P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



It’s make-or-break poll for CM, Badal
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
It has been the longest poll campaign in the history of Punjab for a parliamentary election. The polling will be held for all the 13 Lok Sabha seats in the state on May 10. For the first time electioneering continued for about three months.

Also It has been one of the bitterest election campaigns ever witnessed. Loads of dirty linen was washed in public by politicians at public meetings and through advertisements.

The election campaign in Punjab had started well before February 29, the day the Election Commission of India announced that the polling would be held in the last phase on May 10. It became difficult for the political parties to either stop the campaign or to slow it down. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee put election campaign in top gear by addressing an election rally at Patiala on March 18.

Politicians, who have been campaigning for such a long period, admit that they feel “squeezed” by the campaign. “It is not easy to sustain such a long campaign,” said a senior Congress leader.

This is a make-or-break election for both Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. It would decide their political future.

If the ruling party performs well, Capt Amarinder Singh will be able to consolidate his position as Chief Minister and also in the party. No one will be able to pose any political threat to him for the remaining term as Chief Minister. If the ruling party fails to do well, then the possibility of another political upheaval against the Chief Minister can’t be ruled out. Already, tempers are running high in certain sections of the ruling party.

Likewise, if the SAD does well in the elections, Mr Badal will further fortify his position in the party. There could be a big challenge to his leadership if his party fails to win a good number of seats. Moreover, in the case of good performance, Mr Badal will be able to silence leaders of other Akali factions who are impatient to see the political demise of Mr Badal.

After the Lok Sabha poll, the SGPC elections are also due to be held on July 11. The results of the Lok Sabha elections will certainly have an impact on the SGPC elections. It is perhaps the first election that has revolved around two persons — Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

The Congress high command had given enough liberty to Capt Amarinder Singh to pick up candidates of his choice for the Lok Sabha seats in the state. His personal choice were Rana Gurjit Singh (Jalandhar), Mr Sukhbinder Sarkaria (Tarn Taran), Mrs Karan Brar (Faridkot), Mrs Preneet Kaur (Patiala) and Mr Arvind Khanna (Sangrur). He also supported the candidature of Mr Manish Tewari (Ludhiana) though he has been a choice of Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

The other candidates such as Mr Jagmeet Brar, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, Mr R.L. Bhatia, Mrs Santosh Chowdhary and Mrs Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder managed the party ticket on their own from the high command. It is natural that the party high command will be expecting an impressive performance from Capt Amarinder Singh as it almost gave him a free hand to decide the candidates in half of the 11 seats being contested by the ruling party. In Bathinda and Hoshiarpur, the Congress is supporting the CPI and the CPM candidates, respectively.

Mr Badal had also picked up the SAD candidates of his choice at all but three seats. At Tarn Taran, Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, was given the ticket by Mr Badal to oblige the Ranjit Singh Brahmpura group. Mr Sukhdev Singh Libra (Ropar) and Capt Kanwaljit Singh (Patiala) were given the ticket from the quota of late Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra.


Cong will suffer for its misdeeds, says party MLA
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Tohra (Patiala), May 9
Congress Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Rajpura Raj Khurana today predicted that the voters of Rajpura would not tolerate the slighting of their MLA at the hands of the Congress leadership.

“What is my fault? I have been working as a loyal servant of the party wherever asked. But, how can you expect me to work for someone who refuses to seek my assistance,” he says. Mr Khurana is considered to be quite close to Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.

Incidentally, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is also said to have complained to the Central leadership of the Congress about the lack of interest in party candidate Preneet Kaur’s campaign by Mrs Bhattal.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Khurana, who has been issued a show cause notice by the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief H.S. Hanspal, claimed that he had campaigned for party candidates in Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Chandigarh and Bathinda.

But, he acknowledged, he had kept away from the campaign of Congress’ Patiala nominee Preneet Kaur, wife of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh. “Why should I campaign for someone who refuses to take my help? If I am unwanted, why should I work for that person. As for the show cause, I have not received it so far. I will rely to it when I receive it,” he said.

Mr Khurana also asserted that the timing of the show cause was such that it could boomerang on the party. “Any good politician would not have issued a notice to its sitting MLA at this juncture when the election is just a day away. This shows that non-politicians are running the show here. But, I am not sure it will help them,” he suggested.

Asked for the reasons why he had kept away from the campaign of Mrs Preneet Kaur, Mr Khurana said that he had been feeling unwanted and he had waited for a request from the candidate in this regard. “But I have not campaigned against her or any other candidate. Anybody, who says that I am working against party candidates, is lying and trying to hurt me,” he asserted.

He also claimed that at the recently held Sunam rally of the party, which was addressed by All-India Congress Committee President Sonia Gandhi, he talked to Mrs Preneet Kaur for “over 10 minutes”. “But, not once did she accuse me of any wrong or seek my help,” Mr Khurana claimed.

Meanwhile, in the village of late Gurcharan Singh Tohra, the mood is very grim. The village falls in Ropar constituency. In village an uncertain calm prevails. Missing are groups of villagers discussing tomorrow’s elections.

Even Bibi Joginder Kaur Tohra’s widow, and other members of the family have been keeping away from campaigning. The family’s explanation : she is ill and cannot move around much.

“Though the village is mourning the death of the tallest leader it produced, that only partially explains the lack of interest. The fact is that there is nobody to guide them. As it is, politicians of the village were divided in different camps even when Mr Tohra was alive,” says a villager.

Incidentally, a major talking point in the village today was the real reason behind the decision of Mrs Tohra to return the cheque of Rs 15,000 given to her by the state government after Tohra’s death. Villagers said that it could be an indication of where the family wanted the people to vote.


Dissidence not to affect Preneet Kaur’s prospects
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 9
Mrs Preneet Kaur, Congress candidate for Lok Sabha seat from Patiala, today asserted that she would win “comfortably”.

Talking to The Tribune on the eve of polling, she was confident that voters would keep her contribution to the constituency in mind while voting. “People tell me how good an MP I have been. I will win by a bigger margin this time,” she asserted. She won by nearly 78,000 votes last time. Asked if revolt by Rajpura MLA Raj Khurana of the Congress would affect her chances, she said that she was sure he would not work against her. “But, if he does, I cannot help it. He says that I wasn’t accessible to him, but that is not correct. I personally went to his house to seek his support. But, in the long-run he will not matter much,” she said.

She also said there was dissidence in the Congress in the last Lok Sabha elections also. “But, this time the dissidents are vocal. I am sure people will see through their designs,” she said.

On being asked if her win will be “ensured” by the Congress government-led by her husband, Capt Amarinder Singh, Mrs Preneet Kaur replied in the negative. “I am not depending on my husband’s government for this election. Government does not matter much when it comes to elections. After all, didn’t Mr Parkash Singh Badal’s government fail to win more than two seats in the last parliamentary elections? If parties in power could ensure the victory of their candidates, no party in power would lose. I have done so much for this constituency that the people will certainly give me another chance,” she said.

But, hasn’t her husband’s government given importance to her constituency? “Yes, we have benefited from this government. At the same time, look at the condition of Banur from where Capt Kanwaljit Singh won the last Assembly elections. Surely the Finance Minister of a state can do more for his constituency than what he did,” she says.

Incidentally, despite very aggressive campaign, Mrs Preneet refused to indulge in mudslinging on her opponent. “Why should I? I don’t need to run down my opponent through filthy language in order to win. The voters don’t expect this from their representatives,” she asserted.


Bhattal loyalists not in mood to support CM’s wife
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Lehragaga, May 9
Fearing an adverse effect on the prospects of Ms Preneet Kaur, wife of Capt Amarinder Singh, Punjab Chief Minister and Congress candidate from Patiala Lok Sabha constituency, due to alleged opposition of Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab, in the Lehragaga Assembly segment of Patiala constituency, damage-control was done by the Congress High Command for patch-up between Ms Bhattal and Capt Amarinder Singh.

As part of this exercise, Ms Ambika Soni, general secretary of the All-India Congress Committee (AICC), Capt Amarinder Singh, and H.S. Hanspal, president of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), landed at the residence of Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal here this afternoon and held a half-an-hour long closed-door meeting with her to win her over in favour of Ms Preneet Kaur.

In Lehragaga Assembly constituency Ms Bhattal was not campaigning for Ms Preneet Kaur. It is also alleged that Ms Bhattal is taking a revenge on Capt Amarinder Singh as she is of the view that Capt Amarinder Singh was instrumental in fielding two independent candidates against her in February 2002 Assembly elections. These two candidates who lost the election, are reportedly now in Capt Amarinder Singh’s camp.

It is also learnt that a closed-door meeting was also held by these top Congress leaders, before closed-door meeting at Bhattal’s residence, at the election office of Ms Preneet Kaur here today.

The residence of Ms Bhattal, it seemed that Ms Ambika Soni managed to sink differences between Capt Amarinder Singh and Ms Bhattal, but this patch-up was not acceptable to the supporters of Ms Bhattal, who raised slogans in favour of Ms Bhattal, outside her house and expressed resentment in front of Capt Amarinder Singh and other top leaders. The supporters were pressurising Ms Bhattal not to oblige Capt Amarinder Singh.

Talking to mediapersons, Ms Ambika Soni claimed that there were no differences between Capt Amarinder Singh and Ms Bhattal. This statement was also endorsed by Capt Amarinder Singh, Mr Hanspal and even by Ms Bhattal. Capt Amarinder Singh said he had full support of Ms Bhattal in Preneet Kaur’s election while Ms Bhattal also stated that she and Capt Amarinder Singh were running Ms Preneet Kaur’s campaign.

Ms Bhattal addressing the workers and supporters said she had conveyed their grievances, regarding police excesses on them to Capt Amarinder Singh. She claimed that Capt had “admitted” that excesse had been done while at the same time he assured her that necessary action would be taken against “erring” policemen.

She also appealed to her supporters to help the Congress party as they had helped her in her Assembly election. But the supporters were still adamant and wanted that Ms Bhattal should allow them to oppose Ms Preneet Kaur.


Abrogation of Art 370 on BJP’s agenda, says Jaitley
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, May 9
Mr Arun Jaitley, Union Law Minister, said here yesterday that the abrogation of Article 370 was already on the agenda of the BJP and was only awaiting nod from its NDA partners for its materalisation.

Reiterating determination of the BJP-led NDA government to flush out the insurgents from the Jammu and Kashmir, he said even Pakistan had realised its responsibilities and had initiated some steps to close this bitter chapter.

Talking to mediapersons after addressing a rally, Mr Jaitley claimed that the NDA government had generated employment for 80 to 90 lakh persons during its four-year rule.

Mr Jaitley held successive Congress governments responsible for insurgency which not only allegedly killed hundreds of innocent people over a decade ago but also created a turmoil for many years in the state.

He promised to throw the present state Congress government immediately after assuming the power by the NDA government at the Centre. To make the programme a success, he appealed the voters to give a thumping majority to the SAD-BJP combine in the Lok Sabha elections in the state to strengthen the hands of Mr Vajpayee.


Cong leaders flay Jaitley’s remarks
Our Correspondent

Abohar, May 9
Reacting to the reported threats by Union Law Minister Arun Jaitley that the Congress government, led by Capt Amarinder Singh, in Punjab will be toppled immediately after the NDA government takes over in New Delhi, Mr Sunil Jakhar, whip of the Congress Legislative Party, and Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, former MP, said BJP-SAD leaders should keep the consequences in mind while taking such a step.

Addressing an election rally, they said the NDA would be shown the door in the last phase of poll on May 10. The Congress government in the state was like a rock. Any unlawful effort to destabilise it would be resisted with full force.

They said the NDA government had wasted Rs 520 crore on the “India-Shining” campaign.

But a poor consumer, who had to pay five times during the last five years for kerosene, diesel, cooking gas, etc could not be fooled with such slogan.


Rural voters hold the key in Ropar
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Ropar, May 9
With over 10 lakh rural voters in the Ropar Lok Sabha constituency that has over 13 lakh voters mobilisation and a last-minute push is required by the candidates to ensure that their supporters in villages reach polling stations tomorrow.

While the Akali Dal has an edge over the Congress in rural areas, the Congress seems to have swayed voters in urban areas. But equally important is the BSP which is expected to eat into both the Congress and Akali votes. It is the urban voter who is going to be the deciding factor.

The Kharar segment has over two lakh voters, the largest number in the constituency. Kharar also has the highest number of urban voters numbering more than 1.2 lakh. While both rural and urban voters here are in favour of the Congress, a lot will depend on how many in Mohali township cast the vote. Situation in Chamkaur Sahib, an Akali stronghold, where number of urban voters is little over 3000.

The difference between number of urban and rural voters is the least in the Khanna segment and fight is expected to be thrilling. Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo of the Congress and Mr Sukhdev Singh Libra of the SAD (Badal) here have a neck and neck race.

Samrala, Sirhind, Nabha and Dhuri have just over a lakh rural voters each. Two years of Congress reign does not seem to have impressed Samrala residents and while the urban voters less than 20000, are uncertain, villagers are clear in their choice of Libra. In Sirhind and Nabha, compared to the 1999 elections the SAD’s position is stronger due to merger with the SHSAD. In Sirhind, presence of Mr Simranjit Singh Mann’s candidate will help the Congress. Villagers complain that BSP candidate, Man Singh Manhera lacks leadership qualities and has not campaigned seriously said Bhupinder Singh and former sarpanch of village Badali Ala Singh. “Manhera asks for votes as if it is his right,” said a Congress worker in Jhanjeri village.

Both Morinda and Amloh segments have over 1.2 lakh rural voters. While Morinda has 25000 urban voters, Amloh has over 40000 urban voters mainly in the Mandi Gobindgarh township. While rural voters are giving a mixed response, the urban voter is disillusioned and bored. “Congress candidates have always won with large margins from Morinda, but this time Mr Dullo has not even bothered to ask for votes,” said a cloth shop owner in Morinda. A metal sheet worker in Mandi Gobindgarh said, “We hear of campaigning in villages but no one has come to me to ask for votes. I know Mr Dullo personally.” Presence of Ravi Inder’s candidate is also going to eat into Libra’s votes in Morinda giving Congress an edge here.


It is advantage SAD-BJP combine in Phillaur
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Phillaur, May 9
The Akali-BJP alliance candidate, Mr Chiranjit Singh Atwal, appears to be comfortably placed against his main rival Ms Santosh Chaudhary (Congress) in this parliamentary constituency.

It is a fight between two powerful political families of Punjab. While Ms Chaudhary, who has been elected twice from here is trying her luck again, Mr Atwal, a former MP and a former Speaker of the Punjab assembly, is contesting for the first time from here.

Ms Chaudhary hopes to score a hat-trick this time. However, the going does not appear to be easy for her for several reasons. Although she could feel confident give the fact that seven of the nine assembly segments in the Phillaur constituency are represented by the Congress, her concerns are many.

She knows that assembly votes do not straightway get transferred into parliamentary votes. While in the rural areas she may continue to retain her hold, in the urban areas, she has to face the Vajpayee factor. She is also not able to gain the confidence of all seven Congress legislators, as some of them are yet to actively campaign for her. The BSP candidate, Mr Pawan Kumar Tinu, may also marginally cut into her support base.

The situation is not too rosy for Mr Atwal either. He is mainly counting on the Vajpayee factor in the urban areas, while in the rural areas he is dependent on the dependent on the traditional Jat votes, presumed to be mostly Akali supporters. There are about 3.5 lakh Jat voters in this constituency and about one lakh upper caste Hindu voters. There are over four lakh Dalit voters too.

Ms Chaudhary’s daughter, Namita Chaudhary, who is handling her campaigning, claimed that although the constituency was vast, her mother knew it well since she had represented the constituency twice.

Ms Chaudhary‘s husband, Mr Ram Lubhaya is an MLA from the Sham Chaurasi assembly segment falling in this constituency.

Mr Atwal claims that he is not new to the area. He represented the Kum Kalan assembly segment (1997 and 2002) that borders this parliamentary segment. He served as the Speaker during this period. He has been claiming the credit for having got the work started on the Machhiwara bridge.

The BSP candidate, Mr Tinu, is also likely to garner a good number of votes, particularly after the Bahujan Samaj Morcha led by Mr Satnam Kainth merged with the BSP.

Mr Harbhajan Lakhra, who represented Phillaur in 1989 and 1996 as a BSP candidate, is contesting as an Independent this time.


Difficult to guess poll outcome in Punjab
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
It is difficult to guess on either the voter turnout on May 10 or the outcome on May 13 in the Lok Sabha elections in Punjab. In fact, there are no standard answers to these. However, among various factors that impact politics or outcome is demographic pattern. The other factors are politico-religious or cultural or caste or community composition or urban and rural divide in terms of social and economic development or even accessibility and availability of candidates after the elections.

Polarisation and personalisation of politics has made the present elections a real brain teaser. No one is willing to predict which political combination will get how many seats and which ones. The vitiated pre-poll scene has introduced an element of fear psychosis and apprehensions of a breach of the peace.

This has resulted in elaborate security arrangements for a free, fair and fearless poll. At least 3,757 polling stations out of a total of 15,649 have been declared “sensitive” where additional police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed. Companies of paramilitary forces, the BSF, the CRPF and the ITBP have been placed at the disposal of the Deputy Inspectors-General of Police in the Patiala, Faridkot, Ferozepore and Amritsar constituencies.

Since at stake is the political future of several key candidates, contrary to the opinion and exit polls, several contests have become interesting or intriguing or neck and neck. Hence, the extra security precautions.

Against just three parliamentary constituencies where electronic voting machines (EVM) were used for the first time in 1999, the EVMs will be in use in all the 13 constituencies now. Nearly 19,000 EVMs are to be used.

Either due to the new technology or better electoral management techniques or both, the number of polling stations is less this time, 15,649, as compared to 18,220 in 1999. The maximum number of polling stations are in Ludhiana (1,455) and the minimum in Tarn Taran (1,068).

The number of voters in Punjab is 1,66,15,391. There are as many as 73 poll observers as well for all the Lok Sabha constituencies.

Against 120 candidates who contested in 1999, the figure this time is 142, while the number of women contestants has come down to 10 from 13. The main contest in Bathinda is between two women, Ms Paramjit Kaur Gulshan of the SAD and Ms Kaushalya Chaman Bhaura of the CPI supported by the Congress. The maximum number of women contestants (four) is in Patiala, including the Congress candidate, Ms Preneet Kaur, wife of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.

The religious composition and clear horizontal and vertical divisions in the ruling Congress and in Akali camps will also influence the outcome of the elections. Nevertheless, the emotional Sikh voter invariably goes for the main party and coming together of warring Akali factions that went to the polls in 1999 is a factor that cannot be totally ignored. But often the best of political calculations can and do go awry.

The conventional wisdom says that the “floating” vote, estimated at around 18 per cent, going by 2002 assembly election pattern, is the one to watch. This is the percentage that remained after the votes of the Scheduled Castes, Jats, Hindus, backward classes, Muslims and Christians were cast. The Congress and the Akali-BJP combine secured 37 and 36.5 per cent votes, respectively, from these constituents in 2002.

Yet another factor that will determine the outcome is the role of employees. This segment of voters is by and large dissatisfied because promises were made but not implemented.


Names of 600 missing from voters’ list
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Maur Mandi (Bathinda), May 9
Nearly 600 residents of ward number 12 of this town were surprised when they found that their names missing from the voters’ lists for Lok Sabha elections scheduled for tomorrow.

These residents, pointed out that they came to know about this fact today only. They added that this fact came to light when they asked the presiding officer concerned that why only one polling booth had been set up in ward number 12 instead of two polling booths which were always set up early.

They added that concerned presiding officer told them that in the previous elections, the number of total voters in that ward was more than 1150 which had come down to 550 for the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for tomorrow. They said that presiding officer also told that he was not in position to do some thing in this connection.

Mr Rajesh Jain, Municipal Councillor, alleged that though the residents had been meeting the district authorities for needful so that people could exercise their franchise, they failed to get any positive response so far.

The residents alleged that their names had been deleted from the lists published after the revision of poll rolls carried out in the past few months by vested interests. They added that after the revision of electoral rolls was carried out, they were not supplied with any voters lists and hence they could not come to know about this fact earlier.

Mr Harminder Singh Jassi, Chairman, Markfed, Punjab, who represented the Talwandi Sabo Assembly Segment, in which this town falls, twice, alleged that some vested interests were deleting the names of urban people from the voters lists are as they were considered as supporter of one party. He added that earlier when the last Assembly elections were held, the names of large number of urban voters were also deleted from the voters lists.

Demanding a high-level probe into this incident, he said that all those officials and politicians, who were involved in this crime, should be exposed and dealt with.

Mr K.A.P. Sinha, Deputy Commissioner-cum-Returning Officer, when contacted, said that at this moment nothing could be done. He added that so far no body came to him and raised objections that their names had been deleted from the voters lists.

He said that though the polling parties were supplied the voters’ lists in time, he would look into the matter that how the names of 600 residents of a particular ward had been deleted.


Names of many in border villages not in voters’ lists
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 9
A tour of villages along the Indo-Pak border in the Amritsar and Tarn Taran (TT) parliamentary constituencies exposed the claim of the administration as many voters found their names missing from the voters' lists on the eve of elections today.

As many as 105 voters found their names missing in Ramdass village falling in the Amritsar councillor including Jaswinder Kaur, a former councillor, and her husband Baba Rachpal Singh, dera head of Sri Nirmal Takht Talab Baba Budha.

The matter was brought to the notice of poll observer Davinder Dubey today. The villagers urged that at least 10 villagers, whose names were deleted, possessed voter ID cards and their names should be included. But the observer expressed helplessness.

Similar was the fate of more than 4,000 persons in the Beas sector having more than a lakh voters, said Mr Manjinder Singh Kang senior vice-president, SAD.

Meanwhile 50 persons found their names missing in Atari, said Col (retd) Hardeep Singh of Attari village, which has a 3500 voters. The same was the case in Chabbal, Modey, Dhanoe Kalan , Rajatal, Dauke, Bhani Rajputana, Galluwal villages that dotted the border in the Tarn Taran constituency. A sizable number of persons found their names missing in the voters list. Villagers showed their previous voters slips during Assembly elections two years back and also their Identity cards but to no avail.

Others found their names and addresses changed thus making them ineligible for voting.

In many villages the voters had never seen the candidates who they were voting for, except on the posters that were pasted on walls. Harbans Singh (80) of Bagari village said they had never seen many candidates and farmers' conditions remained the same. “Pension never reaches us and roads and other civic amenities never improve,” he added. Farmers were reeling under debts.


Bank staff federation backs Cong, Leftists
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
The Punjab Bank Employees Federation ( PBEF) today gave a call to defeat the candidates put up by National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the Lok Sabha elections in this region.

Mr N.K. Gaur, general secretary of the federation, said that the NDA government headed by Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had gone all out to frame policies against the public sector banks. It proposed to reduce the government equity from 51 to 33 per cent in the nationalised banks.

Mr Gaur said that the former Union Finance Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, had said that if the Congress came to power it would not go for the privatisation of the nationalised banks. The same view was of the Left parties, he added. Keeping in view the assurance given by Dr Manmohan Singh and the Left parties, bank employees should vote for candidates put up by Left parties and the Congress in Punjab.

Mr Gaur, who is also joint general secretary of the All-India Bank Employees Association, said that the NDA alliance had not yet made it clear that what policy it would adopt for the public sector banks in future. That meant the NDA was sticking to its old policy regarding the reduction in equity in banks. It would be in the interest of the public sector banking industry to defeat the NDA”, he added.

Mr Vijay Sharma, zonal secretary of the federation, also supported what Mr Gaur stated.


Defeat SAD, appeals Sadhu-Sant Samaj
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 9
All the India Sadhu-Sant Samaj has urged heads of various religious organisations to join hands to defeat candidates of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

In a joint statement Samaj President Gurbhajan Singh Sanyasi and general secretary Harvinder Singh Bhatti said that Mr Badal had caused incalculable damage to Panthic organisations and candidates of his should be defeated.

Mr Sanyasi said that he had approached heads of various ‘deras’ in the Malwa, the Doaba and the Majha regions and had asked them to work against SAD candidates as Mr Badal had used police force against certain sants during his tenure as Chief Minister.

“I have also addressed election rallies against candidates of the SAD BJP combine in the state”, Mr Sanyasi said. Mr Badal had been using the name of the Panth to remain in power but had done nothing for it, he added. He criticised Mr Badal for ignoring demands such as transfer of Chandigarh, and Punjabi speaking areas after exploiting sentiments of Akali workers for several years.

The Panth had been divided because of the destructive politics’ of Mr Badal, he claimed. This has affected the development of the Sikh community as a whole, he added.

Mr Sanyasi alleged that because of Mr Badal certain senior leaders like Mr Harpreet Singh of the Peshawari and Kabli communities had started working against SAD candidates.


Alert on Indo-Pak border for polling

Attari (Amritsar), May 9
The BSF and the Customs Department have been put on alert here in view of the final phase of the Lok Sabha elections tomorrow, official sources said today.

Personnel of the BSF and the Customs are keeping a strict vigil along the Indo-Pak border to check any sabotage and infiltration, the sources said adding that the job of the BSF had become tougher as the bi-weekly Samjhauta Express would be coming to India from Lahore on Monday at 12.30 pm.

BSF DIG Hemant Prohit said, “In view of Parliamentary election the security on the entire Indo-Pak border has been reviewed and all BSF battalions deployed on the international border have been asked to remain alert to sabotage any bid of infiltration from Pakistani side”.

Expressing satisfaction over the security arrangements, Mr Prohit said, “Sufficient forces of the BSF have been deployed on all sensitive and vulnerable points on the Indo-Pak border while the entire fencing on the border has also been checked and found satisfactory”.

“The Samjhauta Express will reach from the Lahore Railway station to Wagah at 12.30 pm. But on reaching the Indian territory the train would be guarded by the mounted force of the BSF till it reaches at the Attari Railway station,” he added.

Mr Prohit said, “Staff of the Customs and the Immigration will also embark on the train from zero line to the Attari railway station to overview the security aspects and to keep an eye on suspicious people”. — PTI


Poll parties sent to Amloh, Bassi Pathana constituencies
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh, May 9
All polling parties accompanied by security forces were sent to their respective polling stations today. Before dispatching the parties to their destinations Mr S.K.Ahluwalia, Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer addressed the polling staff at Mandi Gobindgarh town, deputed for Amloh Assembly constituency and at Bassi Pathana town for Sirhind Assembly constituency.

In his address, Mr Ahluwalia asked the polling staff to remain neutral. He warned that action would be taken in case he got any complaint against any staff member and found to be genuine. He asked the staff neither to indulge in any malpractices nor to accept any hospitality from any candidate. He said all arrangements for their board and lodging and transportation had been made and even the polling staff, which had come from the adjoining districts would be provided all facilities and the arrangements for their transportation back to their places after poll had been made.

He said for Amloh Assembly constituency the SDM, Mr Sandeep Hans, had been deputed as the Assistant Returning Officer, where as for Sirhind Assembly constituency Mr Darshan Singh Sandhu had been appointed the Assistant Returning Officer.

He said 3,03,582 voters, including 908 service voters, would cast their votes and 308 polling stations had been set up for both the constituencies of the district, out of which 73 had been identified, as sensitive. As many as 162 polling parties had been deputed for Amloh and 146 for Sirhind Assembly constituency and 10 per cent electoral staff had been kept as reserve, he said.


Indra Colony residents to boycott poll
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 9
Resident of Indra Colony have decided to boycott the elections tomorrow in view of the complete lack of civic amenities in the areas.

The colony situated in the outskirts of the city on the Chabhal road has been neglected by the Municipal Corporation and other agencies. Even basic amenities like sanitation, water supply and sewerage system have not been provided much to the chargin of the residents of the area. So they have decided not to cast their votes so as to protest against on their pathetic living conditions. Leaders of both the Congress and the BJP though made many rounds of the colony with a promise to give them better civic amenities after the elections were over.

But this effort by candidates had not cut any ice with the residents who said that till the condition of the area did not improve they would not vote.


TV star canvasses for Channi
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 9
Lust for power, easy money and status in society have attracted youth particularly anti-social elements to politics due to which criminalisation of Indian politics had become common these days. These views were expressed by Girjashanker, a film and TV star, who acted as Dharitrashtra of Mahabharata TV serial, here yesterday. He was here to campaign for Mr Charanjit Singh Channi, former Congress MP, now contesting as BSP candidate from Hoshiarpur constituency. He said that undesirable elements dominating in almost all political parties. Honest and dedicated leaders either had been sidelined or compelled to leave politics. He pointed out that criminal elements were also dominating social and religious fields.

He appealed to the voters to elect the candidates known for honesty and dedication irrespective of the party, caste and creed. He said that Mr Charanjit Singh Channi was known for honesty and development works.


Veteran soldiers support Dullo
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
The Mohali-based All-India Veterans Core Group has decided to support Congress candidate from Ropar Shamsher Singh Dullo.

In a statement issued here today, the group president, Brig H.S. Ghuman (retd), said that the decision was based on the individual's capabilities and the attitude of the party towards soldiers and veterans.

Brigadier Ghuman said that unlike other parties, the Congress did not mix religion with politics and also supported the soldiers' demands for the voting right at their place of posting.


Cop on poll duty dies
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 9
Head Constable Daljit Singh, of Amritsar Police, who came here on May 5 for election duty died at the Civil Hospital here today. Daljit Singh was posted for election duty at Garhdiwala Khalsa College . He with other members of polling party were at Indoor stadium here to collect election material. He consumed tea at 11 a.m. and soon after fell down. He was declared dead at hospital. He belonged to Sikar Masian village of Gurdaspur district.

Mr Kirandeep Singh Bhullar, Deputy Commissioner here said that an ex-gratia grant of Rs. 10,000/- had been given from the District Red Cross Society, Hoshiarpur to the family of the deceased.


Sodhi denies kidnapping charge
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 9
Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, political secretary to Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, here today refuted the allegation levelled by Mr Avtar Singh Karimpuri, Punjab unit BSP chief, that the Congress had “kidnapped” Mr Mangat Rai Bansal, the BSP candidate from the Sangrur parliamentary constituency.

Talking to mediapersons, Rana Sodhi said the allegation was totally “baseless” and “untrue”. He said according to Mr Bansal, he had withdrawn from the contest as his party was not cooperating with him in the election not due to any other reason.

Mr Sodhi also claimed that due to rift in the Dhindsa and Barnala factions of the Shiromani Akali Dal, some activists of the Barnala faction were in touch with Congress leaders and they were extending support to the Congress candidate Arvind Khanna.


Sikh council to support SAD
Our Correspondent

Patiala, May 9
The World Sikh Intellectual Council has decided to support the SAD nominee from the Sangrur constituency, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa. This was stated by the president of the council, Mr Baldev Singh Balluana, here today.

Mr Balluana further said it was clear from the exit poll that the Vajpayee government would again come in power with a thumping majority. As such the council appealed the Sangrur residents to vote and support Mr Dhindsa so that the area could benefit under his leadership.

He also appealed to the Sikh voters of Chandigarh to vote in favour of the BJP candidate, Mr Satya Pal Jain.


SAD activist held for luring electorate
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, May 9
The Faridkot police today arrested Mr Harjit Singh Bholluwala, senior SAD leader and former Chairman of the Market Committee Faridkot, for allegedly luring voters at Bholluwala village 5km from here.

A case was registered against him but he was released on bail. Mr Paramjit Singh Sarao, DIG, Faridkot, said that 32 cases of liquor had also been seized from a marriage palace in Kot Kapura stored by a senior SAD leader to lure the electorate.


Special poll observers
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, May 9
The Election Commission has appointed four Special Election Observers for the Ferozepore parliamentary constituency. Mr Ram Singh from Kerala, Mr Pradeep Yadav from Chennai, Mr Vijay Kumar from Andhra Pradesh and Mr Supriya Kar from West Bengal have been appointed Special Observers to oversee polling in this border constituency.

The EC has declared Ferozepore constituency as highly sensitive apprehending violence on the polling day paramilitary forces have already been deployed here.


Neglect of Punjab farmers worries M.S. Gill
Wants special bus service for Nankana Sahib
Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, May 9
Former Chief Election Commissioner of India M.S. Gill, whose heart beats for Punjab and people of the border belt, has expressed serious concern over galloping unemployment which he felt was threatening the socio-economic fibre of Punjab, especially its countryside.

Talking to The Tribune he said the government would have to prepare a comprehensive and long-term action plan to provide youth with a meaningful livelihood. He laid special emphasis on vocational education and job-oriented courses, so that the youth of Punjab could be absorbed in industry in the state.

He said the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement would have a tremendous impact on agriculture and the small-scale industry. He felt that Indian small and marginal farmers would not be able to cope with the onslaught of cheap grains coming from the USA, Canada, Australia and other developed countries where agriculture holdings were very large. He called for use of highly sophisticated agriculture technology to meet the global foodgrain challenge.

Dr Gill said during his tenure as Development Commissioner from 1982 to 1987 he had prepared a special agriculture diversification plan to force the farmers from breaking the two crop-wheat and paddy-pattern but the casual approach of the politicians at that time had spelt doom for hardy Punjab farmers. He said the recent approval by the Planning Commission to provide Rs 5500 per acre compensation for crop diversification in Punjab was too late. He said the Centre had always been neglecting the needs of Punjab — granary of the country.

The present state of agriculture, which he described as at the crossroads, required a revolutionary approach as the government had decided to drop the PDS and dismantle procurement agencies. This would further put pressure on the farming community because of lack of modern marketing expertise and new sophisticated agriculture technology.

The recently nominated Congress Rajya Sabha MP said the Centre had once again denied Punjab special economic package offered to Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal. He said the industry here required the upgradation of technology.

Mr Gill said he was instrumental in bringing in two international professional institutes, including the Central Institute of Plastic Engineering and Technology, which was established in Amritsar in 1996, and the National Institute of Pharmaceuticals at Mohali. He was hopeful that Punjab would benefit from these institutes. But to his dismay the people did not take proper advantage of the skilled professionals who passed out from these institutes.

Deeply annoyed at the step motherly treatment given by the Central governments by not lifting “the disturbed state” label from Punjab in spite of it being the most peaceful state in the country, he said this label had already cost Punjab dearly as the government had denied the running of bus service from Amritsar to Lahore and back. Instead it preferred to allow service from Delhi to Lahore. “One cannot imagine this gross injustice to Amritsar,” he added.

Dr Gill said he would raise these issues in Parliament and would impress upon the government to allow special bus service for Sikh pilgrims to visit the gurdwaras in Nankana Sahib and other shrines in Pakistan. He questioned the wisdom of the government in providing Rs 200 crore for Muslim pilgrims visiting Mecca and even allowing special flights for Haj pilgrims. He said the government must take steps to allow Sikh pilgrims to pay obeisance at the historic Gurdwara Kartarpur near Dera Baba Nanak by constructing a protective passage as offered by Pakistan. He resented the dithering on the part of the Central Government not giving permission to Sikhs to visit Pakistan at their will.

Talking about his dream he wanted to empower the panchayats to take care of schools and primary health centres in villages on the basis of the Kerala model. He said the education system in the villages had totally collapsed allowing thousands of youths to go astray and take to drugs which was a serious problem in the border villages.


PSHRC summons DSP in theft case
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 9
While deciding to inquire into a theft case on its own, the Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) has summoned a Punjab police DSP, Mr Kamaljit Singh, with the file relating to the theft case registered on February 3, 2003, last year.

Mr B.C. Rajput, member, PSHRC, in his two-page order, said Dr Jaspal Singh Aujla, in his complaint addressed to the commission, alleged that on the intervening night of February 2, 2003, a theft took place in the house of his sister at Garha village in Phillaur.

The complainant further alleged that the investigating officers namely Tarlochan Singh, Kashmira Singh, both Sub-Inspectors, and Darshanjit Singh Dhindsa, SP, tried to shield the accused since they were the close relatives of Gurdev Singh, an ASI. The theft amount of Rs 8 to 9 lakh was allegedly embezzled by the local police under the blessings of DSP Phillaur Mr Kamaljit Singh Dhillon and Mr Kulshinder Singh, SP, he alleged.

After taking the cognisance of the report, the commission called for the information report from the SSP, Jalandhar, with regard to the action taken on the complaint of Dr Jaspal Singh Aujla. Though the order was passed on October 21, 2003, but authorities concerned did not send any report to the commission. Mr Rajput further said while exercising the powers under Section 17 (i) (A) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, it was decided to proceed to inquire into the complaint of Dr Jaspal Singh Aujla by the commission on its own.

Subsequently, Kamaljit Singh, DSP, was ordered to be summoned along-with the investigation file relating to the case and the SSP, Jalandhar, along-with the inquiry file as witnesses. The commission ordered that summons be served on both officers through the Inspector General of Police (Litigation). The next date of hearing has been fixed for June 24.


Panel to probe theft in Golden Temple serai
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 9
Mr Alwinder Pal Singh Pakhoke, officiating SGPC president, has set up a five-member inquiry committee to probe the theft committed in Guru Arjun Dev Niwas in the Golden Temple complex on Friday. A bag containing cash, jewellery and vital documents of some NRIs was stolen from a room of the sarai.

Expressing regret over the incident, he said the committee would present its report within a week and efforts were being made to prevent any such attempt in future. He said any negligence of SGPC employees would not be tolerated. He, however, clarified that the NRIs concerned were not relatives of a former SGPC chief, Prof Kirapl Singh Badungar. He said they had informed him of the incident and the latter had then called up the manager of Darbar Sahib, Mr Major Singh.

Mr Pakhoke said the suspicion was on the person occupying the adjoining room of the NRIs as he had not taken the balance and left without informing caretakers of the sarai.


3 die due to diarrhoea

Faridkot, May 9
Three persons, including two women, died and around 100 were taken ill due to the outbreak of diarrhoea in a Dalit locality in this district.

Official sources today said the outbreak occurred due to contaminated water supply on Friday. While one deceased, a youth, is yet to be identified, two others were identified as Durga Devi of Sukhchainpura and Gurdial Kaur, 50, of Surdhuri in the Jaitu area of the district.

Around 100 persons were admitted to the Civil Hospital and private clinics with symptoms of the disease which affected three Dalit localities of Himatpura, Sukhchainpura and Valmiki Colony, they informed.

Deputy Commissioner Hussan Lal visited the Civil Hospital and enquired about the health of those affected by the disease. He also directed the District Health Officers to constitute five teams, headed by a doctor each, to conduct house-to-house survey to assess the situation and exact number of affected people. — UNI


Protest against turban ban
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 9
The Sikh Nations Organisation, an NGO formed to promote Sikh culture, on Friday staged a demonstration at the Shaheed Subedar Nand Singh chowk here in protest against the ban imposed by the French government on wearing of turbans by Sikh students in public shcools.

Dr Manjit Singh Randhawa, its president, said the ban was a violation of the human rights. He said the organisation had approached the United Nations to seek redressal of its grievances.

Dr Randhawa claimed that a large number of NGOs and volunteers had joined them in their fight for the promotion of the Sikh culture and to protest against the ban.

The protesters urged the Sikhs to wear saffron coloured turbans every Thursday to focus the attention of the international community on this issue.


Wadali brothers perform at Railway club
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, May 9
The Northern Railways Women Welfare Organisation (NRWWO) organised a musical evening, “Sur Sangam” at Railway Officers Club here yesterday evening. Mrs Anubha Jaruhar, President, NRWWO presided over the programme.

Punjabi folk singers, Wadali brothers, regaled the audience with their performance. Their number, “Tu mane ya na mane dildara , aisa taan tainu rab manaya” drew applause.

Ms Navjot Noor, TV anchor, conducted the stage. Mrs Kanwaljit Mahrok said that the funds collected through the function would be spent on the welfare of the families of the Railway staff and officials.

Dr (Mrs) Yamini Singh highlighted welfare activities done by the organisation.

She also announced financial help for the organisation.

Earlier, Mr Rajiv Ranjan Jaruhar, GM Northern Railway, inaugurated the newly constructed ICU room in the Railway Hospital, Ferozepore. He also inaugurated the new waiting hall at the Railway Reservation Centre here. Mr Jaruhar also inspected the Railway Station. He was accompanied by Mr Dharam Singh DRM, Ferozepore Division.


Bank takes possession of tractors
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 9
Mr Gurmukh Singh, AGM, State Bank of India (ADB), Tangra branch, said the bank had taken over the possession of tractors of four persons for not repaying the debt of Rs 11.65 lakh. These persons have been identified as Mr Karnail Singh of Mari Buchian village, Gurdaspur, Mr Sarbool Singh of Lolla village and Mr Dalbir Singh and Ms Paro, wife of Banta Singh of Dehriwal village.

Mr Gurmukh Singh said the bank had served 60 days notice to the borrowers.


Govt agencies procure 94 lakh tonnes of wheat
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, May 9
Official agencies so far have purchased 94 lakh tonnes of wheat from Punjab mandis. Procurement last year was 90 lakh tonnes. Officials of the state’s Food Supplies Department expect total procurement may touch 95 lakh tonnes as arrival of wheat in mandis has decreased. Arrival of wheat in mandis this year started early compared to the last year as there was sudden rise in temperature in March which matured grain early.

Rise of temperature in March with no rain also resulted in the fall in average yield of wheat in the state. Farmers have suffered a loss of wheat from three quintals to five quintals per acre this year. The state’s Agriculture Department had estimated that wheat production would touch 154 lakh tonnes and the Food Supplies Department was ready to procure more than 100 lakh tonnes. The target may not be achieved.

Traders were also expected to purchase more wheat from mandis this year as the Central Government has allowed them make direct export of it after buying wheat from the market. But this also could not happen as the Centre had promised a subsidy on the export of wheat to the traders but with the announcement of elections and model code of conduct, Government could not announce subsidy on wheat’s export.

Traders in Punjab purchased 2.30 lakh tonnes of wheat this year. Mr Raj Kumar Sood, a wheat exporter of Khanna said that there was demand for wheat from Gulf countries and south Africa and Bangladesh but they could not buy same as the Government had not given subsidy. Last year good quantity of wheat was exported from India. The Government had provided wheat to them at a cheaper rate of Rs 4250 per tonne from the government pool. This year, wheat exporters sought freight subsidy of Rs 700 per tonne. Mr Sood disclosed that wheat price in the international market had also risen this year to $ 175 US against $ 135 per tonne of last year. Moreover, the dollar is losing value day by day and they could not take risk in the absence of Government help. According to Mr Sood, traders in UP have purchased wheat for export from markets in UP.

In Punjab mandis there was no distress sale of wheat. Farmers in Punjab have not faced any problem of distress sale of wheat, paddy and also of cotton in the past two years, an achievement of the present Punjab Government.


Ex-DGP’s son booked for kidnapping
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, May 9
The police has registered a case against Congress leader Kuldeep Bhullar, son of former Punjab DGP, Mr M.S. Bhullar, for allegedly kidnapping a former Akali sarpanch.

According to information, Mr Bhullar along with some others kidnapped Mr Baltej Singh, former sarpanch of Longodewa village, while he was standing in front of the election office of Mr Zora Singh Mann, SAD candidate, last evening.

Akali workers, including Mr Mann and Mr Hari Singh Zira, MLA, lodged a complaint with the police and held a dharna outside the police station.

The police has registered a case under Section 365, IPC against Mr Bhullar, Mr Bhag Singh Dhandia, Mr Swarnjit Singh and security guards of Mr Bhullar for kidnapping and illegal detention of Mr Baltej Singh. The police rescued him from their custody and arrested one of them. The others, including Mr Bhullar, are reportedly absconding.

Kunwar Vijay Pratap, SSP said Mr Bhullar could be arrested anytime. He said keeping in view the influx of election-related complaints and apprehension of violence and booth-rigging on the polling day, the police had made foolproof security arrangements. He said on the directions of the Election Commission, companies of the paramilitary forces had been deployed.


Petrol station owner looted, 1 killed
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, May 9
An amount of Rs 4 lakh was allegedly looted and one person shot dead at Sioda village near here. The incident took place last night when the owner of a petrol pump at Sioda village, Harvinder Singh and his employee, Sukhjeevan Singh were returning in the car to their house at Jhanner village.

According to information, Harvinder Singh and Sukhjeevan Singh were stopped by four persons near the level-crossing at Jitwal Kalan village. They demanded the bag containing the cash. When Sukhjeevan resisted, one of the robbers fired at him, killing him on the spot. After this the robbers snatched bag containing the cash and fled towards Ludhiana.

The police has registered a case in this regard. The body of Sukhjeevan Singh has been sent for a post-mortem at the local Civil Hospital.

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