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Posted at: Sep 19, 2018, 2:04 AM; last updated: Sep 20, 2018, 2:09 AM (IST)

Skirmishes, low voter turnout mark Punjab zila parishad, panchayat samiti polls

Sanjeev Singh Bariana

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 19

Sporadic incidents of violence and skirmishes, mainly between Congress and Akali groups in five districts, were witnessed in Punjab during Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls on Wednesday.

The voting percentage was recorded at 58 per cent. 

Mansa topped the polling chart, recording 71 per cent turnout, followed by Mohali and Sangrur (both 65 per cent). Lowest turnout was witnessed in Gurdaspur district where 47 per cent voters cast their vote.

Following incidents of "booth capturing", the State Election Commission has received recommendations for a re-poll for 31 polling booths, including 22 in Muktsar, eight in Amritsar and one in Moga. The re-poll will be held on September 21. Counting will be conducted on September 22, Friday.

Incidents of alleged booth capturing were reported from a number of places in Muktsar, Bathinda, Moga, Patiala and Ferozepur districts. There were reports about ballot papers being torn and polling closed even before the maarked time of 4 pm. The polling staff were also manhandled, while mobs brandished swords, iron rods and batons at certain places.

Except on odd complaint, polling in the Doaba and Majha regions was largely peaceful. 

Over three-dozen people were injured during the poll-related violence in Ferozepur district as Akali and Congress workers clashed at several places. Stray incidents of gunshots being fired at about a dozen places were reported from Patiala district. 

A small child was injured in a melee after firing was reported at Dulewal village in Bathinda following a clash between Congress and SAD workers. Jharo village in Sangrur district, too, witnessed a firing incident.

Former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal allegedly roughed up a Congress supporter at Mandi Killianwali in Lambi Assembly segment in Muktsar district. Former Akali minister Sikander Singh Maluka staged a dharna at Kangar village in Rampura Phul against alleged booth capturing by Congress.

Residents of Dhaula boycotted elections to protest against the incidents of sacrilege. Residents of Hasta Kalan village of Fazilka district boycotted polling due to bifurcation of the panchayat.

The Akali Dal alleged that nominations of a large number of party candidates were cancelled, mainly in the Majha region. The party also levelled allegation of poll officers indulging in helping the Congress candidates by stamping ballot papers at many places, including Dera Bassi, Dhuri and Kumbarwar villages.

Following attempts for "booth capturing" in New Rode (Gurupur) village in Moga district, the district administration has recommended to the state election commission to cancel the polls. A re-poll has been recommended at Bakhsiwal in Patiala district, where Bahadar Khan, personal assistant of Cabinet minister Brahm Mohindra, was allegedly seen polling bogus votes inside a polling booth.

The Bathinda Deputy Commissioner has recommended re-poll at Dullewala village in view of booth capturing, while Sangrur DC has sought a detailed report from Dhuri Tehsildar after allegations of fake voting in Kumbarwal polling booth.

A total of 354 zila parishad and 2,900 panchayat samiti members are to be elected through these polls. There are 22 zila parishads and 150 panchayat samitis in the state.

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