Punjab civic polls: Opposition BJP, SAD allege Congress misused official machinery

CHANDIGARH: The opposition BJP and SAD accused the Congress of misusing official machinery after it swept the civic body elections in Punjab on Wednesday.

The ruling Congress won six municipal corporations and emerged as the largest party in the seventh.

It also won a majority of the 109 municipal councils and nagar panchayats, officials said.

The polling was held on February 7, against the backdrop of the farmers’ agitation over the new agri-marketing laws.

Reacting to the poll outcome, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state unit chief Ashwani Sharma said, “It was the worst day in Punjab’s democracy today as the bullish power of the Congress seemed to be in full display.”

“The election results reflect the complete moral defeat of the Congress in the face of blatant misuse of official machinery. At more than two dozen places, Congress workers indulged in reckless violence against BJP workers while police took no action.

“At numerous places, BJP candidates were denied a fair play even as we brought this to the notice of the State Election Commission time and again,” he said in a statement.

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Sharma said the BJP would continue working for the people “undeterred by the outcome of the election”.

He also said the BJP would continue to uphold and popularise the development and progressive policies of the Narendra Modi government and would continue “highlighting the mafia raj of the Amarinder Singh government”.

The BJP’s erstwhile ally SAD said the Congress party had secured a win in the municipal elections “by resorting to state-sponsored repression”.

“Our workers battled unprecedented repression, money bags & govt machinery & yet emerged as a force to reckon with. Writing on the wall: 2022 elections on – Congress gone,” SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said in a tweet, referring to the assembly polls due in 2022.

In a tweet, SAD MP from Bathinda and former Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said, “Hearty congratulations to all@Akali Dal candidates, irrespective of votes, you are all winners! The results show that despite harassment, violence & booth capturing, SAD will form the govt in 2022 & those officials who indulged in malpractices should start counting their days.”

SAD spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema said, “The SAD has emerged as the principal opposition party in Punjab post municipal elections despite going alone for the first time, while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had been completely eradicated in the state.”

The AAP is the main opposition party in the assembly.

He said almost all seats witnessing a direct contest between the Congress and the SAD.

“The vote share of the SAD has also increased in urban areas,” Cheema said in a statement.

AAP leader and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Harpal Singh Cheema, however, said the civic poll results “were a good sign for the party”.

He said that the party’s base in urban areas has increased and the party’s vote share has increased significantly.

“This is a good sign for the party that the Aam Aadmi Party will be even stronger in the urban areas by 2022,” he added.

He, however, said that the “party must have had some shortcomings in contesting the local body elections for the first time.

“These shortcomings will be rectified after self-assessment and work would be done to strengthen the party before the forthcoming assembly elections.”

The AAP leader said the farmers of Punjab “were being persecuted due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dictatorial attitude” and added the Centre was not listening to the demands of peasants protesting against the new farm laws.