The stage is set for counting of votes for rural elections in Punjab, polling for which was held on Wednesday. A voter turnout of 58.1% was registered in the elections for 22 Zila Parishads and 150 panchayat samitis in the state.
A total of 17,268 polling booths were set up, 35 observers appointed and around 50,000 police personnel deployed for the polls in Punjab. A total of 354 zila parishad and 2,900 panchayat samiti members are slated to be elected through these polls.
As Punjab voted for the rural elections on Wednesday, opposition parties – Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) – alleged that the polls were rigged by the ruling Congress party.
Former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal at Muktsar claimed a large number of Congress workers, brandishing swords, were involved in booth capturing. He accused the police of being "mute spectator".
"Booth capturing is taking place and as an MLA I will not tolerate this in my area. Police was not performing its duty. What kind of elections were these, where booths were captured and nomination papers of Akalis rejected?" he had asked. Further, the SAD alleged bogus votes were polled at some locations.
There were also reports of clashes in several parts of the state, including Amritsar, Ferozepur and Ajnala. Clashes between Congress and Akali workers were reported from Raja Sansi in Amritsar, Jhoke Harihar in Ferozepur, Lodhi Gujjar in Ajnala and Sohia Kalan in Majitha. During the clashes members of both factions pelted stones at each other and used sticks as weapons causing minor injuries to a few.
Ahead of the elections, the opposition parties had expressed fear of "large-scale booth capturing". They had claimed that the ruling party wanted to win the polls "by hook or by crook".
With the Congress touted as the favourite to win the zila parishads and panchayat samitis after a gap of 10 years, the main contest is between the ruling Congress party and the SAD-BJP alliance, as the AAP did not field candidates on several seats.
(With PTI Inputs)