Amid high turnout, Congress decimates BJP-SAD in Punjab panchayat polls

SAD faced major setbacks in what were considered as its strongholds, even as the Badal family had campaigned aggressively to court voters in some of the villages in the lead-up to the Dec 30 vote


Bipin Bhardwaj

Delivering a major blow to the comeback prospects of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the ruling Congress Party-backed candidates won all the 13,726 panchayats for which elections were held in the recently concluded local body polls, amid a heavy voter turnout of 80 per cent.

Out of a total of 83,831 panches which had contested the polls on December 30, 46,754 panches (village council members) were said to have been elected unopposed. Elections were held for 13,726 panchayats to also elect sarpanches (village headmen). As many as 1,863 sarpanches were elected unopposed after the end of the withdrawal process of nomination papers.

Officials from the State Election Commission told this correspondent that the final tally will be released in the next 3-4 days.

The highest voter turnout was witnessed in the Bhatinda and Fazilka districts (86 per cent each), followed by Mohali (84 per cent) Pathankot (82 per cent), Patiala and Sangrur (81 per cent), Moga (78 per cent) and Fatehgarh Sahib (77.2 per cent).

The results, though, have been disputed by the SAD and the main opposition party in the state assembly, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). In the wake of several alleged instances of voter intimidation and booth-capturing by the two parties, the State Election Commission has recommended re-polling in at least eight villages in Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, Patiala and SAS Nagar districts.

An ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), SAD faced setbacks in what were considered as its strongholds, even as the Badal family had campaigned aggressively to court voters in some of the villages in the lead-up to the Dec 30 vote.

SAD strongman Udayvir Singh Dhillon, a candidate for the post of Sarpanch and a close relative of SAD supremo Parkash Singh Badal, lost to Congress-backed candidate Jabarjang Singh in Badal village, in what is being seen as a major upset.

In another unexpected poll result, Karanbir Kaur, the sister-in-law of Sukhpal Singh Khaira, a former state convener of AAP, lost the election for sarpanch.

On the polling day, clashes between Congress and SAD workers were reported from Ferozepur, Moga, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, Tarn Taran, Amritsar and Patiala districts.

Reportedly, three persons were injured in Hiragarh Village in Patiala.

Commenting on the poll results, Leader of Opposition and senior AAP leader Harpal Cheema said it was a "black day" for democracy. The SAD alleged that Congress workers “incited violence during the polling and indulged in booth-capturing at some places.”

The Congress, however, has welcomed the election results, with Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh congratulating the winning candidates once the results started to pour in last evening.

“We congratulate the newly elected Panchayat Members & Sarpanch’s on their victory & wish them a successful term! We urge the Panchayat representatives to initiate transformative changes in villages & make a positive difference in society during their terms,” the Punjab Congress said in a tweet.

Authorities had received 2,10,494 nominations for the panchayat elections. Of these 48,111 nominations papers were filed for the posts of sarpanches and 1,62,383 for the posts of panches. While 28,375 sarpanch candidates were in the fray for the 13,276 panchayats, 1,04,027 candidates contested for the posts of panches.

Of 83,831 posts of panches, 17,811 are reserved for Scheduled Castes, 12,634 for Scheduled Castes (women), 22,690 for general category (women), 4,381 for Backward Classes and 26,315 for general category, as per the SEC.

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Published: 31 Dec 2018, 3:24 PM