Friday, October 20, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cong, CPI, CPM workers lathi-charged
Protest against Mayor’s election
From Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

AMRITSAR, Oct 19 — Seventeen Congress, CPI and CPM workers, including PPCC General Secretary Dr Raj Kumar, sustained injuries in a police lathi charge here today, even as Mr Amarinder Singh, PPCC chief, and Mr R.L. Bhatia, Congress member of Parliament, met Mr M.S. Gill, Chief Election Commissioner, against the election of the BJP candidate as Mayor by “default” in New Delhi today.

Dr Raj Kumar, who sustained head injuries in the police lathi charge, claimed that the Chief Election Commissioner had assured he would order a high-level probe into the ‘violation’ of democratic norms during the election of Mayor yesterday.

The police had to resort to a mild lathi charge when irate Congress, CPI and CPM workers assembled in front of the Municipal Corporation in protest against the election of the BJP candidate as Mayor. Mr Baldev Singh Verka, leader of the CPI in the Municipal Corporation, alleged that the lathi-charge was uncalled for as they wanted to lodge a peaceful protest. He said Mr Brij Mohan Kapur, who was declared winner, had “taken over charge” and addressed a meeting of officials in gross violation of rules since the notification for the election had not been issued so far.

The turban of an Assistant Sub-Inspector fell when the protesters tried to enter the Municipal Corporation office to take ‘possession’ of the Mayor’s office. The iron gate was broken and the Superintendent of Police, Mr Kewal Kumar, asked his subordinates to intervene. Mr S.S. Ghuman, DSP, personally lathi-charged the officials.

Mr O.P. Soni, an Independent MLA, today demanded a CBI inquiry into ‘horse trading’ during the election. He alleged at least Rs 1 crore was distributed by the Congress among certain BJP, SAD and CPI Municipal Commissioners. He said none of his 15 councillors had voted in favour of Congress candidate Sunil Datti as all had resigned from the Congress before the election.

Mr Soni claimed the election of Mayor was held in a ‘free and fairmanner’ and the Congress should accept defeat. Mr Soni asked the Congress high command to accept the resignation of all councillors. He announced he would float a third front and contest the forthcoming Assembly elections in Amritsar.

Mr Baldev Singh Verka, group leader of the CPI in the Municipal Corporation, denied his party had supported the Soni group. He described the election as a “murder of democracy” since Dr Baldev Chawla, Health Minister, had shown his ballot paper before casting his vote. He said Dr Chawla’s vote should therefore, be considered ‘invalid’. He urged a repoll.

Mr Verka alleged that the Divisional Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioner and other officials of the corporation had played a partisan role at the time of the election at the behest of Mr Balramji Dass Tandon and other ministers. He announced that the Congress and the CPI would not allow the corporation proceedings to begin if justice was not done.

Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, an Akali MLA and a confidant of Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, said it was a blot on the name of democracy that a senior IAS officer like Ms Geetika Kalha had “buckled under pressure” and worked in a partisan way.

Sources say cracks have appeared in the SAD-BJP alliance due to “cross voting”.

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