Campaigningfor zila parishad and panchayat samiti polls scheduled to be held on May 19 in Punjab ended on a bloody note on Friday with three people dying in poll-related violence.
The government,however,held that the three murders one in Bathinda on Thursday and two in Amritsar on Friday was a result of personal enmities that came to the fore during elections and had nothing to do with the polls.
Rural electorate across the state will vote through ballot papers for elections to the two tiers of the panchayati raj system. Elections to the village panchayats will be held later. All major parties are fighting these polls on their election symbols.
Held after every five years,this year,these elections have thrown up new combinations among the Opposition parties to combat the ruling SAD-BJP alliance. The Congress has tied up with the PPP and Left parties in some areas in Malwa and fielded common candidates. It has also joined hands with BSP in some pockets of Doaba.
Unlike the last panchayati raj institution polls in 2008 when SAD and BJP could not reach a consensus on the division of seats,in these elections,the SAD has given 35 seats out of the 333 zila parishad zones to BJP. However,for the block samiti seats,the two parties have managed to divide almost 97 per cent of the seats. In some villages in Faridkot and Ludhiana,BJP and SAD are opposing each other with both having fielded their candidates.
Considered to be a cake walk for the party in power,these elections were swept by the Congress in 2003 and the SAD in 2008. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his deputy,Sukhbir Singh Badal,have not campaigned for these polls at all. The entire campaign was managed by cabinet ministers,chief parliamentary secretaries and the MLAs deputed by Sukhbir.
In comparison,Congress has canvassed aggressively. The newly elected PPCC president,Pratap Singh Bajwa,has made his presence felt across the state. Senior leaders and Union minister from Punjab,Manish Tewari,and Praneet Kaur had campaigned. Leader of Opposition Sunil Jakhar and senior leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal too had chipped in. Former CM Captain Amarinder Singh,however,conspicuous by his absence.
The elections are being held mainly on local issues like drinking water and power,illegal mining and sewerage lines.