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Heavy turnout in Malwa
Majithia under EC scanner for ‘firing in air’
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 7
Paramilitary forces coupled with the will of Punjabis to cast their votes fearlessly won the day for Punjab with elections to the four parliamentary constituencies of Patiala, Sangrur, Bathinda and Ferozepur recording a poll percentage of 68 per cent even as sporadic incidents of violence left more than 20 persons injured.

A constable, Jarnail Singh, died in his sleep at Jhanerri village near Bhawanigarh in Sangrur district even as three persons sustained injuries near the tents of political parties at a school building in Barnala when they came to cast their votes. Few others were injured when they were attacked with ‘lathis’.

In Bathinda constituency, the Congress claimed in a complaint to the EC that its candidate Raninder Singh was fired upon near dana mandi in Bathinda city. The complaint said the firing happened in the presence of the SP (City) and that the followers of former SAD legislator Sikander Singh Malooka had indulged in this act. The police release here today however did not mention the incident though reports from Bathinda said Raninder’s gunmen had fired in the air when pelted with stones.

DGP K K Attri disclosed that in Bathinda, the police registered a case against Budhlada legislator Mangat Rai Bansal and others for allegedly attacking one Suresh Kumar with weapons. A police release said the case was being investigated. Two SAD workers alleged Congress workers attacked them near Guru Sahnewal village following which a case was registered against the latter. A mob also gheraoed a booth in Leelawala village near Talwandi Sabo in protest against the alleged firing in the air by former minister Bikramjit Singh Majithia, the brother of the SAD candidate. State Chief Electoral Officer Kusumjit Sidhu has directed the DGP as well as the Bathinda SSP to register a case in the matter, according to a spokesman in the CEO’s office.

In Patiala constituency, an akali leader, Moosa Khan, claimed that while he was sitting in his car near Arna Barna chowk in Patiala city, two youth on motor cycle fired at him hitting him in the right shoulder. He has been admitted to Government Rajindra Hospital and is in a stable condition. In another case in Rajpura, 12 persons were arrested on charges of damaging tents of Congress workers installed outside polling booths and for trying to intimidate Congress workers.

In Ferozepur, a case has been registered against 13 persons, 10 of whom have been arrested, on the complaint of one Baldev Singh who has alleged that these persons came to his house in Malout and pressurised him to take money to vote in favour of the Congress candidate and threatened him with dire consequences if he did not do so.

As far as polling is concerned, women came out in large numbers everywhere. In Bathinda, the polling percentage was 74 per cent with the highest voting percentage of 87 being recorded in Sardulgarh followed by 80 per cent in the Lambi assembly segment of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

In case of Ferozepur, the polling was recorded at 70 per cent, the highest ever. The earlier record has been 68.3 per cent in 1985. In Sangrur, the polling was recorded at 66 per cent with the maximum pecentage of 71 per cent being recorded in Mehal Kalan assembly segment. Patiala recorded a polling percentage of 65 per cent.

While the political future of both SAD president and state Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Congress campaign committee chairman Capt Amarinder Singh has been sealed in the ballot, the battle of rhetoric to influence voters in the remaining nine seats has already begun with both of them claiming “victory” in the crucial Malwa region.

According to Sukhbir Badal, today’s trends “sounded a resounding death knell for Capt Amarinder Singh’s political circus in Punjab and the end of all Congress hopes in the state”. He, however, did not disclose how he came to this analysis. Sukhbir predicted that both Patiala and Bathinda had been lost to the Congress.

Amarinder also claimed a clean sweep, saying this would happen despite attempts by the Akalis to sabotage the election process by resorting to violence. “Well begun is half done and we will follow it up in the second phase in all other nine constituencies”, Amarinder said, adding that the results “are going to be historic this time”.

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