Sanjeev Singh Bariana, Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, May 19. Burning of vehicles in the constituency of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Sunday was one of the scores of sporadic incidents of violence across the state during elections to 22 Zila Parishads and 146 Panchayat Samitis.
The state recorded 65 per cent voter turnout amid rampant incidents of alleged booth capturing and skirmishes in Muktsar, Faridkot, Moga, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Gurdaspur, Gidderbaha, Patiala and some other places. Highest polling in the state was recorded in Mansa (72 per cent) and lowest in Gurdaspur (52.81 per cent).
The Election Commission has ordered re-polling at eight booths that witnessed booth capturing. State Election Commissioner SS Brar, said “Re-polling will take place at eight booths of six polling stations, which witnessed booth capturing. These are Ropana (Muktsar), Kothe Maluk Patti (Faridkot), Churriwal Chisti, Ojhanwali and Kanha Ram (all in Fazilka) and Indergarh (Moga). Re-polling will be held on May 20 and counting is scheduled for May 21.”
Five cars and a motorcycle were torched in Mann village during a clash between Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) workers in the CM’s home constituency, Lambi. A mob led by Pawanpreet Singh ‘Bobby’ Badal, ex-OSD to Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, entered a polling booth in the Government School in Mann village and allegedly “captured” it after locking the door from inside. Furious Opposition workers burnt cars outside.
Booth capturing by SAD activists was also reported at Jheurheri village.
In one of the major incidents of poll-related violence in Ferozepur, a group of Akali workers allegedly beat up Congress candidate Harbachan Singh (60) and his son Punjab Singh in a school in Mohan ke Uttar village. The Congress alleged the Akalis captured five polling stations set up in the school.
Stones were also pelted by some persons. Over 18 persons were injured in minor clashes in Patiala district.
Booth capturing was reported from over a dozen villages in Samana, the home constituency of Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Surjit Singh Rakhra.
In Fatehpur, villagers boycotted the polls following police inaction over the death of a local youth. In Nabha, three persons were injured, one of them seriously, after SAD and Congress supporters locked horns.
Polling in all 23 zones of the Zila Parishad and 201 Block Samitis in Gurdaspur district was reported to be peaceful, although Congress leaders claimed politicians of the ruling SAD-BJP combine indulged in electoral malpractices in several zones.
Elections for 21 Zila Parishad and 176 Block Samitis in Amritsar and 13 Zila Parishad zones and 128 Block Samiti zones in Tarn Taran concluded with minor scuffles and verbal duels in several villages in the border districts. A scuffle was reported between SAD factions from Bhagwanpur village near Bhikhiwind.
Barring stray incidents of violence at a village in Khanna Block in which five persons sustained injuries and another incident at Seekhan village in Malaudh where an Akali Panch was attacked, polling for 25 Zila Parishad zones and 12 Blocks in Ludhiana remained peaceful.
Polls in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Nawanshahr remained peaceful with no reports of violence.
Stray cases of violation of the poll code were reported from certain places, including Wariana village where BSP and SAD workers got into a verbal duel. The presiding officer at Lalian Kalan village in Kartarpur, Shinderpal Singh, was found to be working in an inebriated condition in the morning.
Polling also remained largely peaceful in Bathinda and Mansa districts where 71 per cent and 72 per cent voting was reported. Minor trouble was reported from Teona village in Bathinda district where a PPP candidate raised objections when he was stopped from moving near a booth by the police in the morning.
Bathinda village boycotts poll
Continuing their boycott of the state government in protest against the pollution caused by Bathinda refinery, over 1,300 voters of Kanakwal village here did not exercise their franchise on Sunday.