Although it was the first municipal corporation election in Mohali, the voter turnout on Sunday was only 60.48 — much less than the 67.89 per cent in the Lok Sabha election held last year, and 70.62 per cent in the Assembly election held in 2012.
Candidates, who had expected a higher turnout, said that many voters perhaps chose to stay at home to watch the India-South Africa match in the World Cup cricket on the television.
Barring a few scuffles, altercations and allegations of bogus voting, the polling remained largely peaceful. Mohali SSP Gurpreet Bhullar said that there was no poll-related violence, arrest or FIR.
The keenly fought elections were being seen as a triangular contest among the SAD-BJP alliance, Congress and a loose ‘Azad group’, led by expelled Akali leader Kulwant Singh. Besides, there were a large number of independent candidates.
While Congress MLA Balbir Sidhu alleged that the Akali Dal used foul means and threatened and intimidated voters in most of the wards, SAD halqa in-charge Balwant Ramoowalia denied it and made no counter-allegation.
The polling started at 8 am across the 50 wards and in 118 polling booths amid heavy police security. The turnout was 9 per cent by 9 am, 12 per cent by 10 am, 17 per cent by 11 am, 35 per cent by 1 pm, 50 per cent by 3 pm, 56 per cent by 4 pm, and 60.48 per cent by 5 pm, the closing time. At several places, some residents alleged that their names did not exist on the voter lists.
In Phase II (ward number 13), a scuffle was witnessed between Congress and Akali Dal workers in the morning. The Congress alleged that the SAD was intimidating and influencing the voters which led to an altercation. Congress candidate Rajinder Rana said that his rival Avtar Singh Walia and other SAD leaders tried to influence voters, which Walia denied.
In Sohana, too, a scuffle was witnessed between supporters of rival parties following allegations of bogus voting, but it was resolved soon. The police detained persons alleged to be “bogus voters” at various places but released them following verification. The SSP said that no bogus voting was reported anywhere.
In Kumbra, Independent candidate Balwinder Singh called the police when his supporters found a man trying to cast a vote which had already been cast. He was detained and later let go.
Deputy Commissioner-cum-Chief Electoral Officer T P S Sidhu said that 472 election officials and 751 police officials had ensured smooth and peaceful polling. “After the voting, EVMs were transferred to the strong room at the Shivalik Public School, Phase 6, where they will be guarded round the clock in the presence of representatives from all parties. The counting of votes will be held on February 26,” he said.
3 VICTORY CLAIMS
After the polling, Ramoowalia claimed that their alliance would win 35 seats. “I will not exaggerate. We will win 35 seats and will also get support from three or four Independent candidates, forming a majority in the House.
The mayor will be from SAD-BJP,” he said. Congress MLA Sidhu also said his party was “sure to win 30 to 35 seats and get a majority’’. Kulwant Singh of the ‘Azad group’ said, “I thank the administration for ensuring peaceful polls. We will win enough seats to get a majority and provide good governance to the people.”