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Polling tomorrow, over 50,000 cops on duty 

Chandigarh, September 17

After a decade, the ruling Congress is set to regain control of most of the zila parishads and panchayat samitis. More than 1.27 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise to elect 354 members of 22 zila parishads and 2,900 members of 150 panchayat samitis. 

Amid apprehension of violence, over 50,000 Punjab Police cops will be on duty across the state on polling 

day on Wednesday. VK Bhawra, DGP (Provisioning and Modernisation), said a heavy police ‘bandobast’ had been made to prevent any untoward incident.

The elections are largely a direct fight between the Congress and the Akali Dal-BJP alliance, with the Aam Aadmi Party fielding its candidates on 30 per cent of the seats. With the nomination papers of many candidates of Opposition parties getting rejected or nominees withdrawing from the contest, the Congress is looking to sweep the elections. There have been 551 rejections/withdrawals out of 1,439 nominations for zila parishads and 3,879 rejections/withdrawals out of 10,276 nominations for panchayat samitis.

Generally, these elections are won by the ruling party, which carries out the demarcation of all zones in the zila parishads and block samitis “based on their pockets of influence”. For a decade, the Akali-BJP alliance had control over 95 per cent of these rural bodies (except in Nawanshahr and some pockets of Patiala, where the Congress had won). This time, the SAD is hoping to win seats in Muktsar district and parts of Bathinda.

Panthic issues have dominated campaigning, while local issues such as healthcare, sanitation and social security pensions have been ignored.

Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar told The Tribune that the Akali-BJP alliance had been discredited by the voters, so their candidates were themselves withdrawing nomination papers. “People will be voting for us on development. I agree that issues concerning these Panchayati Raj institutions are not being debated upon in these polls and realpolitik is taking precedence, but once we win, we will strengthen these institutions and work on giving them more autonomy. No effort on this front was made during the past 10 years,” he said.

Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal claims that his party has managed to come back with a bang after dispelling the “false propaganda on sacrilege incidents spread by the Congress”, through their Pol Khol and Jabar Virodhi rallies.

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