M A I N   N E W S

Akalis take rural bodies
Cong loses heavily in Malwa, Majha; BJP nowhere
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 14
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) today swept the elections to the Zila Parishads and Panchayat Samitis and the Congress put up a fight in the Doaba region while the BJP was virtual non-starter except in its pockets of influence.

The Akalis have done well not only in the elections but also came back strongly in the Malwa belt which could be worrisome for the Congress which had won the most number of seats from this region in the Assembly elections.

The Congress performance at best can be described as poor with the party managing only some seats in the Doaba region while it lost heavily to the SAD in the Malwa and Majha regions.

The BJP strategy to fan out in rural areas through these elections has brought in mixed results. While it has won seats in traditional pockets like Hoshiarpur and Nangal, it has not been able to make a mark in Akali dominated areas. However the BJP leadership feels the party has made a beginning with its minister Manoranjal Lal Kalia telling The Tribune the party had got a fillip in the rural areas by participating in elections to the panchayati raj institutions. “The beginning is always small but the end will definitely be good”, he added.

BJP leaders said though the results might not show it, the party had been successful in creating its groups in rural belts. In villages in the state the polarisation in the villages is usually into pro Akali and pro Congress groups. The BJP has been successful in creating a group of its own in many villages to the detriment of the Congress by giving the party nomination to SAD rejects. This, sources said, was the main reason why the SAD cadre had reacted so strongly to BJP candidates in the recent elections.

According to available results, the SAD has got the better of the Congress in the Malwa region by virtually sweeping the polls. In Sangrur where results of only 14 out of the 21 Zila Parishad seats were declared, the SAD won 12 seats while the Congress one. In Barnala out of the total of 10 seats, results were declared in eight seats with the SAD winning seven and the Congress only one seat. In Patiala out of the total of 21 seats results were declared in 17 with the SAD winning 15 seats and the Congress two.

In Bathinda the SAD was able to win 15 Parishad seats with the BJP which had put up candidates in four seats drawing a blank. The SAD also won all the 11 out of the 15 seats for which results were declared in Moga even as it was leading in all 12 Zila Parishad seats in Muktsar. In Faridkot it was one- sided battle with the SAD leading in most of the seats as the Congress had decided to boycott the election.

The Congress has gained some ground in Hoshiarpur with the party winning three seats results of which were declared for the parishad polls. It was also able to win 14 Samiti seats. In Ludhiana however the Congress suffered a setback with the Akalis leading in most seats for which results have been declared so far. The SAD had won 21 of the 22 Panchayat Samiti seats for which results were declared till late evening. In Jalandhar the SAD and the Congress had won one Parishad seat each till late evening. The Congress is also expected to win a few seats in Ropar and Anandpur Sahib where counting is still on according to reports.

In the Majha belt in Amritsar the SAD swept both Parishad and Samiti elections. Except for Rayya where the Congress won 10 Samiti seats, the akalis dominated the elections in the district. In Gurdaspur also the SAD sweeped the polls winning 17 Parishad seats out of the total of 25. The Congress could manage to win only one Parishad seat. However the party will have to wait for the results for the Tarn Taran district where counting of votes has been postponed indefinitely due to earlier violent incidents.



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