Monday, January 14, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Amarinder has his say, mostly
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

12 of 13 women new faces

OF the 13 women candidates announced by the Congress, 12 make their debut in electoral politics this time.

They are Ms Aruna Chaudhary (Dinanagar), Mrs Ratna (Amritsar-Central), Mrs Gurkanwal Kaur (Jalandhar Cantt), Mrs Gurdial Kaur Khangurra (Qila Raipur), Mrs Harbans Kaur (Khanna), Mrs Seelam Sohi (Banur), Mrs Razia Sultana (Malerkotla), Mrs Harchand Kaur (Sherpur), Mrs Surinder Kaur Ballian (Bhadaur), Mrs Sonia Arora (Sunam), Mrs Jagdarshan Kaur (Dharamkot) and Ms Vibha Sharma (Kot Kapura).

The only woman candidate who has been already into active electoral politics, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, was the first woman Chief Minister of Punjab.

Kin of cops in list

RELATIVES of at least two senior Punjab police officers — Mr Mahil Singh Bhullar (Director-General of Police) and Mr Mohammad Mustafa (Deputy Inspector-General) — find a place in the 106-member list announced by the AICC yesterday.

Mr Kuldip Singh Bhullar, son of Mr M.S. Bhullar, will be the Congress candidate from Zira while Mrs Razia Sultana, wife of Mr Mohammad Mustafa, will contest on the Congress ticket from Malerkotla.

A police officer who recently quit and joined the Congress, however, failed to get a ticket.

Chandigarh, January 13
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, has every reason to be in a jubilant mood as his party launches its election campaign from the historic Maghi Mela at Muktsar tomorrow.

The jubilations and celebrations in his camp are understandable as the “Maharaj” has been able to marshal his men well, getting them the nod of the party high command in the allotment of tickets for the February 13 poll.

The list, though with certain surprises, not only proves the supremacy the Captain enjoys in the PPCC but also entrusts him a greater responsibility of seeing the party through in the next month’s elections.

Though the detractors of the PPCC chief have been strategically marginalised, the party high command appears to have been successful in containing the “anger as well as resentment” of those who could not be accommodated. The list released yesterday after more than a fortnight’s hectic lobbying and dilly-dallying reimposed the party’s confidence in two former Chief Ministers — Mr Harcharan Singh Brar and Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal — as well as in sons of two former Chief Ministers — Mr Gurinder Partap Singh Kairon and Mr Tej Parkash Singh — besides all 14 sitting MLAs, 17 new faces, including 12 of the 13 women candidates. The only exception is in the case of the family of former Chief Minister Beant Singh, where both his son Tej Parkash and daughter Gur Kanwal have been accommodated.

The Central Election Committee also accommodated some sworn enemies of the PPCC chief, including Mr Brahm Mohindra from Samana and Mr Bir Devinder Singh (Kharar). The Captain got in his confidants Surinder Singla (Bathinda), Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi (Guru Harsahai) and Mr Lal Singh (Dakala) but failed to secure ticket for Mrs Lakhwinder Kaur Garcha.

Mr Surinder Singla, a former MP, has been the chairman of the Media Committee of the PPCC, with expertise in state financial matters. It was he who had challenged Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for claiming credit for the Bathinda refinery, maintaining that it was planned and approved during the Congress regime.

The surprise omissions are the Punjab Youth Congress Committee chief, Mr Devinder Singh Babbu; and Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Badal, a close relative of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, whose induction in the Congress some months ago was with greatly publicised. Several former MLAs like Mr Harnek Singh Gharuan (Kharar), Mr Jasbir Singh (Sangrur), Mr Ramesh Kumar (Nabha), and Ms Sushil Mahajan (Gurdaspur) have been left out.

Mr Harnek Singh Gharuan has revolted and decided to contest against Mr Bir Devinder Singh, a “troublemaker” on the list of the PPCC chief, from Kharar.

Though the Congress high command has made a valiant attempt to follow its policy on the allotment of party tickets, certain deviations were made to “accommodate some deserving and even outsider candidates” and also to ensure that the damage to be done by rebels was “minimised”.

While some MPs, including Mr Raghunandan Lal Bhatia, Mrs Santosh Chaudhary and Mr Shamsher Singh Dulo, had their say and got their “relatives” or “supporters” through, others, including Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar and Mr Gurcharan Singh Ghalib, have been left sulking as their “relatives” — brother of Jagmeet and son of Ghalib — could not be accommodated. Mrs Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, too, could not have been happy with the list.

The family of former Punjab Speaker H.S. Ajnala, too, got the boot while Mr Santokh Singh Randhawa and Mr Balram Jakhar got their sons Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa (Fatehgarh Churrian) and Sunil Jakhar (Abohar), respectively, in. Mrs Santosh Chaudhary got a ticket for her husband Ram Lubhaya (Sham Churasi), while Mr Shamsher Singh Dulo got it for his wife Harbans Kaur from Khanna.

Four former ministers indicted by the Punjab Lok Pal and later let off by the then Governor, Lieut-Gen B.K.N. Chhibber (retd) — Mr Lal Singh, Master Jagir Singh, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Mr Balmukand Sharma — have also been accommodated. Even Mr Raj Khurana (Rajpura) and Mr Amrik Singh (Samrala), who were initially not cleared because of charges against them, have found favour with the Central Election Committee.

After the PPCC chief, it was Mrs Bhattal who managed to get her hardcore supporters like Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Mr Harbans Singh Sidhu, Mr Harmohan Singh and Mr Amrik Singh in.


Revolt brews over nominees
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 13
Many Congress leaders of the Majha region who were denied party ticket have decided to contest as rebel candidates during the forthcoming Assembly elections. Resentment is also brewing among the Akali leaders who have been denied tickets by the high command.

Mr Harpartap Singh Ajnala, son of the late Harcharan Singh Ajnala, former minister and aspirant for the Ajnala seat, today while addressing a large number of his supporters announced that he would contest the election as an Independent candidate against the decision of the Congress high command. He alleged that the official candidate, Mr Ravi Randhawa, was ‘non-entity’ in the party as he had supported Akalis in the past. He alleged that the high command had ignored the sacrifices of his family for the sake of party. Mr Harpartap Singh claimed that he would win the election as the party cadre was with him.

Mr Raminder Singh Bolaria, senior Congress leader, has also announced that he would contest from Amritsar (South) as a rebel candidate. He alleged that Mr Harjinder Singh Thekedar was given party ticket though he had used derogatory language against the party President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, at Jallianwala Bagh recently.

Similarly, supporters of Prof Darbari Lal, an aspirant for the Congress ticket for the Amritsar (Central), revolted against the party high command.

They said if the party decision was not reversed, there would be a split in the party and the PPCC president would be responsible for that. They alleged that Ms Ratna, who was given the party ticket, was a leader without public base.

Meanwhile, supporters of Mr Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, president, District Congress Committee, also raised a voice of revolt for denying ticket to him (Mr Sarkaria). They said Mr Parminder Singh, a former minister in the constituency who was given the party ticket, was not acceptable to them.

Dr Surinder Singh Shahi, Mr Manjit Singh Ghasitpur, Mr Bhagwant Singh Jhabal, Prof Gurvinder Singh Mammanke and Mr Gurvinder Singh Rataoul who were aspirants for the Tarn Taran seat announced that they would not support the official Congress candidate, Mr Gurinder Singh Kairon.

A similar situation may be witnessed in the Khadoor Sahib constituency where Mr Sukhdev Singh Shahbazpuri, former minister, has been given the Congress ticket.

On other hand, revolt is also brewing up in Akali circles over the distribution of ticket in the Majha region. Prof Jagir Singh, Chief Parliamentary Secretary who was aspirant for the SAD ticket from Valtoha, told TNS that he would not support the official candidate, Mr Gurdial Singh Algon.

He, however, refused to comment on the decision of the party high command over the allocation of ticket. He said that he had convened an emergency meeting of his supporters tomorrow.

Mr Kartar Singh Pahra, senior Akali leader who was also denied party ticket from Gurdaspur, has also announced that he won’t support the official candidate Mr Munawar Masih. It may be mentioned here that the ruling Akali Dal has already suffered a jolt when two ministers, Mr Gobind Singh Kanjla and Mr Ranjit Singh Balian decided to contest the elections as Akali rebels.


Darshan Brar supporters mob Amarinder’s house
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 13
Thousands of Congress workers led by former legislator Darshan Singh Brar, who has been denied the party ticket from Jagraon, today besieged the New Moti Bagh residence of Pradesh Congress President Capt Amarinder Singh in protest against the ‘’unjust’’ allotment of the party ticket to Wg Cdr Paramjit Singh Sibia and threatened that Mr Brar would fight as an Independent candidate from Jagraon if he was not given the party ticket.

The Jagraon ticket has been given to Wing Commander Sibia on the recommendation of party MP Gurcharan Singh Ghalib.

Congress workers started arriving at New Moti Bagh around 9 a.m. with Mr Brar making an appearance at around 11 a.m.. Supporters of Mr Brar alleged while earlier they were promised an audience with Capt Amarinder Singh who they were told by his staff had returned from Delhi in the morning, were later told that the PPCC chief had left for Chandigarh.

Mr Brar while speaking to TNS said the party nomination had been unjustly denied to him and that he would stand as an Independent candidate in case he was denied the party nomination. He also threatened that his supporters would contest elections as Independent candidates from Moga, Jagraon, Nihalsinghwala, Raikot and from seats in Ludhiana if the party ticket was not allotted to him. Talking to Capt Amarinder Singh on the mobile telephone from New Moti Bagh he made it clear to the PPCC chief that only he could win the Jagraon seat and a wrong decision had been made by the Congress high command. Mr Brar claimed that the PPCC chief assured him that he would take up his case with the central leadership.

Mr Brar was accompanied by Mr Maheshinder Singh who has been given the party ticket from Baghapurana and had come to plead his case. Besides this Mrs Lakhwinder Kaur Garcha, who is the office in-charge of the Pradesh Congress, was also seen cooling her heels outside New Moti Bagh. She also petitioned the PPCC chief on the mobile to mark her protest against the allotment of the party seat from Kharar to Birdevinder Singh from where she was also a contender.

Meanwhile resentment also appeared to be brewing in Samana where supporters of former MP Sant Ram Singla and Mr Harinderpal Singh Mann held meetings to discuss new political equations after the allotment of the party ticket to Mr Brahm Mohindra, who was originally a contender from Patiala but had to make way for the PPCC chief. Traders in Samana were particularly perturbed at the manner in which Mr Singla, who had to earlier forgo his right to the Patiala Lok Sabha seat and has held important party positions, was ignored by the party high command. Mr Mann also held a meeting of his supporters to take their view on further action to be taken by him.


BSP can turn fortunes  of main players
A. S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 13
The Bahujan Samaj Party led by Mr Kanshi Ram continues to be a force to reckon with in Punjab. The BSP phenomenon which emerged as a formidable Dalit force in Punjab about two decades ago, later spread to the neighbouring Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Since then, however, the BSP has declined considerably as a Dalit force. But it continues to command the loyalty of a big chunk of the Dalit votes in a large number of constituencies in Punjab.

The BSP may not be in a position to win many seats in the 117-member state assembly, but it can certainly make a difference in the electoral fortunes of the two major contenders for power in the state: the ruling SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress. Little wonder, it has been sought after and wooed alternately both by the Congress and SAD-BJP on the eve of every elections in the state.

The BSP has been casting its lot with different political parties at different times in accordance with its electoral strategy of securing the best deal possible for the Dalits. The BSP supremo, Mr Kanshi Ram, never tires of saying that his party would go with anyone who could deliver the best political arrangement for the Dalits. Power for Dalits is the only ideology which Mr Kanshi Ram follows.

Incidentally, Mr Kanshi Ram who remained the undisputed leader of Dalits in Punjab for well over a decade-and-a-half now faces a challenge from Mr Satnam Singh Kainth, a friend turned foe, who has set up his Bahujan Samaj Morcha. Mr Kainth has aligned himself with the SAD led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal and has had a stint as a Member of Parliament from Phillaur. He is once again in the fray for the state Assembly and could prove to be a serious headache for the BSP supremo if he teams up with Mr Badal.

In the 1992 elections to the state Assembly, the BSP was able to win as many as nine seats, mainly due to the fact that the Akali Dal led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal boycotted the poll. But in the elections held five years later, i.e. in February 1997, the BSP could win only one seat in the person of Mr Shangara Ram in the Balachaur constituency of Hoshiarpur.

This time, Mr Kanshi Ram initially announced that the BSP would contest all 117 constituencies of Punjab. Later, he modified his stand by saying that he would like to have an alliance with the Panthic Morcha led by Baba Sarbjot Singh Bedi and composed of various Akali factions, including SHSAD led by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, SAD (A) headed by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, Panthic Akali Dal led by Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode and the faction led by the former Assembly Speaker, Mr Ravi Inder Singh.

During the negotiations, while the BSP leader claimed that his party would contest 87 to 89 seats, the Panthic would have to function like a junior partner of the alliance. This was not acceptable to the leaders of the Panthic Morcha in general and Mr Simranjit Singh Mann in particular who felt that their outfit should contest most of the seats in the state while the BSP should act as the junior.

This was not acceptable to Mr Kanshi Ram. There was also a verbal spat between Mr Kanshi Ram and Mr Simranjit Singh Mann following which the Panthic Morcha announced that it would not have any alliance with the BSP. It announced the first list of its candidate for 53 constituencies with the promise that candidates for about 30 more seats would be announced later. It, however, announced that the Panthic Morcha still remained open to the possibility seat adjustments with the BSP.


Cong fields five women, SAD none
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 13
Sangrur district of the Malwa belt has always been considered as a bastion of the Akalis. The Akalis have proved this concept several times in the past by winning a majority of the Assembly seats. During the 1992-97 term, there was no representative of the Akalis in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha from this district as they had boycotted the February 1992 Assembly elections.

This district is a cluster of 10 Assembly segments, namely Sangrur, Sunam, Dhuri, Malerkotla, Barnala, Lehra, Dirba, Dhanaula, Sherpur and Bhadaur. Sherpur is purely a rural Assembly segment while the remaining ones have one, two or three municipal councils or nagar panchayats.

Though the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has a strong base in the district, in the February 1997 Assembly elections due to infighting in the party factions — the Surjit Singh Barnala faction and the Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa faction — in this district, the SAD faced a defeat on the five seats of Sunam, Barnala, Dhuri, Dirba and Lehra. However, in the September 2000 Sunam Assembly byelection, the SAD “snatched” this seat from the Congress when Mr Parminder Singh Dhindsa, son of Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, defeated Mrs Parmeshwari Devi, wife of the late Sunam MLA Bhagwan Dass Arora, with a big margin of 16,711 votes.

During the current Assembly elections, the SAD, it seems, will not be in a position of giving a good performance following the quitting of the SAD by two Punjab Ministers, Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla from Sherpur and Mr Ranjit Singh Balian from Sangrur, and their subsequent announcement to contest from Sherpur and Sangrur as Independent candidates. This will not only put an adverse affect on these two seats but also on other seats like Dirba, Dhuri and Sunam.

In the February 1997 elections, Mr Malkiat Singh Keetu, who had been denied party ticket by the SAD, contested from Barnala as an Independent and defeated Bibi Rajinder Kaur of the SAD with a margin of maximum votes (23,714) in the district. This time (February 2002), Mr Malkiat Singh Keetu has been given the SAD ticket and Mrs Rajinder Kaur has fielded herself as an Independent.

The Congress has its maximum vote bank in the towns like Sangrur, Sunam, Dhuri, Ahmedgarh, Barnala, Moonak, Lehra and Khanauri besides in the rural areas. On other hand, the Akalis are strong in the rural areas almost in all constituencies.

Besides the Congress and the Akalis, the CPI, the CPM and the Panthic Morcha have their pockets in each constituency. The Communists have their pockets in Sherpur, Dhuri, Dhandaula, Sunam and other areas while Mr Simranjit Singh Mann’s impact can be seen in Malerkotla and other parts of the constituency as he had liberally distributed funds for providing public utility services from his MP Local Area Fund.

Though the government claims that it has distributed Rs 3 crore in each constituency for development works, people are dissatisfied due to non-redress of their grievances and problems relating to drinking water, disposal of filthy water, non-setting up of government colleges etc. However, the villagers admitted that funds had been utilised in their villages on the construction of drains, streets, Dalit dharmshalas, cremation grounds etc.

The Congress has announced its list of nine candidates for this district. Interestingly, it has fielded five women candidates namely Ms Razia Sultana (Malerkotla), Bibi Harchand Kaur (Sherpur), Mrs Sonia Arora (Sunam), Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal (Lehra) and Ms Surinder Kaur Balian (Bhadaur) while the tenth seat (Dhuri) has been left for the CPI by the Congress. On the other hand the SAD has not fielded even a single woman in this district. The CPI, CPM and Panthic Morcha have also announced their candidates on a number of seats.

Due to the anti-incumbency factor and infighting in the Congress, besides fielding themselves as rebel candidates or Independents by the dissatisfied claimants of both parties, nothing could be predicted at this stage about who will win.


SC’s notice to Punjab on IGP’s absence case

New Delhi, January 13
Expressing surprise over the reinstatement of an Inspector General of the Punjab Police in service despite eight years’ absence, the Supreme Court has issued notices to the Centre and the state government.

Hearing a Special Leave Petition filed by Additional Punjab DGP P. Lal, a Bench comprising Justice S.S.M. Quadri and Justice S.N. Variava stayed the Punjab and Haryana High Court order allowing the reinstatement of IGP, R.K. Sharma.

Mr Lal’s counsel Nidesh Gupta contended that the reinstatement of Mr Sharma was arbitrary and illegal as he had left India in 1991 and in spite of the state government’s refusal to grant leave stayed abroad working for private companies.

On being chargesheeted for absence from duty, Mr Sharma sought voluntary retirement and requested for the dropping of the chargesheet, the petitioner said.

Interestingly, when the charge sheet proceedings were dropped, Mr Sharma sought to withdraw his offer for voluntary retirement. The Centre, though initially refused permission, later allowed him to withdraw his request for the VRS.

Mr Lal then approached the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) pleading that as Mr Sharma had already sought the VRS, his request for withdrawal of the same could not have been accepted by the government.

CAT allowed Mr Lal’s petition and struck down the orders passed by the Centre. Mr Sharma appealed against the CAT’s order in the High Court, which allowed the appeal and directed his continuance in service.

Mr Gupta contended that Mr Sharma had applied for voluntary retirement on three occasions and had on all three occasions withdrawn the request after the charge-sheets were dropped.

He argued that legal technicalities could not be used to abuse the process of law and that the process of law could not defeat the purpose of law.

When Mr Sharma’s counsel, senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, defended the High Court order, the apex court Bench said how could the government take back the person in service after he refused repeated requests to come back and join.

The Bench said in cases where minor offences were committed, the government takes no time to suspend the police officers. “However, in this case though serious allegations have been made against the police officer, he has not even been proceeded against,” it said. PTI


Border residents feel relieved
Varinder Walia and Gurbaxpuri

Indo-Pak Border, January 13
Ban on the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaishe-e-Mohammad by Pakistan has inculcated a sense of security among residents of the border areas who felt that the standoff between India and Pakistan would be eased shortly.

A visit to villages on the Indo-Pak border revealed that many residents of the border area who had moved to safer places after the heightened tension in the region might return to their respective villages shortly. Dera Baba Narain Dass in Marri Kambo Ke village near zero line which wore a deserted look a few days ago due to large-scale migrations today was humming with activity. A large number of residents from the adjoining areas had assembled at the dera to celebrate lohri. Followers of Sant Santokh Dass partook of langar at the dera site and peanuts and sweets were distributed among them as part of the festival. Mr Gurdial Singh, a candidate of the ruling Akali Dal from the Valtoha constituency went to the dera to seek his blessings along with the large number of his supporters.

Mr Gurdeep Singh, district police chief, Tarn Taran, claimed that normalcy was fast returning in the border belt. He also gathered first hand information about the plight of residents of the border belt. However, poor people who could not afford transport charges were languishing in relief camps. They complained that they were not getting adequate help from the district administration. However, the displaced persons said leaders of various political parties might visit them shortly with a view to seeking their votes and support.

Mr Swarn Singh, sarpanch of Bhai Ladhu village said though India could not believe that General Pervez Musharraf was sincere in stamping out terrorism from across the border yet he felt the General’s address to the nation would pave the way for breaking standoff between India and Pakistan. Mr Darshan Singh, sarpanch of Ramoowal village near the international border claimed that international pressure on Pakistan would help in stabilising situation along the Indo-Pak border.

Mr Narinder Nath, a businessman of Khalra, however, opined that India must teach Pakistan a lesson as General Pervez Musharraf had openly said that terrorists responsible for attack on Parliament House on December 13 would not be handed over to India if they (the terrorists) belonged to Pakistan. Another shopkeeper of Bhikhiwind, Mr Kewal Krishan, said after General Musharraf’s speech the chances of Indo Pak war had receded. He, however, said residents of the border area would support the Army and the BSF in every manner in case of war with Pakistan.


Arora denied ticket, Cong men revolt
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 13
Dozens of district Congress office-bearers, including Mr Parshotam Lal Bedi, Mr Didar Singh, Mr Baldeep Singh Bal, Mr Surinder Pal Singh, Mr Satish Kumar, all secretaries of the DCC and pro-Congress sarpanches and panches of more than 45 village panchayats of Hoshiarpur have revolted against the decision of the Congress high command of not allotting party ticket to Mr Sunder Sham Arora, member, PPCC, from the Hoshiarpur segment in the coming elections of the Punjab Assembly.

These leaders, sarpanches, panches and supporters of Mr Sunder Sham Arora organised a meeting here today and decided to field him as an Independent candidate from Hoshiarpur segment against the official Congress candidate. Mr Arora is yet to make up his mind on this decision.

The Congress leaders criticised Mrs Ambika Soni, general secretary, AICC, for ignoring the Congress workers and thrusting Mr Naresh Thakur on them who lost this seat with a margin of more than 23,000 votes in the last Assembly election. They also criticised Mr Charanjit Singh Channi, MP from Hoshiarpur, for promoting casteism and ignoring the workers of the party.

Later, Mr Arora told newsmen that a majority of the Congress workers, including office-bearers of the DCC and sarpanches and panches of 56 panchayats, had compelled him to contest from Hoshiarpur segment. He would finalise the issue in a day or so.


Revolt in Kharar Cong
Tribune News Service

Kharar, January 13
A virtual revolt has broken out over the allotment of the Congress ticket to Mr Bir Devinder Singh in the Kharar Assembly constituency, by ignoring the claim of Mr Harnek Singh Gharuan, a former MLA who has earlier represented this constituency in the state Assembly. In the process several other contenders like Mrs Lakhwinder Kaur Garcha, General Secretary of the Punjab PCC and Mr Kewal Dhillon, a well-known Punjab industrialist, have been sidelined.

Several members of the Kharar Block Congress Committee have resigned from the primary membership of the party. Mr Mehar Singh, President of the Kharar Block Committee, Mr Natraj Kaushal, Secretary, District Congress Committee, Mr Surinder Sharma, Mr Satish Kumar Bansal and Dr S.P. Mittal — all general secretaries of the block committee were among the main leaders who resigned from the party.

Mr Harnek Singh has threatened to contest as an Independent candidate.

A wave of resentment is sweeping the Banur constituency over the short shrift given to Mr Mohinder Singh Gill, a former PCC chief and former Punjab minister. Mr Gill has represented the constituency on one occasion and was sure of winning renomination. But the allotment of ticket to a political novice, Mrs Seelam Sohi, has come a great shock to the party cadres.


Banner of revolt in Kapurthala Congress
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, January 13
Workers and leaders of the district Congress have revolted against the party in protest against the allotment of Congress ticket to Mr Gurjit Singh Rana from the Kapurthala Assembly seat.

As many as 50, office-bearers of District and Block Congress Committees have resigned to protest against the ignoring of the claim of Mr Gulzar Singh, president of the district Congress committee to ticket. Mr Gulzar Singh alleged that Mr Rana had virtually purchased ticket by giving crores of rupees to central and state leadership but he refused to identify the leaders who had been bribed by Mr Rana. Meanwhile, an upbeat mood was witnessed in the camp of Mr Rana. Mr Kirpal Singh, former MLA and senior leader of state Congress, welcomed the allotment of ticket to Mr Rana.


Cong men sore about final list
Our Correspondent

Mansa, January 13
The announcement of the final list of Congress candidates has caused disappointment among party activists of the district. They are opposing the party high command’s decision to give Mansa and Budhlada Assembly seats to the CPI.

At a public meeting held here today at Gurdwara Chowk, Mr Sher Singh Gagowal, DCC President, Mr Parkash Chand Badal, DCC Vice-President, and Mr Ashok Garg and Mr Surinder Singla, general secretaries, among other leaders, expressed resentment against the decision.

They have decided to hold another public meeting on January 15 at Gaushala Bhavan. They also criticised the nomination of Mr Ajitinder Singh Mofar from the Sardulgarh Assembly constituency of the district as he had joined the Congress only a few months ago.


YC leader to contest as Independent
Our Correspondent

Barnala, January 13
Mr Harinder Singh Seera Dhillon, a Youth Congress leader from Sangrur district who was denied the Congress ticket from the Barnala Assembly constituency, has decided to raise a banner of revolt against Mr Surinderpal Singh Sibia, the Congress nominee from Barnala, by contesting as an Independent.

Mr Dhillon, a former Sangrur Youth Congress chief, announced his decision at a press conference at his residence today.

He claimed that Youth Congress activists in Punjab were disappointed over the Congress’ failure to fulfil its promise of offering 25 per cent seats to Youth Congress activists.


Punjab BJP recommends 23 names
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 13
The BJP State Election Committee today drew up a panel of 23 names for as many seats that it will contest in the Punjab Assembly poll.

The BJP will be contesting the same number of seats as in 1997. It had been claiming more seats. But eventually, following a meeting between SAD and BJP leaders, the contentious issues were sorted out and the “winnability” of a candidate was accepted as the basic criterion by both parties.

At the meeting today, presided over by the state BJP president, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, the national secretary, Mr O.P. Kohli, was present, besides Punjab ministers Balramji Das Tandon and Madan Mohan Mittal and three general secretaries.

The panel of 23 names has been sent to the BJP National Election Committee, where it will be finally approved on January 15. Mr Rinwa will be going for that meeting to New Delhi. The final announcement is expected on January 16, said sources.

It is learnt that of the present 18 BJP MLAs, at least three or four may not find a berth.


Development to be SAD poll plank
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Joga (Mansa), January 13
The Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) has decided to release the manifesto containing issues related to the people-oriented economic development of state and of making Punjab the number one state in the country in the next five years.

A former Union Minister and general secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, while disclosing this here yesterday, said the SAD was committed to making Punjab a developed state in the initial years of the 21st century.

He added that SAD-BJP combine government of Punjab had achieved the distinction of implementing its manifesto released on the eve of the last Assembly elections in totality.

Mr Badal was here yesterday in connection with the inauguration of the election office of the party candidate, Mr Jagdeep Singh Nakai. Later, addressing a rally, said that unity chapter between SAD and SHSAD had been closed now and the coming election would tell the people which party was the real representative of the Panth and universal brotherhood.

He said that SAD-BJP would seek votes on the strength of the development works carried out in every nook and corner of state. On the other hand, the Congress, which was the mother of all corruption and had failed to play a role of a constructive Opposition, had nothing to show to the electors.


2 SAD leaders quit party over ticket allotment
Our Correspondent

Faridkot, January 13
Mr Lakhbir Singh Arayianwala, president, SAD district unit, and Mr Gurtej Singh Gill, senior party leader and president of the local nagar council, have resigned from the party and its primary membership in protest against the allotment of party ticket to Mr Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon, son of former Akali MLA Jagdish Kaur Dhillon, for the Faridkot Assembly constituency.

Talking to mediapersons here today, Mr Arayianwala and Mr Gill accused SAD President Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal of depriving loyal workers of their rights and encouraging opportunists.

Both leaders alleged that Mr Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon or any of his family members had not played any role in strengthening the party or participated in Dharam Yudh morchas launched by the SAD from time to time.

They also alleged that the late Jasmat Singh Dhillon, father of Mr Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon, had opposed Mr Gurdev Singh Badal, Minister for Agriculture, Punjab, in the Assembly elections from this constituency in 1972. They said Mr Jasmat Singh Dhillon had contested from the constituency as an independent in 1980, opposing the official nominee of the party.

The leaders said a meeting of their supporters and other workers had been convened here next week to decide the future course of action. A large number of party workers, sarpanches and leaders, including Mr Baldev Singh Ghugiana and Mr Malkiat Singh Kang, senior vice-president and press secretary, respectively, of the SAD district unit, and Mr Gurpreet Singh, president, district Youth Akali Dal, were also present on the occasion.


Cheema faction of SAD in revolt
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 13
With the announcement of the SAD ticket for Mr Didar Singh Bhatti from the Sirhind Assembly constituency, the faction of the SAD led by R.S. Cheema, a former minister, has declared a revolt against the decision.

Hundreds of supporters of Mr Cheema today thronged his residence and mounted pressure on him to contest as an Independent after resigning from the party.

Talking to The Tribune at his residence in Karimpura village, Mr Cheema termed the decision of the party President as “suicidal” for the party and said Mr Badal has “deceived” him.

He said yesterday he had met Mr Badal at Jalandhar and the latter had assured him of party ticket.

But in the evening when the candidates’ list was released, he found the ticket had gone to an outsider, who had no base in the constituency. He alleged that money has played a vital role in deciding the ticket.

Supporters of Mr Cheema, who were in an aggressive mood, alleged that supporters of Mr Bhatti had been openly declaring that they would “purchase” the ticket. They alleged that Mr Bhatti had sold 24 acres and purchased the ticket for Rs 51 lakh and a deal was settled through Mr Janmeja Singh Sekhon, a minister in the Badal Cabinet.

Highly placed sources said Jathedar G.S. Tohra and Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, leaders of the Panthic Morcha had visited the residence of Mr Cheema and held a closed-door meeting. Mr Cheema has the ability of tilting the scales in favour of any candidate in the constituency.

Mr Cheema has called a meeting of his supporters on January 15 at his residence to decide the further course of action.

Meanwhile, Mr Balwant Singh Shahpur, the lone SAD MLA from the district, has been denied the party ticket from the Amloh (R) constituency and the ticket allotted to an outsider, Mr Gurdev Singh Sidhu.

Supporters of Shahpur have revolted against the party decision and called a meeting of their supporters to decide on further action.


Rebel SAD leaders may join morcha: Mann
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 13
Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, President, Akali Dal (Amritsar), today claimed that a number of rebel SAD leaders may join the Panthic Morcha in the near future. He said several former SAD leaders, unhappy about the allotment of tickets, were in constant touch with the Panthic Morcha to contest as its candidates.

Without disclosing any names, he told mediapersons at a press conference at the residence of party general secretary Charan Singh Lohara that the leaders had sent feelers to them expressing their desire to join the Panthic Morcha. In response to questions about the stage which the talks had reached, Mr Mann said he was not in a position to disclose the status of the talks, adding that everything would be open soon.

Mr Mann said the Akali Dal (Amritsar) would stage a demonstration in front of Parliament House in New Delhi on January 18 to protest against the laying of landmines in the border belt of the state. He said a global convention in 1997 had called for an end to the activity.

Mr Mann said the Panthic Morcha would announce all its candidates by January 15. He expressed confidence that some kind of alliance would be finally forged with the Bahujan Samaj Party but stressed that the morcha would join the alliance as the senior partner only.

Responding to queries about unity among Panthic Morcha leaders, Mr Mann said for him the unity was foremost. He claimed that he had even withdrawn his candidature for the Chief Minister’s post in order to maintain unity in the morcha.

Mr Mann also demanded a compensation of Rs 16,000 per acre for the farmers whose crops were damaged due to the deployment of troops.


Morcha fields Libra from Khanna
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 13
Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, today announced the name of Mr Randhir Singh Libra as the Panthic Morcha candidate from Khanna.

He made this announcement to newsmen after telephonic consultation with Baba Sarabjit Singh Bedi, convener of the morcha.

With this, the number of Panthic Morcha candidates touched 54 today.

The Panthic Morcha will contest 90 seats and leave the others for the BSP.


Morcha promises to waive loans
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 13
The Panthic Morcha today declared it would waive loans of small farmers as well as water and sewerage charges of residents if voted to power.

Addressing newspersons, Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, General Secretary of the SHSAD, said loans up to Rs 50,000 would be waived for small farmers.

Though nominal octroi would be levied for the development of cities, the charges for water and sewerage would be remitted, he said.

He said the morcha would set up a three-member Lok Pal for stemming, corruption.


Waive farmers’ loans: BKU (Ekta)
Our Correspondent

Mansa, January 13
The Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta) has sought the waiver of all loans of the farmers of the state and any political party that concedes this demand would be supported by the union. This was stated by Mr Ruldu Singh, senior vice-president of the state unit of the BKU (Ekta), while talking to the mediapersons here today.

He said the farmers owned more than Rs 10,000 crore to the state government, commercial banks and arhtiyas and they were unable to repay loans due to continuous failure of crops. He said many farmers had committed suicide during the rule of the Badal government and the worst affected districts were Sangrur and Bathinda followed by Mansa, Faridkot and Ferozepore.

Mr Ruldu Singh said the BKU had apprised Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, of this demand. He said Capt Amarinder Singh, President, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, had met BKU leaders and sought their support for the Congress. Capt Amarinder Singh was also given the same demand charter, he added. He accused political parties of making tall promises at the time of elections. He said the BKU (Ekta) would intensify its ongoing struggle.


Candidate opposes caste-based quota
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 13
The district unit of the General Samaj Party (GSP) was launched here today. Party activists said they would fight to end caste-based reservation system and, if need be, establish a new reservation system based on the economic condition of an individual.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Ashok Kumar, spokesman for the party, said the caste-based reservation was introduced in the Constitution only for 10 years but political parties had been cashing in on the loopholes of the system and it had been extended till 2011. He alleged that merit was being compromised with and even those who had secured mere pass marks in competitive examinations had been securing seats in professional institutes. Mr Rajbir Singh Sidhu, party candidate for this Assembly segment, alleged that reservations had taken a toll on the work culture as merit was not being honoured. He said politicians had reversed the decision of the Supreme Court by an amendment in the Constitution to continue cashing in on the caste-based political system.

Ms Kusum Sharma, state president of the GSP, said candidates would be fielded from Bathinda, Ropar, Nawanshahr, Garhshankar, Patiala, Gurdaspur and Samana.


CPM to go it alone
Our Correspondent

Nabha, January 13
The CPM will contest from Ghanaur, Sherpur, Dhanaula, Garhshankar, Nangal, Nurmahal, Lohian, Banga, Verka, Dakha, Raikot, Amritsar, Sangrur, Hoshiarpur and a few other constituencies, independently, in the forthcoming elections in Punjab.

This was disclosed by Mr Inderjit Singh Bhagrana, secretary, Patiala unit of the CPI, while talking to mediapersons after the general body meeting.

He said the sole aim of his party was to defeat the SAD-BJP combine and other communal forces. He criticised the government for increasing unemployment by banning recruitment for four-and-a-half years of its tenure and now recruiting candidates by “taking huge sums of money.”

About the separation of the Pasla faction from the CPM, he said these were part of the revolutionary parties and could do no harm to the party.


Gutted trucks were from Bathinda
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 13
Sadness was writ large on the faces of several truck owners and operators of Bathinda, Bhucho, Goniana and Rampura Phul as about 75 trucks that went up in flames at Udasar in Rajasthan on January 11 belonged to them.

Information gathered by TNS revealed that about nine trucks were from Bhucho, 22 from Goniana and 44 from Bathinda.

As the Army authorities were not permitting anyone to go near the spot of the incident, the truck drivers and cleaners had given the information about the incident to their unions telephonically. None of the truck drivers or cleaners of the region were reported to be injured or dead, sources said.

The sources said all trucks were acquired by the Army authorities through the district administration in December. Earlier, the Army had allegedly impounded the trucks but later the district authorities made the trucks available on the former’s request.

Mr Jagjit Singh Jeeti, president of the Bathinda Truck Operators Union, said for some operators their vehicles were the only source of income and they were worried about their livelihood. The total loss could go up to Rs 3 crore.

Mr R. Venkatratnam, Deputy Commissioner, said most trucks destroyed in the fire were from this region and their owners would be given compensation as per government rules.


Plea on Kewal Singh’s resignation
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, January 13
The issue relating to the resignation of Giani Kewal Singh as Jathedar, Takht Damdama Sahib, after the stay granted against the non-bailable warrants against him and his kin in a dowry death case was vacated by the Additional Sessions Judge, Mr Surjeet Singh, recently, today took a new turn when as many as 14 social, religious and educational societies urged the SGPC not to accept it and decided to oppose the decision to give additional charge of Takht Damdama Sahib to Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar, Takht Kesgarh Sahib.

Giani Kewal Singh is likely to approach the Punjab and Haryana High Court for getting stay against the execution of non-bailable warrants issued against him and his kin.

The 14 different organisations, including the Guru Kashi Vikas Manch, the Fateh Dal, the Gatka Sanstha and the Lok Bhalai Manch in a letter to the SGPC on Sunday urged Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, SGPC chief, not to accept the resignation of Giani Kewal Singh.

They urged Mr Badungar to make arrangements to unveil the controversy, which had been victimising Giani Kewal Singh and his family members. Giani Kewal Singh should also be urged to come to Akal Takht, to make his position clear in connection with the dowry death case registered against him and others. 


Maghi fair inaugurated
Our Correspondent

Muktsar, January 13
Mr Dharamveer, Deputy Commissioner of Ferozepore division, today inaugurated the Maghi fair.

Mr Babu Lal, Deputy Commissioner, Muktsar, among other senior officers, was also present.

An exhibition organised by various departments was inaugurated. There were more than 40 stalls of rural development agencies, District Industrial Centre, agriculture, Markfed, language, dairy development etc.

The District Education Department also organised a special cultural programme. As many as 200 students participated and presented a variety of programmes. Local cultural parties also organised programmes.

Mr Dhramveer announced to give Rs 11,000 as prize to the students.


Jacob celebrates Lohri with jawans
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 13
The Punjab Governor, Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd), today celebrated Lohri with jawans deployed in the forward areas of the Dera Baba Nanak sector in Gurdaspur district.

The Army Commander, the Corps Commander and the Deputy Commissioner received General Jacob. The Governor interacted with the jawans. General Jacob said: “The nation is proud of you for guarding the unity and integrity of our country”. The troops responded enthusiastically to the hero of the 1971 war.

The Governor also enjoyed the traditional “barakhana” sitting and eating with the jawans. He also enjoyed the traditional Lohri sweets with them.


Mine damage: relief for crops
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, January 13
Following Army deployment in the border areas of Bamial and Narote Jaimal Singh, sub-tehsils, of this subdivision, standing rabi crops spread over 5,400 acres have been completely damaged.

According to a survey, landowners belonging to the villages of Bamial, Dhinda, Symbal, Scol, Bhopalpur, Khudaipur, Paharipur, Kashi Barwan, Jaidpur, Basau Barwan, Palah, Dalotar, Khojki Chak, Dhanwal, Dospur, Dulo Palah, Kohla, Sarota, Lasian, Kajle, Rajpur Jatta, Taash, Barmal, Jattan, Pharwal, Akhwara, Bhagwat, Adam Barwan, Mastgarh and few other villages of the area have suffered a loss of more than Rs 8 crore.

However, the authorities have received only Rs 1 crore for distribution among farmers whose crops have been damaged primarily due to laying of landmines.


Punjab pensioners hold protest rally
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, January 13
Hundreds of pensioners of the district held a protest rally at Ram Bagh and urged the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to intervene to remove the unwarranted harassment to them.

Mr Avtar Singh Afat, president and patron of the district pensioners association and the Punjab state pensioner’s confederation, respectively, talking to the press here today expressed resentment over the callous attitude of the Finance Department. Mr Afat has threatened to hold protest demonstrations on January 23.


EVMs sealed in presence of poll observer
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 13
The District Election Officer-cum-Deputy Commissioner, Fatehgarh Sahib, Mr Vikas Partap, said here today that the electronic voting machines to be used in the coming Vidhan Sabha elections had been sealed in the presence of Mr Sanjay Joshi, Election Observer, by the Returning Officer.

He said any employee whose spouse was a candidate or member of a political party would not be allowed to take part in political activities.

Mr Vikas said no government vehicle could be used for campaigning of a candidate. All officers would behave in an impartial manner.

Disciplinary action would be taken against those found flouting the directions or shirking duty.

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