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Congress sweeps panchayat polls in Punjab; AAP, SAD cry foul

Opposition parties - AAp and Shiromani Akali Dal - have that the panchayat elections in Punjab were rigged. 

Congress sweeps panchayat polls in Punjab; AAP, SAD cry foul

AMRITSAR: The ruling Congress swept the panchayat polls, which were held on Sunday in over 13000 villages in Punjab, while the main opposition party Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) alleged that elections were rigged. 

Congratulating the winners, Punjab Congress said in a tweet, ''We congratulate the newly elected Panchayat Members & Sarpanch’s on their victory & wish them a successful term! We urge the Panchayat representatives to initiate transformative changes in villages & make a positive difference in society during their terms.''

Voting for panchayat elections was held in 13,276 panchayats on Sunday that saw a heavy turnout of 80%. Bathinda and Fazilka recorded 86% polling, Mohali 84%, Pathankot 82%, Patiala and Sangrur 81%, Moga 78%, Fatehgarh Sahib 77% and Muktsar 77%.

Soon after the voting concluded, the counting of votes was taken up and the results were declared till late in the night.

Minor clashes and incidents of firing and booth capturing were also reported at over a dozen places. 

Tension prevailed in some villages in Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Ferozepur and other districts. Incidents of firing between warring groups were also reported from some places.
 
With stray incidents of violence reported during the Punjab panchayat polls on Sunday, the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) blamed the Congress, alleging a "complete hijacking" of the election by the ruling party.

"Congress party is now afraid to face people. They know they have done nothing. That's why party indulged in large scale violence and rigging in Panchayat elections today. Black day for democracy. Elections hijacked," SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said in a tweet.

Senior SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema alleged that Congress workers incited violence during the polling and indulged in booth-capturing at some places, but the administration remained a mute spectator.

He alleged a "complete hijacking" of the polls by the Congress and said, "this amounted to the murder of democracy".

The main opposition party in the state, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), also alleged that booth capturing did happen at some places.

Reacting to the alleged incidents of violence and booth-capturing, Leader of Opposition and senior AAP leader Harpal Cheema said it was a "black day" for democracy.

As the results started pouring in the evening on Sunday, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh congratulated the winning candidates.

"Congratulations to the winners of #PunjabPanchayatPolls. A strong assertion of democracy at the grassroots. I call upon the newly elected Sarpanches and Panchayat members to work out a long-term vision to usher in positive change in their villages," he said in a tweet.

 The polls were held to elect as many as 13,276 "sarpanch" (village headman) and 83,831 "panch" (village council members) for 13,276 villages, according to the state election commission.

 Ahead of the polls, 4,363 "sarpanch" and 46,754 "panch" were already declared elected unopposed.