The voting for 95 wards of Ludhiana Municipal Corporation was held Saturday amid incidents of clashes reported between workers of Congress and Opposition parties and allegations of bogus voting, booth capturing and manhandling. The overall voter turnout stood at 59.14%. The highest turnout of 73.17% was recorded in ward number 5 while the lowest stood at 47.73% in ward number 30.
Most of the clashes were reported from wards where kin or acquaintances of Congress MLAs were contesting. SAD-BJP and AAP-LIP alleged that Congress MLAs entered booths and tried to influence voters even as the police stood as spectators and took no action despite complaints.
In ward number 75, firing allegedly took place as Congress and SAD workers clashed near DAV Public School, BRS Nagar, and pelted stones at each other. Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu blamed SAD for the firing and claimed one of their supporters, Naginder Singh Gora, was injured. Two vehicles were also vandalized. Police have detained one suspect, said to be an Akali supporter. “We are verifying if the firing actually took place or not as the injured is not having any bullet injury,” said Ludhiana police commissioner R N Dhoke.
In ward number 44 in Dugri area, tension continued since morning as SAD candidate Meetpal Singh Dugri alleged that Congress MLA Kuldeep Singh Vaid was entering the booths and trying to influence voters. Harkaran Vaid, son of MLA Kuldeep Vaid, is the candidate against Dugri from this ward.
Similarly, in ward number 59, from where Shalu Dawar, daughter-in-law of MLA Surinder Dawar is the candidate, tension continued as Opposition parties alleged that the MLA’s son Manik Dawar resorted to hooliganism and even snatched their phones when they tried to make a video of the MLA and his family sitting inside polling booths. Congress and BJP workers clashed here following which police also resorted to lathicharge.
The BJP also alleged that Congress MLA Rakesh Pandey entered booths in Salem Tabri area in ward number 84 and forced people to cast votes for Congress. “Police took no action even as the MLA kept sitting inside booths and forced voters to vote for Congress,” said Ravinder Arora, district president, BJP. Police, however, claimed that as soon as Pandey was seen inside, he was asked to move out.
Calling it a “murder of democracy”, MLA Simarjit Singh Bains, whose party LIP is contesting for the first time in alliance with AAP, said, “In ward numbers 36, 38, 39, 43, 44, 49 and 50, Congress workers did bogus voting. They tried to capture booths at many places. Is this the democracy that Congress and CM Captain Amarinder Singh boast of ? Our candidates and supporters were intimidated. Police were acting in most biased way supported and encouraged Congress workers’ hooliganism.”
Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira of AAP said the Captain was walking the same path as SAD-BJP did for 10 years. “We were expecting that situation will be better. But it was even worse. What Congress did today is unacceptable. Captain Amarinder Singh should be ashamed of what his men did today in Ludhiana. If this is how polls were to be held, they should not have been held at all. There is no difference between SAD and Congress. Both are the parties of hooligans,” said Khaira.
SAD district president Ranjit Singh Dhillon said the Congress should introspect and see how it used to blame SAD for hooliganism. “We knew this would happen, but things crossed a limit today. Congress blamed us for violence and hooliganism in 10 years. Today, it was proved who is actually a hooligan. There was bogus voting, arm-twisting and booth capturing across the city and police did nothing. Captain should remind us that when polls were held in this manner in past 10 years,” he said.
This time, 494 candidates are in the fray for 95 wards of Ludhiana. SAD-BJP and LIP-AAP are contesting 48-47 and 56-39 seats respectively in alliance. However, AAP-LIP is already short of eight seats as eight of its candidates backed out at last moment. In 2012, voter turnout was 65% and several incidents of violence were reported then too. Gurvinder Bunty Bajwa, a former sarpanch of village Bahadurke who was supporting an Independent, was shot dead in Salem Tabri area by SAD leader Karanbir Singh. Two more were injured in other firing incidents that happened between SAD and Independents.