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Monday, August 2, 1999
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SAD abandons Gujral
Fields Darbara’s widow from Jalandhar

JALANDHAR, Aug 1 (UNI) — Union Minister of State for Industry Sukhbir Singh Badal was among the four Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) nominees whose candidature for the coming Lok Sabha poll was announced today. The official nominees were declared by SAD President and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal at a press conference here.

While Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal son of the Chief Minister has been renominated from the family’s traditional Faridkot constituency from where he was elected twice to the eleventh and 12th Lok Sabha in 1996 and 1998, Mrs Prabhjot Kaur, widow of Rajasthan Governor Darbara Singh, Mr Tarlochan Singh Tur and Mr Chatin Singh Samaon have been nominated from Jalandhar, Tarn Taran and Bathinda (Reserve), respectively.

The three seats of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur have been allotted to its partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). State President Daya Singh Sodhi had stated earlier that cinestar-turned-politician Vinod Khanna, Mr Kamal Choudhary and he himself would be renominated from Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur and Amritsar, respectively.

The renomination of three BJP candidates, who were members of the 12th Lok Sabha, is likely to be formally announced by the party tomorrow at Delhi, the BJP sources here said.

Earlier, the SAD had announced the candidatures of Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Surjit Singh Barnala from Sangrur, Mr Amrik Singh Aliwal from Ludhiana, Ms Satwinder Kaur Dhaliwal from Ropar, Mr Jora Singh Maan from Ferozepore and Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra from Patiala.

The Bahujan Samaj Morcha state President Satnam Singh Kainth will be the joint candidate of the ruling Akali-BJP combine from Phillaur (Reserve).

The Congress, the main rival of the ruling combine, has yet to release the list of its candidates for Punjab. Barring Mrs Prabhjot Kaur from Jalandhar and Mr Rakhra from Patiala, all remaining seven candidates of the SAD and Mr Kainth were members of the dissolved Lok Sabha.

Jalandhar was represented by former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, while Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra represented Patiala in the last Lok Sabha. Since Mr Chandumajra, a Tohra loyalist, had parted company with the ruling party and joined the All-India Shiromani Akali Dal (AISAD) floated by Mr Tohra.

Mr Gujral was abandoned by SAD in favour of its own candidate, allegedly under pressure from the BJP which did not want a former Prime Minister and that, too, belonging to a Janata Dal faction in the ranks of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) directly or indirectly.

"There was no pressure from the BJP to deny support to the candidature of Gujral (from Jalandhar), it is (nomination of Mrs Prabhjot Kaur is our (SAD) decision’’, Mr Badal explained.

He further clarified that "neither the BJP tried to influence the selection of Akali candidates nor we tried to influence the choice of BJP candidates’’.

Asked if he would appeal to Mr Gujral not to contest from Jalandhar and reciprocate the gesture of Akalis’ support to him in the last elections by lending his support to the Akali candidate particularly when Mr Darbara Singh had voluntarily relinquished his claim on Jalandhar in favour of Mr Gujral after having won the seat as the Akali candidate in 1996, Mr Badal quipped: "I cannot appeal to him (Gujral) but we still respect Gujral. He is a great man".

Asked how the SAD would now oppose Mr Gujral in the elections after having ensured a big victory for him last year, the Chief Minister quipped: "Mr Gujral has yet to announce his candidature".

Janata Dal National Council member Om Parkash Khemkarny had announced the candidature of Mr Gujral from Jalandhar on Friday night. But it is now learnt that Mr Khemkarny was admonished for the "premature announcement" by a Gujral loyalist.

The Chief Minister said Mr Vajpayee versus Mrs Sonia, scam-tainted Congress versus scandal-free and communal riot-free Vajpayee government and the Kargil military and diplomatic victory would be the poll issues.

The ruling combine would also focus on Mr Vajpayee’s experience and Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s complete lack of it as also the issue of her foreign birth during the campaign.

Mr Badal said all Congress governments since Independence, except that of Lal Bahadur Shastri, were mired in one or the other scandal.

He replied in the affirmative when asked if the Nehru government, too, was corrupt, adding that the jeep scandal happened during his tenure.

The Akali leader said while India lost both on the battle and diplomatic front during the Sino-Indian war in 1962, the nation under the able leadership of Mr Vajpayee had scored both military and diplomatic victory on the Kargil issue.

Mr Badal said though he did not believe in mudslinging, the fact was that Mrs Sonia Gandhi had no administrative experience to govern a complex nation. Even IAS officers were made to train with patwaris after selection, but Mrs Sonia Gandhi was aspiring straight for the office of Prime Minister without any experience.

"If Sonia Gandhi becomes the Prime Minister, it will be immensely harmful for the nation", he said.

Mr Badal said the participation of the AISAD led by Mr Tohra would only benefit the Congress.

The Chief Minister said he was of the personal opinion that Sikh High Priests, whether serving or former, should not campaign, when asked to comment on Bhai Ranjit Singh’s announcement that he would canvass for the candidates of the AISAD.

However, he defended SGPC President Jagir Kaur’s decision to campaign. It was the Akali Dal which selected candidates for the SGPC. Hence the "Sikh Parliament" was organically linked with the SAD.

Bhai Ranjit Singh would not be the first High Priest to campaign because Jathedar Mohan Singh Tur and Giani Bhupinder Singh, who had also served as Jathedar of the Akal Takht, have campaigned for the Akali candidates in the past.

Claiming that the financial crunch was not confined to Punjab alone, Mr Badal said other states in the country faced similar hardship.

However, he attributed the difficulties in Punjab to the additional outgo of Rs 1200 crore per year to employees after wage revision as well as inadequate recovery of taxes.

The Chief Minister maintained that the exchequer suffered a revenue loss of Rs 300 crore on account of free power supply to the agriculture sector and not Rs 1000 crore as claimed in certain quarters.


Indira feared coup from ‘Sam’

NEW DELHI, Aug 1 (PTI) — Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw has made a startling disclosure that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was apprehensive in 1970 that he was trying to stage a coup and take over from her.

The 85-year-old former Army chief told Karan Thapar in "Face-to-Face" programme on BBC television that Ms Gandhi’s stock politically was very low in 1970 and that he couldn’t go to cocktail parties as he was always being questioned about a possibility of his taking over the reins of power.

Even a US diplomat had asked him at a party, "When are you taking over", he remembered when queried if stories that he was going to take over were true.

He said one day a worried Ms Gandhi asked him to come to Parliament House and "looked me straight into my eyes and said you are my problem".

Shaken up, Field Marshal Manekshaw, the hero of the 1971 Indo-Pak conflict, said "I put my nose next to hers and said what do you think?"

"She said you can’t. Do you think I am so incompetent (Manekshaw replied). I didn’t mean that Sam. You woundn’t," he recalled Ms Gandhi as having argued.

The former Army chief said he related a "little jingle" to the Prime Minister that "you mind your own business and I"ll mind mine. You kiss your own sweetheart and I’ll kiss mine. I don’t interfere politically as long as nobody interferes with me in the Army".

Asked if that set her fears at rest, he said, "that’s right".

Field Marshal Manekshaw said it was after the 1971 conflict that Ms Gandhi elevated him to the rank of Field Marshal but did not offer him the job of Chief of Defence Staff to go with it. But she did offer him the post of High Commissioner in the UK and the office of Maharashtra Governor, both of which he declined, he said.

Asked about setbacks during the war in which he had brought Pakistan down to its knees in 13 days, he said on the fifth day of the conflict he told Ms Gandhi that "everything had gone wrong. The Navy lost the Khukri. The Air Force lost a lot of aircraft on the ground. My advances in Bangladesh were halted".

"She looked at me and smiled and said you can’t win everyday, Sam. And then she turned around and said anyway we will not tell anybody ... Let everybody know that nothing has happened".

On his equation with Ms Gandhi, he said, "Well, she and I got on well. She trusted me and I trusted her. I never kept anything back from her and she never kept anything back from me".

He said he chose December 4, 1971, to launch the offensive against Pakistan as four was his lucky number.

Asked as to what extent did he win in Bangladesh, Field Manekshaw said "Pakistan Army in East Pakistan fought very gallantly. But they had no chance. They were a thousand miles away from their base. And I had eight or nine months to make my preparations. I had a superiority of almost 50 to one...".

He said it was true that he had written a personal letter to Pakistani Captain S.R. Malik for defending his garrison in Kamalpur in Bangladesh "stoutly" despite "hard" Indian attempts to capture it. "We did not succeed until about the third attempt....", he revealed.

The former chief said he had even recommended Captain Malik’s name for a gallantry award to the Pakistani Army Chief during his (Manekshaw’s) visit to that country later.

To a question why he did not migrate to Pakistan as he belonged to the Frontier Force Regiment, he recalled that Mohammad Ali Jinnah "did ask me. But I said I have finished commanding. I am now an Indian, I have married an Indian girl and now I am here".

Asked what would have happened if he had gone to Pakistan, the Field Marshal said in a lighter vein "I should have won the war....I would have thrashed you".

Referring to his days in the 1930s during World War II "Burma campaign", he said "the Japanese had put nine bullets into my stomach. My lungs, liver, kidneys, intestines — everything was perforated. Nobody thought I would live".

In the early 1960s, he said the then Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon did not like him and "did everything to get me out of the Army" including ordering a court of inquiry against him.

He said when he first met Menon, he asked him what did he think of then Army Chief Gen K.S. Thimayya.

"I was a Major-General. I said I am not allowed to think about him. He is my Commander-in-Chief. Menon said I can get rid of him (Thimayya) tomorrow.

"I in my breezy way said good. Today you are asking me as a Major-General what I think of my chief. Tomorrow you will be asking Brigadiers and Colonels what do they think of me. It is the surest way of ruining discipline. Don’t do it, Mr Minister," he said.

Field Marshal Manekshaw said he was exonerated by the court of inquiry comprising three Generals but denied promotion for 18 months.

"Then the Chinese came to my help. Krishna Menon was sacked...," he added.

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