M A I N   N E W S

Heavy turnout in Punjab villages
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 10
Except for a few incidents of fake voting, firing in the air and violence — including two murders “unrelated to polls” and group clashes — Lok Sabha elections in Punjab went off peacefully. In all, 25 supporters of different parties were injured. Over 55 per cent of 16.6 million voters braved the heat to exercise their franchise. Sangrur and Faridkot recorded maximum of 62 per cent voting. Lowest voter turnout was at Ludhiana. Just 50 per cent of the residents pressed the keys of electronic voting machines.

Unofficially, the authorities in the office of Punjab’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) claimed that voting was “much higher” in villages all over the state, compared to the cities, “giving an edge to the Akalis”. They asserted that over 60 per cent votes were cast in the rural areas. The polling was "sluggish" before the lunch. Just 35 to 40 per cent votes were polled.

Though Punjab police officials insisted that "elections had nothing to do with it", a local Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader was shot dead by some assailants in a Ludhiana village.

According to reports reaching here, Jagpal Singh was fired upon "near" a polling station in Saholi village. Car-borne killers attacked the victim when he was on his way to cast vote. The polling at Saholi village in Qila Raipur assembly segment came to a halt for about half an hour following the incident.

Describing it as a case of "personal enmity", the sources in Punjab Police Headquarters said the assailants knew Jagpal Singh would be casting his vote and choose the moment to eliminate him.

Additional Director-General of Police Police Shashi Kant — in charge of the election cell set up by the Punjab Police — refused to comment on the issue. SAD President Parkash Singh Badal, on the other hand, asserted that the “killing was meant to spread panic among voters and supporters of his party”.

Condemning the incidents of violence, he said they were “direct outcome of open incitements to violence issued by Punjab Chief Minster Capt Amarinder Singh during course of campaign”.

In another incident, a person was reportedly killed in Amritsar by a mob outside a polling booth in Gehri village in Sarai Amanat Khan area under Tarn Taran parliamentary constituency.

The trouble began when polling agents objected to the casting of vote by a teen-aged girl. She reportedly summoned her father for help. He was attacked by the group disputing the girl’s. The police had to open fire for disbursing the mob. A senior police officer confirmed that the personnel had to fire three to four rounds in the air.

Akali supporter Pritpal Singh was rushed to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research at Chandigarh with bullet injury in his shoulder. He was reportedly fired up outside a booth in Dhaval village Kharar. Elections had nothing to do with it, the police claimed in this case also.

Two incidents of firing in the air were reported from Gurdaspur parliamentary constituency. In one incident, Minister of State for Cultural Affairs and Industry Ashwani Shekhri’s gunman was reportedly involved.

Another report said the police fired shots in the air at Vela Taheja village in Fatehgarh Churian assembly segment to scare away clashing rivals backing BJP candidate Vinod Khanna and Mrs Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder of the Congress.

Mr Khanna, seeking a third consecutive term to the Lok Sabha, also alleged attempts of booth-capturing by Congress workers in connivance with the police. In complaints to the Election Commission (EC), Mr Khanna alleged that a “goons brigade” led by one Rajinder Singh of the Congress was involved in capturing a polling station at Singhpura village in Fatehgarh assembly segment.

A report of firing was also received from Patiala. The incident took place at village Khang in Shutrana area. Four Congress workers were reportedly injured after being hit by pellets when an Akali Dal supporter opened fire. Police officials said in all just six persons were injured in the constituency. But according to reports reaching here 12 persons were injured, four of them seriously. While three of the injured were admitted to Civil Hospital in Samana, one was shifted to Patiala for treatment.

Clashes between Congress and SAD workers also took places at Nanhera in Shutrana, besides Nizam Di Wali, Waraichan Patti and Dera Bassi. The traffic came to a standstill on Kalka-Ambala National Highway after SAD supporters blocked the road to protest bogus voting.

Tension prevailed in area around a polling station in Punjab Languages Department at Patiala after SAD nominee Capt Kanwaljit Singh and his supporters reportedly entered into a heated argument with local Congress Municipal Councillor Harvinder Singh Nippy. Trouble began when Mr Nippy and other Congress workers reportedly accused Capt Kanwaljit of trying to intimidate polling staff. Timely intervention of police prevented it from turning into a major battle.

Voting in some areas of Rajpura segment was also affected for some time as a crowd entered into an argument with the police over the alleged attempt of the cops to pick up SAD councillor Jagdish Kumar Jagga. The situation, however, returned to normal after he was reportedly let off.

Supporters were also hurt in a clash between activists of CPI-Congress combine and SAD at Danewal village near Sardulgarh in Bathinda. The exact number of injured was not available with the police.

Reports also claimed that an election observer, Ms Sunana, slapped a voter as he made his way out of the polling station in Samana. The voter’s attempt to rub off the mark from his left index finger reportedly infuriated the observer. Eight Akali workers were also injured in a clash in Nijamniwala village about 6 kilometers from Samana.

Two cases of fake reporting were also reported from Ludhiana and Faridkot. The police was looking into the matter. At Jalandhar, an EVM refused to function after casting of about 15 votes. The machine was later replaced and “poll proceedings were back to normal”.

In Moga, A Municipal Councillor, a driver of an Akali legislature and two others we re injured in minor clashes between Congress and Akali workers in Faridkot parliamentary constituency.

Even as the polling in the Phagwara segment of Phillaur reserved Lok Sabha constituency was sluggish and lackluster, there were sporadic cases of poll-related violence between the ruling party and SAD-BJP activists. Two persons were injured in the incidents. Former Block Congress President and Sarpanch of Duggan village Jaspreet Singh Satti was among them.

The local Sub Divisional Magistrate-cum-Assistant Returning Officer Pritam Singh and Deputy Superintendent of Police Jaspal Singh asserted that the polling was peaceful. EVMs at two booths reportedly developed snags in morning hours, but were immediately replaced by the Supervisors. The polling was not affected at all.

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