Friday, February 18, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

11 killed in Bihar poll violence
60 pc polling in Orissa

NEW DELHI, Feb 17 (PTI, UNI) — The second phase Bihar Assembly election today claimed at least 11 lives even as an estimated 60 per cent cast votes to decide the fate of 1,318 candidates.

Official sources said here four persons were killed in separate incidents during the poll violence in Nalanda district. A party supporter was shot dead by the rival political group under the Silao police station in the Nalanda Assembly segment, while one person was killed by his political rivals at Shahpur in the Chandi Assembly segment in the district. Two persons were also shot dead in the clashes in the Islampur Assembly segment.

Sources said one person lost his life in Maharajganj constituency, while one BJP activist was gunned down allegedly by RJD workers in the Siwan Assembly segment. Three persons were killed and four policemen injured in the Raghopur constituency, when unidentified criminals sprayed bullets on a polling booth. The miscreants also snatched away seven rifles from the policemen.

One person was killed in the Chakai Assembly segment, while another lost his life in the Shekhpura Assembly constituency in political clashes.

Altogether 500 persons, including Samata Party candidate Rajiv Kumar Singh from the Tarapore Assembly constituency, were arrested from various districts.

Barring stray incidents, polling to the two Lok Sabha constituencies of Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh and Bellary in Karnataka and 30 Assembly seats where byelections were being held passed off peacefully.

Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill told an evening press conference that by and large the day had gone off very well. He said five persons were killed in poll violence.

Inspector-General of Police (Patna zone) Neelmani said the paramilitary forces foiled the attempts of some anti-social elements trying to rig polls in a booth under the Mokamah Assembly segment. The paramilitary forces also opened five rounds of fire in air to ward of an attack by the miscreants.

In cyclone-hit Orissa, 60 per cent of the 11 million voters turned up to exercise their franchise in peaceful

polling. Dr Gill said there were complaints of ballot boxes being snatched in two booths in Orissa. These complaints were being looked into and re-poll would be ordered, wherever necessary.

The voter turnout in Kannauj and eight Assembly Constituencies of Uttar Pradesh approximated 55 per cent. Two persons were reported injured in an incident of firing in Etawah, the CEC said.

The voter turnout in the three Assembly byelections in Tamil Nadu was about 60 per cent.

In Andhra Pradesh, the turnout in the lone Assembly bypoll was about 50 per cent.

In West Bengal, where Assembly byelections were held for three seats, the voter turnout was about 65 per cent. The polling was 54 per cent for four Assembly byelections in Madhya Pradesh, 55 per cent and 70 per cent in each of the two Assembly constituencies in Gujarat, 55 to 60 per cent in six Assembly seats in Rajasthan, 65 per cent for one seat in Punjab and 60 per cent for one seat in Himachal Pradesh.


Violence mars Nawanshahr poll
From Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

NAWANSHAHR, Feb 17 — Incidents of firing, stone-pelting and allegations of rigging marked the poll at Rahon and Pili Chikki village in this prestigious constituency sans any history of poll violence.

Barring two major incidents, the polling in other parts of the constituency concluded peacefully and 65 to 68 per cent of the total 1,50,327 electorate exercised their franchise.

Though everything went peaceful in the first half of the day, which witnessed a brisk pace voting as more than 50 per cent of voters had cast their vote during this period, trouble started brewing up at Rohan at 3.40 p.m. when both Congress and SAD-BJP workers levelled allegations of poll malpractices, including casting of fake votes at booth no 137, against each other. Then it was free for all for the next 30-40 minutes as both Congress and SAD-BJP supporters and leaders indulged in heavy stone pelting and brick-batting in the main chowk in the presence of the police and leaders, including the Punjab ministers, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Mr Manoranjan Kalia and a former minister, Dr Kewal Krishan. So much so that, Mr Satpal Gosain, the firebrand BJP dissident leader, was seen participating in the ‘fight’ among workers of the both parties. He was stopped from retaliating the attack by workers of the other party by police officials on duty.

As soon as TNS reached the stop, the atmosphere was surcharged and workers of both parties were indulging in verbal duel and were ready to launch attack on each other armed with bricks and stones. Then suddenly the atmosphere flared up and workers of both parties started pelting stones and empty bottles on each other which continued for more than half an hour when the police enforcement descended on the spot. Panicked over the violence, shopkeepers closed their shops and were seen running helter-skelter for safety. While the Congress workers were seen beating their opponents with lathis, the SAD-BJP men chose to take away bricks from a passing bullock-cart and attacked their rivals with these, some of which even hit two constables. It was only at this point that the police, which had been playing mute witness, intervened and cane-charged the workers. They also pushed back an angry Mr Gosain to his party office.

Narrating the incident, Mr Roop Dass, a Congress langri, said he was shocked to see a brick hitting the plate of Dr Kewal Krishan, who was having meals in an open space in the backyard of the Congress office. He said the Akali workers were chasing one of the Congress workers when the incident occurred. Mr Anil Datta, Congress Secretary, said the SAD-BJP workers instigated his party workers and forced them to retaliate. Mr Bhajan Singh, another eyewitness, who received injury on his foot, said he could recall nothing but bricks and stones being thrown by two groups and added that one stone hit him. No case was registered against anybody by the police till 5 p.m.

In another incident of group clash leading to firing at Pili Chikki village, two persons, alleged to be workers of the Sikh Students Federation (Mehta), received injuries. Mukhtiar Singh, one of the two injured was shifted to CMC Ludhiana, while Jagtar Singh has been admitted to the Civil Hospital at Garhshankar. According to Mr Sohan Singh Saini, a former sarpanch and Akali leader, youth Congress workers led by Satbir Singh resorted to firing in their effort to get a migrant labourer, who was ‘caught’ casting fake vote, freed. He alleged that the youth Congress workers fired six rounds. On the other hand, Mr Harbans Singh Jalal, a former Congress MLA, alleged that the shots were fired by Akali workers. Mr Parkash Singh, the Congress candidate, while condemning the incident, said it was a proof of the ‘frustration’ in the rival Akali camp, which had broken all norms of democratic process and a tradition of peaceful polling for which Nawanshahr had been known in the past. He also alleged that four persons had been caught by his party workers at booth no 76 in Nawanshahr where they were trying to cast fake votes. He said the four, Amarjit Singh, a resident of Lambi, Balbir Singh of Badal village and Satnam Singh of Khuddian village in Mukatsar district, had confessed in writing that they were trying to cast vote on fake names. Mr Parkash Singh alleged that they were brought by a former Union Minister, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal.

It was also learnt that two scooters were also burnt by rowdy workers of one of the parties at Pilli Chikki village. No police official was available for comment.

Meanwhile, Captain Amarinder Singh, Congress chief, said Akalis tried to indulge in fake voting at four booths in the city and Jadla village, but the alert Congress workers were able to prevent them with the help of police officials.


65 per cent polling in Solan
From S.P. Sharma and Romesh Dutt
Tribune News Service

SOLAN, Feb 17 — Around 65 per cent of the electorate cast its vote in the byelection for the Solan assembly seat which remained largely peaceful here today.

Stray incidents of impersonation were detected by activists of the opposition Congress, who were alerted over the possibility of “bogus” voting. One person was arrested here on charges of impersonation.

Polling was high in rural areas and was unexpectedly low in the town, which is considered a stronghold of the ruling BJP.

The Basal area of BJP rebel candidate, Mr Netar Singh registered the highest polling percentage of 81. The Chail area, which was plagued by bad weather, registered the lowest polling of about 43 per cent.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr R.D. Dhiman, said 71 per cent polling was registered in Vaknaghat, 64 per cent in Kahlog, 60 per cent in Shrinagar and 61 per cent in Basheel.

Mr Dhiman said that in the Lok Sabha election the town recorded 45 per cent polling and this time the figure was higher.

He said that in view of complaints of possible bogus polling the police was deployed in strength in hypersensitive areas.

The general secretary of the Congress, Mrs Asha Kumari said party activists prevented a large number of “bogus” voters from voting. A couple of “bogus” voters were not allowed to enter the polling station in St Luke’s School, she said.

A sitting MLA of the Congress Mr Harsh Mahajan, said a girl from Naintikkar was caught in the polling booth in the J.B.T. School, where she was allegedly brought by BJP activists to cast a “bogus” vote.

The Deputy Commissioner said that no incident of election-related violence was reported from anywhere in the constituency and only one person, Mr Kuldeep Sharma, was arrested on charges of impersonation.

He said that the sudden increase in the number of voters in the constituency a few months ago was an abnormality, but clarified that there was no irregularity in it. He said none of the parties had filed a complaint against inclusion of so-called bogus voters within the stipulated period.

The atmosphere was tense around certain polling booths where activists of the Congress kept a close watch to prevent bogus voting. The former Chief Minister and CLP leader, Mr Virbhadra Singh and PCC president, Mr Sat Mahajan, camped here until the polling was over. Leaders of the BJP, including the Health Minister, Mr J.P. Nadda and Sports Minister, Mr Parveen Sharma, also visited various areas in the town.

The scene was different in Basal panchayat area where only the posters and banners of the BJP rebel could be seen. The flags of the BJP and Congress were totally missing.

Polling began on a slow note but picked up in the afternoon aided by bright sunshine. There were mild showers in the evening.

Mr Mohinder Sofat, who was denied the ticket by the BJP came here today from Chandigarh to cast his vote. He had not campaigned for the official BJP candidate and told TNS that his health did not allow him to campaign. He denied asking votes for Mr Netar Singh.


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