The Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls scheduled to be held on September 19 are the next battleground for political parties in Punjab with the Congress looking forward to continue its winning streak.
The announcement of the date of polling immediately after the Monsoon Session of the Vidhan Sabha ended indicates that the Congress looks towards gaining maximum mileage from the Akali bashing over sacrilege issue in Vidhan Sabha.
The State Election Commission had announced Tuesday that elections to 22 Zila Parishad and 150 Panchayat Samiti seats will be held on September 19.
The elections were earlier scheduled to be held in June this year but were postponed because of the Congress MLAs wanted the issue of women’s reservation and marking of wards to be settled.
These elections would see reservation of 50 per cent of seats for women candidates. The polls would see 354 members elected for 22 Zila Parishads while 2900 members would be elected for 150 Panchayat Samitis in the state.
The Congress has been making a clean sweep of the polls held in the state ever since it came to power in March this year. This includes the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha bypoll and the Shahkot Vidhan Sabha by-poll, both necessitated by the death of sitting members. Senior party leaders expect that the winning streak would continue especially since the local bodies elections in December 2017 were also largely a Congress affair.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee Congress president (PPCC), Sunil Jakhar, said the Congress will approach the elections from the angle of overall development and that the Akalis have a lot of explaining to do in the rural areas after the recent monsoon session of the assembly. “As far as the impact of the session goes, the Panthic credentials of the Akalis have been totally exposed. The manner in which they have done their politics over the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib has been laid bare in the House debate. They will find it very tough to explain their stand, particularly in rural areas,” he said.
For Aam Aadmi Party, the elections come at a time when the party is battling severe internal dissent bordering on a split. The party has not fared well in any poll in the state after the Assembly elections and has faced a virtual rout. With eight dissident MLAs raising a banner of revolt against the part’s Delhi and state leadership the result for these polls appears to be a foregone conclusion. State co-president of the party, Dr Balbir Singh, said that the party will take part in the polls.
“We have called district level meetings Friday to discuss the candidates. The district officers have been authorised to choose their candidates and they will be issued authority letters by the party office at state level,” he said.
Dissident MLA Sukhpal Khaira said that a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) would be called in a day or two to take a call on whether there is a need to participate in these elections or not. “These Zila Parishads are in fact toothless bodies as the real power has not been devolved to them. However, the final call will be taken in consultations with all our MLAs and members of the PAC,” he said.
The process for filing the nominations would commence on September 4 while September 7 will be the last date for filing nominations. The nominations would be scrutinized on September 10 while the date for withdrawal of nominations would be September 11. Election symbols will also be allotted to the candidates on this day. Voting would be held on September 19 from 8 am till 4 pm and the counting of votes would be held on September 22.
“A total of 35 observers are being appointed to ensure peaceful conduct of the polls. 354 members would be elected for 22 Zila Parishads while 2900 members would be elected for 150 Panchayat Samitis in the state,” informed state election commissioner, JS Sandhu.
Sandhu also said that the voter lists had been updated with qualifying date of January 1, 2018.
There are 66,88,245 male and 60,99,053 female voters along with 97 third gender voters. A total of 1,27,87,395 registered voters will be eligible to vote in these elections.