CHANDIGARH: Over 70 per cent voting was recorded in the elections to over hundred civic bodies in Punjab on Sunday amid stray incidents of skirmishes at some places.
The Opposition parties accused the Congress of indulging in violence and misusing government machinery, a charge denied by the ruling party.
According to a spokesperson of the Punjab State Election Commission, 71.39 per cent turnout was recorded in the elections, polling for which was held from 8 am to 4 pm.
The highest turnout of 82.99 per cent was recorded in Mansa district while the lowest was in SAS Nagar at 60.08 per cent.
A total of 9,222 candidates are in the fray for the elections to 2,302 wards of eight municipal corporations of Abohar, Bathinda Batala, Kapurthala, Mohali, Hoshiarpur, Pathankot and Moga, 109 municipal councils and nagar panchayats.
Of the total candidates, 2,832 are independents, 2,037 from the ruling Congress while 1,569 are SAD nominees.
The BJP, AAP and BSP fielded 1,003, 1,606 and 160 candidates, respectively.
The SAD and the BJP fought the elections separately after the former walked out of the National Democratic Alliance over the farm laws issue last year.
Prominent among those who cast their votes on Sunday were Punjab minister Balbir Singh Sidhu, Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia, AAP MLA Aman Arora and state BJP chief Ashwani Sharma.
According to officials, seven people were injured in Rupnagar after workers of the ruling Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal clashed following a heated argument in Ward No.1 there.
Skirmishes and scuffles between activists of the Congress and the Opposition parties were also reported from Batala, Rajpura, Tarn Taran, Bathinda, Gurdaspur, Samana, Rupnagar, Nabha, Nangal, Mohali and Ferozepur.
In Kapurthala’s Sultanpur Lodhi, an Akali worker was injured in a clash with Congress supporters.
The SAD workers alleged that Congress supporters tried to control the polling booth.
They alleged that ruling party activists fired in the air.
The incident took place when the voting time was about to be over.
Supporters of both the parties pelted each other with stone.
In Batala, a BJP leader sustained injuries on the head after a scuffle with some Congress workers.
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal criticised the Congress-led government for the violence.
“Failed on all fronts, Congress Party leaders knew they would lose, so they resorted to rigging & booth capturing and even violence.
“What can we expect from a govt that unleashed goondaism in the state? Shame on the State Election Commission for its absolute incompetency,” alleged Badal in a tweet.
Akali leader Daljit Singh Cheema alleged that the Congress “goons” not only “captured” booths but also “attacked” opposition candidates.
Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma even staged a sit-in in Pathankot on Sunday evening in protest against the alleged “misuse” of government machinery.
The saffron party alleged that their polling agents were forcibly removed from some polling booths.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) too accused the Congress workers of indulging in booth capturing in Samana, Rajpura, Dhuri, Abohar and Bhikhiwind, a charge denied by the ruling party.
Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Harpal Singh Cheema claimed that an AAP volunteer was allegedly shot at in Patti by some Congress activists.
However, police rejected the charge.
Cheema alleged that the democracy was “murdered” in Punjab on Sunday by the Congress and sought resignation of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
Talking to the media in Majitha, SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia accused the ruling Congress of “misusing” the government machinery to win the polls.
Meanwhile, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar thanked voters for “peaceful voting”.
He said some minor incidents had taken place only in the segments where the activists of the Shiromani Akali Dal had “tried to take the law” into their hands.
The State Election Commission (SEC) had set up 4,102 polling stations, of which 1,708 were declared as sensitive and 861 as hypersensitive.
Around 7,000 electronic voting machines (EVMs) were used for voting.
As many as 19,000 police personnel were deployed to ensure free and fair elections, an official said.
Voters were also screened with thermal scanners at polling booths in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The officials said the state has 39,15,280 voters, including 20,49,777 males, 18,65,354 females and 149 transgenders.
The counting of votes will take place on February 17.