Elections to panchayats in Punjab registered voter turnout of more than 80 per cent amidst reports of violence in several parts of the state. A man was killed in Ferozepur district’s Lakhmir Ke Uthar village when he was crushed under a vehicle in which some people were fleeing after allegedly setting fire to a ballot box in a polling booth inside a school.
Counting began immediately after the polling ended and was continuing late into Sunday night. Candidates backed by the ruling Congress party appear to have won at most places. The panchayat elections are not contested under party symbols but party affiliations of or support for individual candidates is widely known.
While data for the final Over 80% polling with Cong-backed candidates in lead, 1 dead in violence polling percentage had not been compiled even till late night by the State Election Commission (SEC), as per the information provided by the Secretary of the commission, Kamal Garg, the highest polling had been recorded in Fazilka at 86 per cent and the lowest in Fatehgarh Sahib at 77.20 per cent.
Garg said the figure was open to correction as the polling percentage from all districts had not been received. Bathinda recorded a polling percentage of 84.75 per cent, Muktsar at 77.92 per cent, Ropar at 82 per cent and Sangrur at 81 per cent. Three officials were suspended for dereliction of duty as they did not show up for work on Sunday, said Garg. He said the counting of votes was a laborious process and the final results would only be known by Monday morning. He said that the SEC had received several reports of irregularities during the polling and that these would be examined by the SEC.
In Badal village, the family stronghold of former Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal, the Congress-backed sarpanch candidate Jabarjung ‘Mukha’ defeated the SAD-backed candidate Udayveer Dhillon. Congress supported candidates won the majority of seats in Bathinda, Mansa and Muktsar, going by available trends.
In Mansa, 245 panchayats went for polls out of which polling took place only in 215. In the rest, candidates were chosen unopposed . The results of nearly 100 panchayats results had been declared out of which 80 had been won by Congress. The 30 unopposed panchayats were also of the Congress camp.
Prominent candidates who won from Mansa were Charan Kaur — mother of popular singer Sidhu Musewala from village Musa and Nirmal Singh Khiyala, son of former Congress Minister, late Baldev Singh Khiyala. Kisan union backed candidates also registered victories. In village Samao, Kisan union leader Bhola Singh Samao’s wife Paramjeet Kaur won while in village Fafre Bhai ke, Punjab Kisan union leader Iqbal Singh defeated the Congress candidate.
In Bathinda over 300 panchayats went for polls in Rampura Phull, Talwandi Sabo, Bathinda rural areas out out of which the results of nearly 150 was out till the time of filing this report. “Majority have been won by Congress as it was Congress versus Congress in most villages,” said a Congress leader.
In Muktsar’s Lambi — which is constituency of SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal — Congress won 50 out of 73 panchayats, confirmed Gurmeet Singh Khuddian, Congress’s rural president from Muktsar. He said,”We are yet to compile results in Muktsar, Malaut and Gidderbaha, but majority winners are Congress candidates only.”
Sources revealed that at many places, Congress-backed candidates were fighting each other. In Ludhiana, out of a total of 921 panchayats in the district, 749 went to polls while the rest had been decided unanimously. Gurdev Lapran, district president Congress (rural), said that counting is still on and majority of panchayat results are still awaited but as per initial trends, 90 per cent panchayats in Ludhiana are being won by Congress backed candidates. “We are winning in 90 per cent of panchayats. Results are still awaited and counting is on but we are leading in most of them,” he said.
In Moga district, there are 341 panchayats and counting was still going on till filing of this report. Kamaljit Singh Brar, Youth Congress leader and son of MLA Darshan Singh Brar from Baghapurana, said that as per initial trends, Congress backed candidates have won in majority of panchayats. “We do not have any definite numbers yet as counting is ongoing in most of big villages. But final counting has been done in almost fifteen villages till now and we have won them all,” said Brar.
In Doaba, Congress backed candidates were winning in over a majority of the seats as the counting progressed. In Jalandhar, there are total 882 panchayats out of which 203 were elected without polling while elections were held for remaining 680 panchayats. “Majority of unanimously elected panchayats are of those which were affiliated to Congress party and now the results of polling also show that candidates backed by the Congress party have won in around 70 per cent villages at the moment,” said Congress MLA Rajinder Beri.
SAD MLA from Phillaur Baldev Singh Khera said that there are 142 panchayats under his constituency but final results would be known only by Monday as counting is going on. In Hoshiarpur district, Dr Raj Kumar, MLA from Chabbewal assembly segments said out of 201 panchayats of his constituency, Congress backed candidates had won in most panchayats.
“We are winning on 95 per cent of the panchayats as per the initial trends but still counting is going on in Kapurthala district,” said MLA Sultanpur Lodhi, Navtej Singh Cheema, adding that that out of 215 panchayats under the constituency 125 got elected without poll in favour of Congress party and on remaining 90 panchyats not even five panchayats got elected in favour of opposition parties.
There are total 546 panchayats in Kapurthala out which polls were conducted for 360 panchayats on Sunday. In Nawanshar, polls were conducted for 324 panchayats out of total 466. In Nawansahr and Balachaur assembly constituencies, mostly Congress backed candidates won.
Violence reported across state
Reports of violence came from Patiala, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur, Amritsar Rural and Pathankot districts where several persons clashed with each other as the polling progressed through the day.
In once incident, reported from Tarn Taran, two persons were seriously injured after they were thrashed in the polling booth. A group clash took place in the premises of the government school where the polling was being held taking advantage of the absence of policemen from the scene.
There were also reports of mediapersons allegedly being attacked in Tarn Taran district while they were covering the proceedings of the polling. Four persons were arrested by the district police in this connection. Some Congress workers reportedly clashed between themselves in Ajnala in Amritsar.
BJP workers blocked roads in Pathankot alleging booth capturing during the day while SAD workers led by Sucha Singh Langah blocked roads in Gurdaspur district alleging booth capturing by Congress workers. An incident of snatching of ballot papers was also reported from Harsa Chhina block of Amritsar district. According to Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Kamaldeep Singh Sangha, the incident was reported from Lidey village and a detailed report was awaited.
In Faridkot, a Congress candidate for the post of sarpanch alleged that he had been attacked and his car was damaged near Hari Wala village. A clash between Congress and SAD workers was also reported from Patiala and Ropar districts.
The voting was held from 8 am to 4 pm for electing 13,276 sarpanches and 83,831 panches in 13,276 villages. Around 4,363 sarpanches and 46,754 panches had been elected unopposed prior to the polling. According to State Election Commission officials 1.27 crore voters were eligible to take part in the polling. (With inputs from Rakhi Jagga, Anju Agnihotri Chaba and Divya Goyal)