village Pangoli in Sujanpur. The polling agent was removed from the polling both after complaint by Khajuria. “I have received reports that Congress has attempted to capture some booths in Batala and Dera Baba nanak,” alleged Khajuria.
Both Salaria and Khajuria cast their votes early in the morning. Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar doesn’t have a vote in Gurdaspur.
“The voting has remained peaceful. People have cast their votes to give jolt to the BJP government in Delhi. People are angry with Union government over issues of GST, demonetisation and failure of economic policies,” said Jakhar.
“The low turnout on voting day is also a symbol of resentment against state government and it would be beneficial for me,” claimed Salaria.
Chief Electoral Officer (Punjab) V K Singh said the bypoll process remained peaceful owing to the “cooperation of the district administration and political parties.”
He added that during the model code of conduct which came into force with the announcement of bypoll to the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha constituency, the commission received 58 complaints that were disposed of. On the eve of pollling day, four complaints were received.
Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) was used at all polling stations. VVPAT machines malfunctioned at some polling booths in Gurdaspur and Pathankot. An EVM machine was changed at polling booth number 62 in Badora of Pathankot after Khajuria alleged that the EVM machine was not sounding the beep whenever someone cast vote for AAP.
The seat had fallen vacant following the demise of actor-turned-politician Vinod Khanna in April. The Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat has nine Assembly segments — Bhoa, Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Dinanagar, Qadian, Fathegarh Churian, Dera Baba Nanak, Sujanpur and Batala. The EC had allowed the use of alternative identity cards for the bypoll.
(WITH PTI INPUTS)