Candidates’ extravaganza for civic polls in a Punjab town

June 29th, 2008 - 5:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Alkesh Sharma
Zirakpur, June 29 (IANS) Till a few years ago, Zirakpur was just a village in Punjab. But having graduated to be a town in its own right, the place is coming to terms with civic polls as millions are being spent to woo voters. Cash-rich candidates and their supporters in this town on the outskirts of Chandigarh are airing poll campaigns on radio and taking help of event management companies in a wedding-like mood in every nook and corner of the town in the run-up to the elections Monday.

The town is awash with multi-coloured posters, life-size banners, buntings and tents of political parties put up at short distances.

A local leader N.K. Sharma has even got a special song recorded, highlighting his services in the all round development of region. His party workers continuously play the song at maximum volume on city roads.

The township has become a millionaires’ hub - thanks to the agricultural fields giving way to multi-storeyed flats and plots and turning ordinary villagers into millionaires and big time property dealers.

“In the history of municipal elections here, this is happening for the first time that candidates are campaigning on radio and using other new means to campaign,” said Harmanjit Brar, a senior citizen from Zirakpur.

“Earlier, in the Lok Sabha elections the Akalis and the Congress had resorted to radio campaigning but it is a novel thing in local body polls.”

Top political leaders like Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Cooperation Minister Kanwaljit Singh, Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and others are coming in full support for their otherwise lesser known candidates.

“These elections are the ideal platform for the candidates to portray their money power and manpower. These can be the most expensive elections in the history of Zirakpur. Everyday huge rallies of more than 20 to 25 cars are organized by candidates to show their strength,” said Harman, a youngman.

Swanky cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) like Ford Endeavours, Mahindra Scorpios, Mitsubishi Pajeros, Honda Accords and Civics, are being used to campaign by the candidates and the recent hike in petrol price seems to have little impact on spending.

Besides regular evening parties with free-flowing liquor, singers are invited to entertain voters. Even famous Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans was invited by a group Friday to perform live.

Party supporters from adjoining towns like Panchkula in Haryana and Chandigarh are mobilised in private buses to make the gathering look better in numbers.

“It seems funny to see auto-rickshaws and jeeps packed with 10-year-old kids shouting slogans in support of a particular party throughout the day,” pointed out a voter.

“Our campaign budget has already touched a few lakh (hundred thousands) figure. On seeing the tough competition, we are taking services of a Chandigarh-based event management company to lead the campaign. Apart from feasts, liquor and even cash is also flowing into the houses of the voter,” an activist said on condition of anonymity.

The whole area is divided into 15 wards for the elections slated Monday. The main contest is between the Congress, the Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine and an independent group.

“I did not see my ward councillor even once in the last five years, but now everyday he is coming to our home to seek our vote and inviting us for parties and dinners,” said Nishant Jain, a resident of ward 13.

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