CHANDIGARH: The ruling Congress in Punjab passed the first litmus test after the Assembly elections as the party on Sunday swept the municipal elections in the state after 10 years. The Congress won all the three municipal corporations of Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala and most of the 29 municipal councils and nagar panchayats.
However, the municipal polls were marked by clashes and allegations of wrongdoings. The Congress decimated rivals in Patiala, winning 58 of the total 60 wards. The party bagged 66 out of 80 wards in Jalandhar. The BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal were far behind, getting 8 and 4 seats, respectively, while the remaining two went to Independents. In Amritsar, the Congress won 69 out of 85 seats. The SAD-BJP alliance got 12 seats and the rest went to the Independents.
The ruling party won all municipal councils and nagar panchayats also. There were reports of violence from several wards in Patiala. Scuffles between the ruling Congress and the SAD workers were reported at some places. Congress supporters were accused of threatening and intimidating voters. There were allegations of booth capturing at ward number 14. Patiala Mayor Amarinder Bajaj of the Akali Dal was reportedly slapped inside a polling booth. In ward number 42, voters complained that Congress workers did not get their fingers inked.
Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh hailed the poll results as a clear vindication of the Congress policies. “The people have not forgotten what the Akalis had done for 10 years and had responded by voting them out of power in the Assembly elections and have now handing them a crushing defeat in the local bodies’ elections,” he said.
Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu said the victory was Punjab’s gift to Rahul Gandhi on becoming the Congress president.
The SAD, the BJP and the AAP accused the Congress of gross violation of poll code. Alleging that the State Election Commission had become party to the Congress conspiracy, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal said his party would approach the high court and demand a CBI inquiry. He also demanded dismissal of State Election Commissioner Jagpal Singh Sandhu.
Punjab BJP chief and Union Minister Vijay Sampla said, “Congress MLAs were roaming the streets of Patiala, Jalandhar and Amritsar with goons and captured booths. Our repeated requests to SSPs, DCs, and the Election Commission have failed to yield any action.’’ AAP’s Punjab unit co-convener Aman Arora also accused the ruling party of murdering democracy.