Thursday, January 11, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

CM dissolves SAD front bodies
Announces Parishad, Block Samiti poll

By Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 10 — The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today set the election ball rolling for the party rank and file.

By dissolving all front organisations, including the youth wing of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), and announcing the elections of the Zila Parishads and Block Samitis, Mr Badal gave a task, a warming-up exercise, to the party activists to fine tune the organisation (the SAD) for the Vidhan Sabha poll due early next year.

Immediately after a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), which was followed by a meeting of the District Jathedars of the SAD, Mr Badal made three important announcements, which are clearly targeted at gearing up the party for the bigger task of the Vidhan Sabha elections.

Mr Badal said that he had asked the authorities concerned to hold the Zila Parishad and Block Samiti elections at the earliest. These could either be held in the first week of April or sometime in May after the rabi harvesting was over. He said that it was up to the state poll authority to fix the schedule for these elections, but the only thing which required to be kept in mind was that the farming community should be free from work to participate in the elections. The elections of the Zila Parishads have been due for the past several months.

It is not clear yet whether representatives for these bodies will be elected directly or indirectly. Mr Badal said that a decision would be taken at a meeting of the Council of Ministers. During the tenure of the Beant Singh government, 60 representatives were elected directly and 40 per cent indirectly. However, the SAD-BJP government had made drastic changes in the act which were challenged in the high court. The court had struck down the changed provisions and the state government’s appeal is pending in the Supreme Court in this connection, it is learnt.

There are reports that the SAD-BJP government would like that 50 per cent of the representatives of these bodies should be elected directly and an equal number indirectly. However, this is not acceptable to the principal Opposition party, the Congress, which wants that there should be direct election of all representatives.

Through elections to these bodies, Mr Badal wants to make an attempt to mobilise the party’s rank and file in the countryside. The results of these elections will provide him with an opportunity to gauge the mood and pulse of the voters in the rural areas, the main votebank of the SAD. In the areas where the party suffers a setback in these elections, Mr Badal will be able to improve its position by announcing special grants, etc, before the assembly poll.

In another measure to activate the party machinery, Mr Badal announced the recasting of the party’s youth wing, the Istri Akali Dal, the Scheduled Castes wing, etc. These wings ceased to exist from today. Without commenting much on this issue, Mr Badal said that these required to be reconstituted. Already there was controversy in the youth wing. It was a sharply divided organisation headed by a former Member of Parliament, Mr Amrik Singh Aliwal. By providing new leadership to these bodies, Mr Badal aims to make these active in the election arena.

Obviously, to counter the election campaign launched by the Congress, Mr Badal announced the holding of party conferences in February in various parts of the state. He had specifically called the meeting of the District Jathedars for this purpose. When asked whether these conferences had been planned to counter the Congress rallies, Mr Badal said that all parties had the right to present their viewpoint before the public.

Quizzed about his meetings with certain leaders of the BSP and a scheduled meeting with Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, Mr Badal said that there was nothing political about such meetings.

For settling the problems pertaining to Takht Patna Sahib, Mrs Upinderjit Kaur, Punjab Minister for Urban Development, has been told to go to Patna to talk to the Bihar Government.

Talking about amendments to the All-India Gurdwara Act, he said that he would talk to the SGPC authorities.

It was clear from the tone of Mr Badal that he is likely to keep all controversial issues, including the amendments to the Gurdwara Act, pending till the Vidhan Sabha elections are held. At this stage, he would not like to rake up any controversy which would have an adverse effect on him in the coming months.

As a notification had not been issued pertaining to the Rajya Sabha seat vacated by Mr Barjinder Singh Hamdard, he had not applied his mind to the selection of a nominee for the seat.

He said that there would be no problem in the storage of wheat coming to the markets in April this year. “All arrangements in this connection are being made”, he added.


BJP taken to task
Tribune News Service

CHANDIGARH, Jan 10 — The “belligerent” attitude of the BJP came under sharp attack at the PAC meeting.

The Cooperation Minister, Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, raised the issue of the SAD-BJP rift, urging Mr Badal to assert himself and take cognisance of the statement made by the BJP Minister, Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, targeting the state government as well as the party.

Informed sources said that the PAC members were in an agitated mood and unanimously told Mr Badal that the BJP leadership should be told without any hesitation that in the matter of “collective responsibility” in running the affairs of the government, the BJP should not put the blame entirely on the SAD by making irresponsible statements.

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