Monday, July 3, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

SAD may go in for mid-term poll
From A. S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

LUDHIANA, July 2 — Despite repeated denials from the top, there are reports here that the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) leadership may be thinking in terms of having early mid-term elections to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha.

The previous elections to the state assembly took place in February, 1997, when the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, was elected to lead the SAD-BJP coalition ministry for the next five years. This term will expire in February, 2002. The two parties enjoy an overwhelming majority in the 117-member House. Even with the recent split in the SAD and expulsion of several MLAs, there is no threat to the Badal government. As long as the 18-member BJP group remains with Mr Badal, the Chief Minister does not have to lose any sleep over the question of stability.

But sources in the SAD here insist that the party leadership is seriously toying with the idea of an early poll to win another five-year term for the ruling coalition. An exercise to assess the exact ground situation in the state was carried out on behalf of the government some time ago. But the outcome was not seen as very encouraging to the ruling coalition. This forced the ruling coalition to go easy on the move for some time. But now SAD leaders once again seem to be preparing for a mid term poll.

The recent SAD victory in the Hoshiarpur by-election has been a big morale-booster for the ruling coalition. Coupled with this is the total disarray in which the opposition parties, including the Congress, find themselves. Infighting in the Punjab Congress is showing no sign of subsiding with different leaders pulling in different directions. There is a certain degree of demoralisation in the rank and file of the party in view of the doubts being raised about the style of functioning of the Congress chief, Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

The SHSAD led by the former SGPC chief, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, has also not impressed all. Although it has put in a fairly good performance in the nagar panchayat elections, its dismal showing in the elections to the state assembly and the Lok Sabha has shown that the party will have to do much more than merely targetting the government for its acts of omission and commission to endear itself to the people.

All this has encouraged the SAD leadership to think in terms of an early poll . The sources say that prominent among those favouring an early poll is Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, son of the Chief Minister. Mr Sukhbir Singh was Union Minister of State for Industry in the Vajpayee government till he lost the parliamentary elections from Faridkot constituency last year. He is credited with the view that an early poll will bring a favourble outcome for the ruling coalition.

Mr Tohra and other detractors of Mr Badal have never tired of accusing the Chief Minister of grooming his son as the heir apparent. The SAD sources say that if the ruling coalition wins the mid-term poll, the election of Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal as the next Chief Minister is more or less assured.

This explains the sudden interest the Chief Minister’s son has begun to evince in the affairs of the Youth Akali Dal headed by the former MP, Mr Amrik Singh Aliwal. Sources in Mr Aliwal’s camp allege that Mr Sukbir Singh Badal is personally directing the campaign to replace Mr Aliwal as the president of the Youth Akali Dal. He is alleged to have rung up Youth Akali Dal leaders in Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, Amritsar and elsewhere, directing them to resign from their offices and dissociate themselves from Mr Aliwal.

The sources in the Aliwal camp allege that official machinery, including the DCs, SSPs, police officials and even the district public relations officers, are being used to secure the resignations of Youth Akali Dal leaders. They claim that the campaign against Mr Aliwal has been launched following a “secret understanding” between Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal and Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Minister for Sports, under which the latter’s son, Mr Parwinder Singh Dhindsa will be appointed as the president of the Youth Akali Dal. In return, the latter will project Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal as the next Chief Minister of Punjab when the situation is ripe.

The sources in the Aliwal camp here say that the whole issue has been brought to the notice of Mr Parkash Singh Badal on more than one occasion in recent days but the latter has done little other than to promise to “look into the matter”. It is, therefore, quite clear that the move enjoys the blessings of the Chief Minister, they allege. The ‘destabilisation’ of the Youth Akali Dal could result in greater infighting in the SAD, leading to the creation of a parallel Youth Akali Dal with all attendant repercussions for the Shiromani Akali Dal.Back


Badal for devolution of powers

NEW DELHI, July 2 (PTI) — A senior minister of Jammu and Kashmir today alleged that a “disinformation campaign” had been launched over the state government’s demand for greater autonomy and said the resolution could “in no way be termed as secession”.

“Even major political parties like the BJP and the Congresn had been launched by interested parties” over the autonomy issue, Mr Rather said the report never sought setting up a separate Supreme Court for the state.

“We have already accepted Article 131 of the Constitution which empowers the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over the state,” he said.

Asked whether the report would be opening the Pandora’s box with other states making similar demands, he said “the case of Jammu and Kashmir is different as we have signed the Instrument of Accession while other states have signed the Instrument of Merger with the Union of India. And what we are asking for is only restoration of the powers which were taken away during the past 50 years.”

COIMBATORE: Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal on Sunday said the Akali Dal was for devolution of more powers to states within the limits of a true federal system.

Mr Badal told reporters here that the time had come to give more powers to the states as the financial condition of the states was very bad.

“We are for one country. Nobody wants to separate from India,” Mr Badal said, while replying to a question on the autonomy resolution in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly.

He said the Akali Dal and the DMK were the only parties, which raised voice for true federalism way back in 1962 as it was the only way for progress and prosperity. But, we were branded as separatists, he said.

“We are for more powers under a true federal structure. The state government has to serve the people directly. The development of the people is mainly dependent on the financial resources in the states,” he pointed out.

Blaming the Congress for the poor conditions of the states the Chief Minister said during its rule all powers were vested with the Centre, as the “nominated” Chief Ministers could not raise voice against their high command.

Stating that the federal system was the only way to progress, Mr Badal said the policy now was “certain subjects with states and powers with the Centre.”

With agriculture being the main sources of income of the people in various states, the pricing of agriculture products was vested with the Centre, he observed.

JAIPUR: The Congress would oppose any resolution on granting autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir to be placed in Parliament during its monsoon session, party leader Natwar Singh said here on Sunday.

There was no question of granting autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir as the late Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Abdullah had signed a Kashmir accord some 25 years ago.

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