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Nominations come to close
313 papers filed in Punjab, Haryana

CHANDIGARH, Aug 18 — The process of filing of nomination papers for the Lok Sabha elections was completed today in Punjab for all 13 seats. As many as 171 nominations were filed with the respective returning officers, according to reports reaching the state election office here.

In Haryana 142 filed their poll papers.

There were 147 nominations filed in Punjab in the 1998 elections, out of whom 18 were women candidates. After the last date of withdrawal and following rejection of certain nominations, the number of candidates left in the fray was 102 out of whom nine were women candidates.

As per the information received here the maximum nominations — 21 each - have been filed in Ferozepore and Jalandhar. The nominations in respect of other constituencies are as follows: Faridkot (18), Hoshiarpur (14), Gurdaspur (7), Amritsar (9), Tarn Taran (8), Ropar — reserved (10), Ludhiana (17), Patiala (17), Bathinda — reserved (10), Sangrur (9), and Phillaur — reserved (10).

The scrutiny will be done tomorrow. The last date of withdrawal of papers is August 21. The polling takes place on Sept 5.

In the arena are candidates of the two main political parties — the Congress and its allies and the SAD-BJP, which is supporting the Bahujan Samaj Morcha in Phillaur.

The other conglomeration is of the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal of Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, in alliance with the BSP of Mr Kanshi Ram and several factions of the SAD.

Former Members of Parliament Amrik Singh Aliwal, Tarlochan Singh and Chetan Singh Sumao (all SAD) candidates who filed nominations on the concluding day.

Mr Aliwal filed his papers for Ludhiana , Mr Tarlochan Singh for the Tarn Taran and Mr Sumao for the Bathinda (reserved) constituencies.

Mr Kehar Singh of the SAD filed his paper for the Bathinda seat as covering candidate of Mr Sumao and Mrs Balwant Kaur, wife of Mr Aliwal, filed her papers as covering for the Ludhiana seat.

On the last day of filing the nomination papers as many as 84 candidates today filed their papers for the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana.

A total of 142 candidates have filed their nomination papers.

Former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, Haryana Congress President Bhupinder Singh Hooda and industrialist-turned-politician Om Prakash Jindal were among those who filed their nomination papers today.

Haryana is among the states which will go to the polls in the first phase on September 5. The scrutiny of papers will be held tomorrow and the last date for withdrawal is August 21.

Mr Bhajan Lal and Mr Hooda, members of the dissolved Lok Sabha, are seeking re-election from Karnal and Rohtak respectively. Mr Jindal, who lost in 1998 as the Haryana Vikas Party nominee from Kurukshetra, is again trying his luck from the land of the Mahabharata.

Prominent among others who filed their papers today were, former Haryana Minister Phool Chand Mulana from Ambala (SC).

Bhiwani, from where Haryana Vikas Party General Secretary Surinder Singh, son of former Chief Minister Bansi Lal is seeking reelection attracted the largest number of 22 nomination papers.

For the Sonepat seat only one candidate of the Nationalist Congress Party filed his papers today. Most of those who filed papers were Independents.

The 1996 poll had attracted 500 nominations. But after scrutiny and withdrawals 294 candidates were left in the fray.

The then ruling Haryana Vikas Party BJP alliance had bagged three and four seats, respectively, while the Congress had to remain content with two. The remaining one seat went to an Independent.

During the 1998 Lok Sabha poll, 197 candidates had filed their papers for the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana. However, after scrutiny and withdrawals, 140 were left in the field.

The Indian National Lok Dal led by Mr Om Prakash Chautala had bagged four seats and the Congress three. The remaining three seats were shared by the HVP, the BJP and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

The Congress is contesting all 10 seats and the newly formed ruling INLD BJP alliance five each.

All 10 members of the dissolved Lok Sabha from Haryana have joined the fray.


Local sentiments dominate
Uttarakhand may spring surprise

LUCKNOW, Aug 18 (UNI) — Uttarakhand, the hill region of Uttar Pradesh, always a happy hunting ground for the BJP, may spring a surprise this time in the Lok Sabha elections.

Past election records reveal that more than 4.5 million voters had never been swayed by national issues or conventions. Instead, local sentiments and personal preferences had guided the results of the four seats in the area.

The BJP, which remained supreme in this region during the last Lok Sabha elections, may find the going tough this time owing to renewed demand of separate statehood for Uttarakhand and the opposition to the construction of the Tehri dam, political observers said.

All four seats, namely Tehri Garhwal, Garhwal, Almora and Nainital, were won by the BJP quite comfortably in 1998. It also has the distinction of representing 18 of the 20 assembly seats. Only the Chakrata seat in Tehri Garhwal had been won by Mr Munna Chauhan of the Samajwadi Party and the Kashipur assembly seat in the Nainital constituency by Mr K.C. Baba of the Congress.

In the 1998 elections, Mr Manvendra Shah from Tehri, Mr Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri from Garhwal, Mr Bacchi Singh Rawat from Almora and Mrs Ila Pant from Nainital had won for the BJP.

Such was the dominance of the BJP over its rivals in Tehri, Garhwal and Almora that the BJP candidates had polled more votes than the combined votes of their opponents, comprising the Congress, the BSP and the Samajwadi Party candidates.

The BJP candidate met with some resistance only at the Nainital seat where veteran Congress leader N.D. Tiwari had given a tough fight to Mrs Pant, who eventually won by a margin of over 15,000 votes.

This time, the BJP leadership had retained all three candidates in Tehri, Garhwal and Almora but dropped Mrs Pant in Nainital to field Mr Baldev Pasi, who had earlier contested in 1996.

The BJP had lost some ground to the Congress (Tiwari) in 1996 when Mr N.D. Tiwari and Mr Satpal Maharaj, who became a minister in the United Front government won the Nainital and Pauri Garhwal seats, respectively. Barring these two defeats, the BJP continued to maintain its winning ways during the past three elections.

The Samajwadi Party, the BSP and others could never make a dent in this BJP citadel.

Separate statehood for Uttarakhand was the issue which had always played a major role in the elections. Whichever party supported the cause of separate statehood to hill region had always received the full backing of the hill people.

But now the scene is different as the BJP, despite having been in power both at the Centre and the state, was unable to push through statehood for Uttarakhand.

Even before the elections were announced, the Uttarakhand Sangharsh Samiti and the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal had voiced resentment over the episode.

The Uttar Pradesh Assembly had convened a special session and passed a Bill in favour of creation of separate state but it only aggravated the anger of the hill people. They felt cheated as the Bill provided maximum control to the UP Government rather than granting full autonomy to the proposed state.

The local people also perceive the relief measures for the victims of the earthquake and landslides in recent months to be inadequate. Rehabilitation of the people from the catchment area of the Tehri dam may also figure as a major issue at the hustings.

The BSP which had been on the third and fourth spots on the four seats in the past elections, has announced that it would contest all four seats this time.

The party is fielding Mr Rajiv Rawat (Tehri), Mr Chandrashekhar Bainjwal (Garhwal), Mr Gopal Ram Das (Almora) and Ms Naina Balswar Ahmad (Nainital).


Akali divisions confuse voters
Triangular contests likely
By P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Aug 18 — Akalis often claim to be the sole representatives of the Sikhs. By that self-assuming role, the Akali leadership takes upon itself the onus of articulating the aspirations of the “Sikh quam” in economic, social, political, administrative and religious fields.

If that be so or is perceived to be true then essentially the Akali politics is the Sikh politics. In this context it will be appropriate to presume that the Punjab problem (s) is also essentially a problem (perceived) of the Sikhs to which only a political solution can be applied. But so chequered has been history of the Akali politics and so confusing the ideology propagated by the Sikh leadership from time to time, particularly, after the happenings of 1984 that there seemingly is de-institutionalisation of the political parties and the government.

Thus having remained in political wilderness for a long time and often accused of being a party to the unfortunate decade of terrorism in the state, the Akalis have consciously tried to change their colour and ideology to merge into the national mainstream. It is this deliberate attempt of the “moderate” Akali leadership that despite the multiple fractures key players ultimately adopted “Punjab, Punjabis and Punjabiat” as their slogan. It conveniently pushed the contentions issues under the carpet only occasionally referring to them to provide a strident stroke to its brand of competitive politics, which eventually saw it occupy the political centrestage in Punjab in February 1997.

Since February 1997, when the SAD President, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, became the Chief Minister much has changed in Akali politics. Come September and the Dal is still wavering what to speak of making a wave which may favour it on the polling day. In between the Sikhs have celebrated the tercentenary of the birth of the Khalsa. They have also been subjected to emotional torture by the erring Sikh leadership, including the Jathedars of the sacred Takhts. In their battle to be one up joining the ‘tamasha’ were many sans and babas of deras and ‘sampardas’, making a mockery of the Sikh religio-political mix.

Besides, there has been complete parting of ways between Mr Badal and Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who has been unceremoniously ousted from the SGPC and the SAD. It was a calculated move, crafted by the powers that be and engineered to humiliate him. Now the SGPC is also under the ‘command’ of the SAD President.

As a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the BJP, Mr Badal, is in the poll arena with national issues and an agenda which pins hopes on the Central Government. Punjab, incidentally, is also one state where anti-incumbency sentiment runs strong. Yet, the SAD headed by Mr Badal seems to be ahead of its political rivals in campaigning. The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, has addressed a political rally in Ludhiana launching the poll campaign of the SAD-BJP combine.

While the SAD is contesting nine seats, it is supporting breakaway BSP leader Satnam Singh Kainth (who has formed the Bahujan Samaj Morcha) in Phillaur (reserved) and has left the three seats of Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur and Amritsar, to its coalition partner, the BJP.

For the past two months, Mr Badal is entrenched deep in the Faridkot Parliamentary constituency where from he has renominated his son Sukhbir Singh Badal for the third time.

On the other side of the scale, is the “front” under the umbrella of Mr Tohra’s Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD), which has as its constituents the BSP of Mr Kanshi Ram and SAD factions headed by individuals who have preferred to plough a lonely furrow in the Panthic field. Those groups are the SAD (Democratic) of Mr Kuldeep Singh Wadala, who is contesting from Sangrur and the SAD (Rode) of Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode, whose close relative Capt H.S. Rode is contesting from Faridkot. Mr Tohra’s protege, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, is contesting from Patiala. The SHSAD has been left with no choice but to field Mr G.S. Grewal, former Advocate-General of Punjab, from Ludhiana and support the widow of Jaswant Singh Khalra in Tarn Taran.

Besides his own pockets of influence, Mr Tohra is banking upon the Sant Samaj and former Jathedar of Akal Takht, Bhai Ranjit Singh. In the past few months the Sikh Panth has been subjected to a variety of Hukamnamas and political swings that Sikhs today are confused and divided.

Thus, the SAD perceives that its real contest is against the Congress, which according to it is the villain having usurped peace and amity in the state.

It cannot, however, totally ignore the presence of the “front” which will cause division in the Sikh votes. This makes most of the contests triangular. Afterall in an election not only every vote counts but each candidate has the potential of cutting into rival’s vote bank.


New deals, alliances struck
By Gobind Thukral
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Aug 18 — Electoral politics, now at its peak is in spin in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. Star campaigners are rushing out day in day out. Every possible avenue is being explored to strike new political deals that could take their candidates to victory stands. Nothing is untouchable, nothing sacrosanct. New deals, new alliances, are in. Old trusted friendships have been discarded and new relationships struck. The order of the day is to win.

Despite heat and the desire to win, no political party, national or regional in Punjab, Haryana or Himachal Pradesh is in a position to contest all 28 Lok Sabha seats in this region.

Take Punjab first with 13 seats. No national or regional is in position to contest all the Lok Sabha seats. The ruling Akali Dal would contest nine seats, one more than last year and leave three to the BJP and one to an Independent. It had swept all the 13 seats in the February 1998 poll.

Same way, the Congress will contest 11 seats leaving two, Bathinda to the CPI and Sangrur to the CPM. Though the Congress had an impressive tally of 25.85 per cent votes for the eight seats it contested last time, yet it drew a blank.

The newly born Akali Dal led by former SGPC chief, Gurcharan Singh Tohra has an alliance with the BSP and is contesting Patiala, Ludhiana, Batinda, Ropar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur, and Faridkot seats. It has left other seats to either the Mann Akali Dal, or to Mr Kuldip Singh Wadala or to its partner the BSP.

Why did the Congress despite polling 25.85 per cent drew a blank in the 1998 Lok Sabha poll in Punjab? Or for that matter, the Bahujan Samaj Party, which polled 12.85 per cent, more than the BJP’s 11.67 per cent also met the same fate. How come the Akali Dal with 32.93 per cent votes won all the eight seats it contested. It also helped the BSP rebel from Phillaur and Janata Dal’s Inder Kumar Gujral from Jalandhar win these two seats. With the CPI with 3.40 per cent and CPM with 1.06 per cent contesting one and three seats respectively scored zero.

The Congress now trying to reverse the trend and hoping to encash on the losing credibility of the Badal government has no clear answer to this riddle. One reason given is that the Congress had an alliance with the BSP and thus was helped to increase its poll percentage. But then why not the seats also. While there is some correlation between the total percentage and winning of the seats, but each Lok Sabha constituency offers a different political setting. So the results in the final tally vary much.

The Akali Dal and the BJP besides the two other candidates the parties helped to win and thus sweep the last Lok Sabha poll had trounced the rivals in all but 20 of the 117 Assembly segments.

In case of Haryana, the picture is no better. For 10 seats the BJP claiming to reach the Delhi throne in October has just five seats to contest courtesy, Mr Om Prakash Chautala. It had to dump Mr Bansi Lal for that and strike a new deal. It was part of the toppling game, yet in order to have a better bargain , it has not joined the government. The party had no serious contenders for any one of the seats except the one from Faridabad. It got Sonepat , a seat held by the INLD. But what it finally did was to have the INLD’s sitting member, Mr Kishan Singh Sangwan as the BJP nominee. Old wine in a new bottle. For Ambala since it could not pick up old horse, Mr Suraj Bhan, now the Governor of Uttar Pradesh, it chose Mr Rattan Chand Kataria. For Mahendragarh again, it has to strike a new posture. It had no candidate of any standing. So it thought why not have a widow of a BSF commandant who lost life fighting militants in Jammu and Kashmir. The Kargil card solved two problems. Opposed to this Mr Chautala has opted for all the sitting members and when he thought of not fielding anyone from his family from Rohtak, he chose an ex-serviceman.

The Congress is the only party fielding 10 candidates, but one hears some tactical understanding with the BSP in six seats. The BSP is contesting two seats of Ambala and Mahendragarh with the blessings of Mr Bansi Lal. In turn it is supporting the HVP in Bhiwani and Kurukshetra. Mr Bansi Lal in order to take revenge on the BJP and the INLD that deprived him of the chief ministership would see that this new alliance is defeated. But would there be any quid pro quo with the Congress. There could be deals within deals for all parties in Haryana.

In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress is contesting all the four seats while the ruling BJP is sharing one Shimla seat, with Mr Sukh Ram’s party. But the Congress this time will be supported by smaller parties from the left and whatever is Left of the Janata Dal.

While the BJP in all is contesting 12 Lok Sabha seats in three states and Chandigarh, the Congress is contesting 26 seats. Both are national parties and wish to capture power. back


Eight-fold voter increase in 32 years
By Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Aug 18 — One of the most prestigious and literate parliamentary constituencies, Chandigarh, with the exception of 1977 (Bharatiya Lok Dal) and 1989 (Janata Dal), has been either returning a Congress or a BJP candidate to the Lok Sabha.

A heterogeneous constituency, it is represented by people from almost every state of the country. This may perhaps be the reason for high percentage of eligible voters compared to its population.

Starting in 1967 with less than a lakh voters — 73,193 to be precise — the number of electorate has increased by more than 800 per cent in 32 years, an unprecedented growth compared to the rest of the country. The number of polling stations have also grown from 81 to 644. Against an estimated population of 8 lakh, this constituency spread over an area of 114 sq km only, has now 5,83,979 voters.

Only two candidates — Mr Jagan Nath Kaushal (Congress, 1980 and 1984) and Mr Satya Pal Jain (BJP, 1996 and 1998) — have been elected twice. So far this constituency has never returned a woman candidate.

The highest number of votes polled by a successful candidates was in 1971 when Congress nominee Amarnath Vidyalankar polled 66.85 per cent of the total valid votes cast.

Until 1989 this constituency used to witness a straight contest with the Congress on one hand and the combined opposition — the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the Bharatiya Lok Dal etc on the other hand. Subsequently, a series of triangular contests started with Mr Harmohan Dhawan, representing Mr Chandra Sekhar’s party by whatever name it was known, entering the poll arena as the third contender.

Mr Dhawan was successful in 1989. It was for the first time that votes polled by the winning candidate dropped to less than 48.7 per cent as Mr Dhawan, who later became Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation, got 41.5 per cent of the valid votes polled.

Mr Pawan Bansal triumphed when the elections followed two years later but votes polled by the winning candidates dropped down to 35.8 per cent, indicating fierceness of the triangular contest.

In 1996 and 1998 it was Mr Satya Pal Jain of the BJP who romped home. The Congress has won this seat four times, followed by the BJP or the Bharatiya Jana Sangh three times and the Bharatiya Lok Dal and the Janata Dal winning it once each.

This time, there appears to be a straight contest between the Congress and the BJP. Mr Dhawan will be conspicuous by his absence from the contest. After contesting this seat five consecutive times, he joined the Congress on the poll eve and was one of the proposers of the name of the Congress candidate this time.

Also missing will be from the contest will be Mr Jain, winner of the last two terms, who did not get the party ticket. He has been replaced by Mr Krishan Lal Sharma, Senior Vice-President of the party.

Both the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (Ambedkar) will be back in contest this time also. The new parties to enter the fray here the Nationalist Congress led by Mr Sharad Pawar and the Rashtriya Raksha Dal, a party of ex-servicemen and men from paramilitary forces.

For the first time, electronic voting machines will be used here.


Highest polling station in India

JAMMU, Aug 18 (PTI) — Anley Phaw, a remote village in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, has the distinction of being the country’s highest polling station at an altitude of 16,000 feet.

Chief Electoral Officer of the state S.V. Bhave said here yesterday that the polling station at Anley Phaw had been set up for 102 voters.

Ladakh also has the distinction of having a polling both for the smallest electorate of 12 voters at Damchok, situated at an altitude of 12,500 feet.

The Ladakh parliamentary constituency, comprising four assembly segments of Nora, Leh, Kargil and Zanskar, is the biggest constituency in the country with only 1,43,492 voters.

However, the number of women voters in the constituency outnumber men. As many as 72,253 women voters will exercise their franchise as against 71,239 men. A total of 391 polling stations have been set up in the constituency this time.

Ladakh will go to the polls along with the Srinagar parliamentary constituency in the first phase on September 5.



Seshan files papers

GANDHINAGAR (PTI): Former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) T. N. Seshan filed his nomination papers to contest the Lok Sabha elections as a Congress candidate from Gandhinagar constituency on Wednesday. Mr Seshan, who arrived here yesterday, handed over four sets of papers to District Collector Sanjay Prasad at the collectorate.

Sensitive stations

PHAGWARA (FOC): Out of 594 polling stations in Kapurthala district, 124 have been identified as “sensitive” and out of these as many as 32 are in Phagwara. This was stated here on Wednesday at a press conference by Mr V.K. Singh DC-cum-District Returning Officer, Kapurthala. Special police bandobast had been made at these stations, Mr V.K. Singh said.

Kannan resigns

PONDICHERRY (PTI): Pondicherry Home Minister P. Kannan, contesting the coming elections as a Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) candidate from the lone Lok Sabha seat in the Union Territory, today tendered his resignation from the DMK-led ministry here, but made clear that the TMC support to the government would continue. Mr Kannan told mediapersons he was relinquishing office as he felt that morally he should not continue as minister when he had been nominated to contest the poll.

Three observers

SIRSA (FOC): Three observers have been appointed by the Election Commission for the Sirsa parliamentary constituency. According to information given by the Returning Officer on Wednesday, the three observers are Mrs Milini Shanker, Mr Bachitter Singh and Mr J.L. Girdhar. The first two will supervise general activities while the financial aspects will be supervised by Mr Girdhar.

Poll rehearsal

NAWANSHAHR: The election process in the Phillaur parliamentary constituency started on Tuesday with the Banga and Nawanshahr Assembly segments polling staff underwent rehearsal here. Mr Dalip Kumar, ADC-cum-ARO, Banga. Assembly segment, Mr A.K. Sikka, SDM-cum-ARO, Nawanshahr, Assembly segment, exhorted the polling to perform duty honestly.

Expenditure charge

NEW DELHI (UNI): Prof Jagdish Mukhi, Opposition leader in the Delhi Assembly, has urged the Election Commission to conduct an inquiry into reports that a Congress meeting had decided to collect Rs 1 crore for the campaign of Congress candidate from South Delhi Dr Manmohan Singh. In a statement here, Prof Mukhi, election in charge for the BJP South Delhi Lok Sabha candidate, Mr Vijay Kumar Malhotra, quoting media reports, said a Congress meeting chaired by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had decided to collect Rs 1 crore for the election expenses of Dr Manmohan Singh whereas the EC had fixed a ceiling of Rs 14 lakh for such expenditure.

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