CHANDIGARH: Congress is leading in the panchayat samiti and zila parishad polls in Punjab after the counting of votes started on Saturday.
Polling for zila parishad and Panchayat samiti was done on Wednesday. A total of 354 zila parishad members and 2,900 panchayat samiti members will be elected in these elections, the polling for which was held on September 19.
Thirty-three candidates of zila parishad polls and 369 nominees of panchayat samiti elections have already been declared unopposed.
Congress has been leading against their political rivals on majority of seats of zila parishad and panchayat samitis, the official said, adding the final result will be declared later on Saturday night after compiling reports from all districts.
The SAD-BJP combine appears to have suffered a setback in these polls after a gap of 10 years, while the AAP, it seems, has almost been routed.
The Congress won 212, out of 213 panchayat samiti seats in Gurdaspur and the remaining one was won by an Independent candidate.
In case of zila parishad, the Congress registered victory in 18, out of 25 seats in Zila Parishad and was leading in the rest, the election official said.
Terming the poll results "yet another endorsement of his government's policies and programmes", Amarinder Singh claimed it reflects a "total rejection of the opposition's malicious campaign" against the ruling party.
Accusing the opposition parties of trying to thwart free and fair poll process, with "cheap pressure tactics and false propaganda", he congratulated the people of Punjab for standing firm against attempts to sway them.
The chief minister also lauded the state election commission, civic and police administration, and all poll officials for ensuring smooth conduct of the elections.
He asserted that this was the fourth consecutive "humiliating" defeat of the SAD-BJP combine, after back to back victories of the Congress in the state Assembly, urban local bodies elections, and Gurdaspur Parliamentary and Shahkot Assembly bypolls.
Singh termed it a "vindication of his party's efforts to bring the state out of the quagmire of devastation into which it had been plunged by the previous SAD-BJP government".
Rejecting the Akali allegation of booth capture by the Congress, he claimed that it was the SAD which had "stooped to all kind of hooliganism to try and derail" the poll process.
The AAP accused the Congress of "winning" the polls by misusing official machinery and intimidating opponents.
"It is not a defeat of the opposition but of democracy," AAP MLA and Leader of opposition Harpal Singh Cheema said in a statement.
SAD Chief Sukhbir Badal came down heavily on Congress for "making a mockery of democracy" during the polls.
"The Congress actually lost this poll hands down and they know it. They announced a fabricated and fake victory by altering results," Badal alleged.
"Instead of celebrating, Congress should be mourning the death of democracy in Punjab and premature death of the mandate which they had received in 2017. In reality, it is a sad day for the Congress in reality, and a bad day for democracy," he said.
The SAD claimed, "The Congress, the state bureaucracy, the police and even the Chief Electoral Officer functioned like a coalition of gangsters to deny people their right to vote without fear."
(With PTI Inputs)