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Civic poll ‘peaceful’. Was it?
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 9
Telling images of violence and incidents of firing and reports of booth capturing appearing in newspapers and on TV during the municipal corporation poll in Punjab notwithstanding, the election observers — all Punjab cadre IAS officers — failed to report any such incident, except one in Amritsar, to the state election commission.

This means that officially the elections held yesterday in the cities of Patiala, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar were “peaceful” and no “violence, firing or booth capturing” ever took place. The police has registered a few cases against persons involved in rioting.

State election commissioner A.K. Dubey, when contacted, confirmed that there was “no report” from the observers or the deputy commissioners concerned of any incidents of violence that had been reported in the media. There is no provision under the relevant act to take suo moto action on the basis of media reports. The observers were appointed by the state election commission to oversee the conduct of the poll. Each city had three or four IAS officers sent from Chandigarh.

It is a classic case of bureaucrats conveniently looking the other way, said a senior functionary, who was in the know that the observers and the deputy commissioners had given a “clean chit” to their political bosses.

Television channels had yesterday shown how violence had rocked the cities going to the polls. This morning newspapers in the state carried images of violence, of people bleeding from gunshot wounds and even women being manhandled besides detailed reports of rigging. A report from Patiala said that SAD workers were themselves casting votes while stopping voters from entering the booths while the cops remained mute spectators.

The lone incident that has been pointed out by the observers took place in Amritsar where a re-poll was ordered. In Amritsar, more than 30 persons were injured and there was firing.

Under the Punjab municipal act, the state election commission is virtually a mute spectator and can act only on the basis of reports originating from the presiding officer of the booth, the returning officer (DC) or the election observers.

Sources in the government said Capt Amarinder Singh had lodged a protest with Governor S.F. Rodrigues. He has been asked to provide evidence of booth capturing.

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