Wednesday, January 23, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Major parties flout EC guidelines
Sarabjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, January 22
While the election campaign has started gaining momentum in most constituencies in the state, candidates of almost all major political parties in the election fray have virtually made the election code of conduct a laughing stock.

Political parties are violating the code with impunity. There is no check on them. The presence of the observers is visible nowhere. As most of the candidates of the major political parties filed their nomination papers today, they utilised the opportunity as a show of strength.

The convoy of the SAD candidate, Mr Sucha Singh Langah, Punjab PWD Minister, in Dhariwal had over 200 vehicles. Likewise, in Hoshiarpur, the convoy of the Congress candidate, Mr Sangat Singh Giljia, had nearly 300 vehicles. Mr Natha Singh Dalam, another SAD candidate, also led a convoy of hundreds of vehicles through the streets of Quadian town.

The Congress candidate, Mr Salamat Messih, also led a convoy of several vehicles in Dhariwal town. Many other instances can be given in this connection. Candidates used all sort of vehicles like buses, tractor-trailers, jeeps and cars as part of their convoys.

The presence of such a large number of vehicles in various towns and cities not only created traffic hazards but these also created a nuisance for the people. This correspondent came across several traffic jams on way from Gurdaspur to Hoshiarpur via Dhariwal and Hargobindpur today because of the convoys of candidates.

It is pertinent to mention that the Election Commission of India had taken serious notice of Mr Parkash Singh Badal's convoy to Amritsar from Chandigarh in the first week of January. Mr Badal had to curtail his convoy from Jalandhar onward to Chandigarh on the instructions of the Commission. He had also written to the Commission to explain his position in this connection.

The Commission has ordered that there should not be more than three vehicles in any convoy. How the expenditure on such a large number of vehicles will be accounted for by the candidates is the question which only the election observers can answer. The code was enforced by the Commission on December 26.

When contacted in this connection, Mrs Usha Sharma, Additional Electoral Officer, Punjab, said that there could not be more than three vehicles in any convoy. She said that action would taken against those candidates against whom complaints were made to the Commission for violation of the code at the time of filing of the nomination papers. There is a provision for the filming of the campaign of the candidates by cameramen appointed by the returning officers.

Meanwhile, the election campaign has started picking up in most parts of the state. A visit to various parts of the Hoshiarpur-Gurdaspur-Pathankot- Jalandhar belt has revealed that elections have started generating debate among the electorate over issues, good and bad points of candidates, their reputation.

Various cities and towns wore a colourful look because of the presence of banners and flags in the main bazars and also posters on the walls of different political parties. In fact, a sort of competition is going on among candidates of various parties to decorate the bazars in towns and cities with their banners and flags.

The election scenario in various constituencies has also started emerging. There will be triangular contests in most constituencies. However, in certain constituencies , there will be four- cornered contests. In the Gurdaspur belt, in most of the seats there will be contest among the SAD-BJP combine, the Congress plus the CPI alliance and the Panthic Morcha. In certain parts of the Hoshiarpur-Gurdaspur belt, the BSP will also be among the main contenders.


Road built to woo voters
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Majitha (Amritsar), January 22
In gross violation of the Model Code of Conduct, construction work has been going on a war footing in various parts of this constituency. Interestingly, the work which was started during the Majitha byelection last year had come to standstill immediately after the polling.

The voters of the constituency got a surprise when employees of the Public Works Department and other departments thronged the areas where work was stopped after the byelection. Mr Rajmohinder Singh Majithia who had won the byelection on Akali ticket is seeking re-election.

Too woo about 900 votes of Harian village, it (the village) is being connected with the Grand Trunk Road by paving the premix. The new road would connect the G.T. Road through the Majitha-Kathunangal link-road. Apart from this, the kutcha road of Bhai Salo is being constructed with pre-mix. The government employees are also busy repairing and constructing small bridges on water channels. Various lanes and drains of the Majitha constituency are also being made pucca.

During the Majitha byelection, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, had promised to convert Majitha into a ‘model constituency’. However, the tall promises made to the electorate stood unfulfilled. Mr Badal had also promised to construct a bus stand in Majitha. Though the state government could not fulfil this promise after the byelection, a ‘temporary’ bus stand was constructed recently at the old building of the office of DSP to woo the voters. Residents of the town are of the view that the ‘temporary’ bus stand could be shifted after the election.

It may be mentioned here that many electricity poles were also supplied by the Punjab State Electricity Board in this constituency during the byelection in violation of the code. However, the state government has failed to ensure an uninterrupted electricity supply so far. Though Mr Amarinder Singh, president, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, had sent a number of complaints to the Election Commission regarding violation of the code, no action was taken by the commission at that time. Again, Mr Sawinder Singh Kathunangal, Congress candidate, has sent complaints about violation of the code.

On other hand, candidates of various political parties are allegedly distributing ‘nasha’ (liquor drugs) to voters in violation of the code. The operation of illicit distilleries running by activists of various political parties, especially in the countryside, is a common side.


Transfers on EC’s directions
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, January 22
After much dilly-dallying, the Local Government Department ordered transfers of Superintending Engineers, Executive Engineers and Assistant Engineers in the civil wing, O and M cell, Horticulture and Electrical departments. Earlier, the department had failed to implement the directions of the Election Commission (EC) to shift the officers with more than four years of stay at a place.

It was reliably learnt that senior officials in the department had transferred of some of the junior officials while many others, ought to be posted elsewhere in accordance with the EC directive, were spared. According to highly placed sources, many officials with political connections had managed to stay back at their present places of posting in violation of the EC instructions.

The sources said another list, ordering the transfers of 24 officials, had been issued by the Directorate of Local Government but it could not be officially confirmed. The Municipal Corporation headquarters here were abuzz with unconfirmed reports of many more transfers and those likely to be affected were trying to seek authentic information on these reports.

The following is the list of transfers:

Superintending Engineers: Mr Kartar Singh, Amritsar to Jalandhar, Mr A.K. Prabhakar, Jalandhar to Amritsar.

Executive Engineers (O and M Cell): Mr Kulwinder Singh Dhillon, Amritsar to Ludhiana, Mr D.S. Malhotra, Ludhiana to Amritsar, Mr A.S. Dhaliwal, Jalandhar to Amritsar; Executive Engineers (Civil Wing): Mr Bansi Lal, Jalandhar to Amritsar; Mr V.K. Talwar, Amritsar to Jalandhar, Mr V.K. Setia, Patiala to Amritsar, Mr H.S. Khosa, Amritsar to Patiala, Mr M.M. Syal, Patiala to Amritsar; Mr P.K. Goyal, Amritsar to Patiala, Mr Chaman Lal, Patiala to Amritsar; Executive Engineers (Electrical): Mr S.P. Singh, Jalandhar to Amritsar; and Mr Kasturi Lal Malhotra, Amritsar to Jalandhar, Executive Engineers (Horticulture): Mr J.S. Bilga, Ludhiana to Amritsar, Mr P.S. Gill, Jalandhar to Ludhiana; and Mr D.S. Saini, Ludhiana to Jalandhar.

Secretaries: Mr Kuldip Singh, Patiala to Ludhiana; Mr Vinod Sharda, Ludhiana to Patiala.

Assistant Engineers (O and M Cell) : Mr Satnam Singh, Jalandhar to Amritsar; Mr K.B. Rai, Amritsar to Jalandhar; Mr Harwinder Singh, Jalandhar to Amritsar; Mr Gurdev Singh, Amritsar to Jalandhar; Mr Jaswinder Singh, Amritsar to Ludhiana; Mr Vikram Bansal, Ludhiana to Amritsar, Mr Gian Singh, Amritsar to Ludhiana, Mr Malkiat Singh, Ludhiana to Amritsar; Mr Gurinder Singh, Amritsar to Ludhiana; Mr Manjit Singh, Ludhiana to Amritsar, Mr Sunil Uppal, Amritsar to Ludhiana; Mr Jagtar Singh, Ludhiana to Amritsar; Mr Ravinder Kumar, Jalandhar to Ludhiana; Mr Pardeep Kumar Saluja, Ludhiana to Jalandhar; Mr Kamlesh Bansal, Ludhiana to Jalandhar; Mr Narinder Singh, Jalandhar to Ludhiana; Mr R.P. Gupta, Ludhiana to Jalandhar; Mr Balwinder Singh, Jalandhar to Ludhiana; Mr Rajinder Singh, Ludhiana to Jalandhar; Mr V.P. Singh, Jalandhar to Ludhiana; Mr Balwinder Singh, Ludhiana to Jalandhar; and Mr Lakhwinder Singh, Jalandhar to Ludhiana.

Assistant Engineer (Electrical): Mr Santosh Kumar, Ludhiana to Jalandhar.

Assistant Engineers (Civil): Mr M.D. Sharma, Jalandhar to Ludhiana; Mr H.C. Salaria, Ludhiana to Jalandhar; Mr O.P. Mittal, Jalandhar to Ludhiana; Mr Swarn Singh, Ludhiana to Jalandhar; Mr Jagir Singh, Jalandhar to Ludhiana; Mr Rakesh Kumar Sharma, Ludhiana to Jalandhar; Mr Gurmeet Singh, Jalandhar to Ludhiana; Mr Parmod Chadha, Ludhiana to Jalandhar; Mr Kuldip Raj Sharma, Jalandhar to Ludhiana; Mr Karamjit Singh, Ludhiana to Jalandhar; Mr Kashmiri Lal, Jalandhar to Ludhiana; Mr Kulwant Singh, Ludhiana to Jalandhar; Mr Inder Mohan Singh, Jalandhar to Ludhiana; Mr B.B. Goyal, Ludhiana to Jalandhar; Mr Mukesh Chander, Ludhiana to Patiala; Mr Daljit Singh Sandhu, Amritsar to Patiala; Mr Vinod Anand, Amritsar to Patiala; Mr Sham Lal Gupta, Patiala to Amritsar; Mr Gurbachan Singh, Amritsar to Patiala; Mr Hans Raj, Patiala to Amritsar; Mr Gurpreet Singh Walia, Patiala to Amritsar; Mr Arun Kumar, Amritsar to Patiala; Mr Gurcharan Singh, Amritsar to Jalandhar; Mr Avtar Singh, Amritsar to Patiala; Mr Rajinder Kumar; Patiala to Amritsar; Mr Sandeep Singh, Amritsar to Ludhiana; Mr Rajinder Singh Randhawa, Amritsar to Jalandhar; Mr Satish Khanna, Amritsar to Jalandhar; Mr Harjinder Pal Singh, Jalandhar to Amritsar; Mr Om Parkash Puri, Amritsar to Ludhiana; Mr Surinder Mohindroo, Ludhiana to Amritsar; Mr Navjot Singh, Amritsar to Ludhiana; Mr Vinod Kumar Mahajan, Ludhiana to Amritsar; Mr Harinder Singh, Amritsar to Ludhiana; Mr Manjit Pal Singh Bedi, Ludhiana to Amritsar; Mr Pardeep Kumar Attri, Amritsar to Ludhiana; Mr Tirath Ram, Ludhiana to Amritsar; Mr Harbhajan Singh, Amritsar to Ludhiana; and Mr Joginder Singh Sandhu, Ludhiana to Amritsar.


EC curbs R-Day speeches
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 22
The Election Commission of India has sounded the Chief Minister and ministers of Punjab against making party themes the peg for Republic Day addresses.

According to Ms Usha R. Sharma, Additional Chief Electoral Officer Punjab, there was no objection to Central Ministers, Chief Ministers and ministers doing honours at the Republic Day functions subject to the conditions that in their speeches, they confine themselves to extolling the achievements of martyrs in securing freedom of the country, glorification of the Indian State and so on. “Under no circumstances, the speeches should become a platform for political campaign”.

The commission has also decided that no Central minister, ministers or any other political functionary shall do honours at any Republic Day functions at any of the locations within their home district or constituency or from where he or she is a contesting candidate or intends to contest. The Chief Minister may, however, do so from the state headquarters, as per the long standing conventions.

The commission also has no objections to the organisation of kavi sammelans, mushairas or other cultural functions organised in connection with the Republic Day celebrations. The commission has further decided that the investiture ceremonies at state-level and distribution of tamar patras to freedom fighters, etc and such other functions will be done according to the existing conventions.

However, utmost care should be taken to ensure that no political speeches highlighting the achievements of the party in power were made on the occasion.

The commission has also imposed certain restrictions on the printing of election material like pamphlets and posters.

According to Ms Sharma, no persons, shall print or publish or cause to be printed or published any election pamphlets and posters which do not bear on its face the names and addresses of the printer and the publisher.

Further, no persons shall print or cause to be printed any election material unless a declaration as to the identity of the publishers, thereof, signed by him and attested by two persons to whom he is personally known is delivered by him to the printer in duplicate. One copy of the declaration has to be sent to the Chief Electoral Officer, and one to the District Magistrate of the district concerned by the printer within a reasonable time after printing of the documents.


Code shadow on shagun scheme
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 22
Among the several schemes introduced in the social sector, the one of the Punjab Government giving shagun of Rs 5,100 at the time of marriage of a Scheduled Caste or Christian girl, has caught the attention of many. It was introduced in 1997-98 with an approved outlay of Rs 27 crore and cleared by the Planning Commission.

With the passage of time, delays in the sanction and release of money slowly began to erode its sanctity and charm. Earlier, sanction and release was done at the level of the Administrative Department. Later, approval of the Finance Minister was made mandatory for the quarterly release of the shagun money to be paid at the time of marriage of the intended beneficiaries. The fourth installment was released on December 17, 2001, before the coming into operation of the Code of Conduct. But given the usual red-tape wrangling, Rs 6 crore could neither be sanctioned nor released.

When the Chief Secretary, Mr N. K. Arora, brought the matter to the notice of the state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Mr G. S. Cheema, and sought his approval for release of Rs 6 crore, saying that it was an ongoing scheme, permission was not granted. Thereupon, the Chief Secretary, quoting extracts of a survey by the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID) again wrote to the CEO.

The letter, quoting the CRRID report, says that there were instances of harassment of young, newly wed girls belonging to lower strata, some of whom were sent back to their parents by the in-laws. An example was cited of a village in Zira subdivision of Ferozepore district. The report makes a telling comment that in several cases even after six months of marriage, shagun was not paid to the two daughters of a widow. But delay of over six months in release of shagun created problems for the two new brides with the in-laws demanding the promised items.

In fact, in most cases, payment of shagun on the actual date of marriage had routinely become unlikely because of usual delays in drawing funds from the Treasury. Now, the government is keen that the last quarter installment of Rs 6 crore be released. On this, the CEO is reported to have expressed reservations that the shagun cheques would, most likely, be disbursed in one go, which was likely to influence voting. The government has been advised to postpone the handing over of cheques till after the poll.


Fearing fund-seekers, businessmen flee
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 22
With electioneering picking up and the candidates in desperate need of funds, most of the leading industrialists and businessmen of Ludhiana have reportedly fled the city to avoid the fund seekers. As the demand for the funds soars, the businessmen, it is learnt, have preferred to stay away till the elections.

Ludhiana, with its industries, is the favourite haunt of the politicians to raise funds. It is not just the local politicians who are approaching the local business and industrial houses for money, but those from other parts of the state have also started making rounds of the city. A number of businessmen are learnt to be abroad at the time. While some are on routine business trips, others are believed to have arranged the trips to avoid the fund seekers.

A leading industrialist disclosed that usually businessmen prefer to invest in a party. They have their favourites, obviously those who have more chances of winning. "But this time the situation appears to be too fluid to bank upon a particular party, leaving the businessmen confused", he revealed.

Big industrial houses keep a specific amount for major parties like the Congress, SAD, the BJP, among others. This time people are also donating funds to the Panthic Morcha, which the businessmen feel, is emerging to be a major political force in the state. But the specified amount ‘allocated’ by the business houses for different parties is learnt to fall, “far short of their (candidates’) expectations”.

Due to recession in the industry, business houses are reluctant to part with money. A businessman who runs a medium size industry in the Focal Point area confided that one of the candidates from a mainstream political party asked for Rs 10 lakh, “which is beyond my capacity.”

It is not just the big industrial houses which are being approached for funds by the candidates of all hues. Medium and small businessman have also their quota of visitors asking for money and nobody asks for less than a ‘peti’ (Rs 1 lakh). A trader, who owns a consumer store in Chaura Bazar here, remarked “some candidates seem to have filed the nomination just for collecting money.”

“First, there is not much money in the market. Second, the people who receive hefty donations are seldom available when they are needed the most,” said the trader.


Alliances that were not to be
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 22
Contrary to expectations, new political alliances in the state politics for the February 13 Assembly elections have crumbled even before they could be formalised.

The announcement of the list of 80 candidates by the Bahujan Samaj Party supremo, Mr Kanshi Ram, has taken the wind out of the sails of not only the Panthic Morcha but also the Congress.

Mr Kanshi Ram made it clear that his party would not enter into any formal alliance with the Panthic Morcha but only have seat adjustment to ensure the defeat of the Congress and SAD-BJP alliance. It is a polite way of saying that the BSP would do it alone.

Interestingly, the only formal alliance left in the fray is the ruling SAD-BJP one, which, in spite of turbulence, both in the SAD and the Bharatiya Janata Party, has successfully survived a full five-year term and seems sustainable for the time being.

The developments, since the filing of nominations started on January 16, have been indicative of multi-angular contests in most of the 117 Assembly constituencies of the state. How the things develop in the next eight days remain to be seen. All will depend upon how the major political parties, both at the national and state levels, are able to quell dissidence.

The quantum of “dissidence” within all major political parties, and failure of like-minded parties to come together is “unprecedented”. For example, in the Congress alone, the number of dissidents or rebels deciding to contest, both as Independents or as nominees of the Nationalist Congress Party headed by Mr Sharad Pawar, is more than 25. The same is the case with the SAD where more than 15 candidates have made known their intentions of opposing the official candidates. Some of them may go to the Panthic Morcha and others may contest as Independents. The BJP, though a smaller party, may also have a couple of rebels opposing official candidates. The BSP has been more or less able to give tickets to all its aspirants.

The decision of Mr Kanshi Ram may have come as a big disappointment more to the Panthic Morcha leadership than the Congress as he openly criticised a part of the former’s leadership, maintaining that he would have no truck with “secessionist and Khalistani elements”.

Though the BSP supremo, who has been working hard in Punjab for more than a year now, always wanted to go alone in the Punjab Assembly elections, he had been under tremendous pressure of the Panthic Morcha leadership, which offered him less than 40 seats, on the plea that together they could floor both the ruling alliance and the Congress. Instead, he has put up his nominees in many of the Assembly segments for which the Panthic Morcha has already announced its candidates.

He did not name any candidate for the Morinda, Kharar and Amritsar South Assembly segments from where the morcha has put up Mr Ravi Inder Singh, Mr Rajbir Singh Padiala and Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta as its candidates. The BSP has also not up any candidates at Dhariwal and Patti from where the morcha has named Mr Sucha Singh Chhotepur and former AISSF activist Harminder Singh Gill as its candidates.

He has put up his candidates for the Kila Raipur, Ludhiana Rural and Dakha Assembly seats from where the Panthic Morcha has decided to field Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, Mr Hira Singh Gabria and Mr Bikramjit Singh Khalsa, respectively.

The BSP list has been worrying both the Panthic Morcha as well as Congress leadership as it will certainly eat into SC and ST votes, more of which otherwise would have gone to Congress. The BSP’s track record, if not impressive, cannot be ignored as it is capable of upsetting the applecart of any major political party any day. It has the capacity to play a very delicate or decisive role in the coming Assembly elections. But crossing swords with the Panthic Morcha candidates in more than 40 constituencies would neither benefit the BSP nor the Panthic Morcha but may benefit the lone alliance of Punjab politics, the SAD-BJP, as these political outfits would not only garner anti-ruling alliance vote but also eat up that Sikh vote which would have not gone to Congress either.


Dissensions may spring surprises
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

With no clear-cut wave, coupled with dissension in rank and file in the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress, the results of the forthcoming Assembly elections may spring a surprise in the border district of Amritsar, which was once a hotbed of militancy. Many self-styled chiefs of Khalistan, including Parmjit Singh Panjwar (of the Khalistan Commando Force and one of the 20 terrorists who figure in the list of most wanted, submitted to Pakistan), Labh Singh alias Sukha Sipahi and Gurbachan Singh Manochahal of the Bhinderanwala Tiger Force belonged to the district.

The rural constituency of Jandiala may witness an interesting contest as the feud between Kairon family (close relatives of the Chief Minister) and group led by the Cooperation Minister, Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, simmers over. This has been a source of much embarrassment to Mr Parkash Singh Badal. Though Mr Surinder Singh Kairon, a former Congress Member Parliament and son of Partap Singh Kairon, a former Chief Minister, did not formally join the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, he succeeded in inducting his son, Mr Adeshpartap Singh Kairon also Mr Badal’s son-in-law in the ministry. Mr Surinder Kairon also got plum posts for his close confidants by using the influence of Mr Badal. However, he failed to get the party tickets for Mr Ajai Paul Singh Mirankot, a sitting MLA for Jandiala and Mr Harmit Singh from Tarn Taran, his close confidants. Mr Kairon, who is not even a member of the SAD inaugurated the election offices of the Akali rebels. He had assured the voters that if they (the rebels) were voted, to power they would join the SAD. Mr Brahmpura, however, alleges that Mr Kairon is out to damage the prospects of the party in the Majha region. Though the situation is not clear yet but the contest is likely to be multi-cornered.

In Amritsar (South) the rejected candidates of both the Congress and SAD can play spoilsport. The aspirants of tickets front both parties have announced to contest as rebel candidates. Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, a sitting MLA of SAD is now a candidate of Panthic Morcha. Mr Calcutta was a strong votary of Panthic unity and made efforts for rapprochement between friends — turned foes, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Mr Badal. Similarly, Mr Raminder Singh Bolaria, who was denied the Congress ticket, has announced to contest as a rebel. Mr Harjinder Singh Thekedar, who had lost the previous Assembly election to Mr Calcutta is the Congress candidate. Mr Calcutta had polled 31,060 votes while Mr Thekedar had polled only 16,565. Mr Kirpal Singh, a former MP and President, Khalsa Diwan, who had contested against the SAD and Congress candidates is now common candidate of SAD-BJP. He had contested the previous Assembly elections on Punjab Janta Morcha ticket and polled only 9765 votes, though he was earlier elected thrice from this constituency.

The Amritsar (West) is the biggest constituency of the district and is dominated by Hindus. This constituency used to be an important centre of Communist Party of India and the Congress. The Congress rebel and sitting MLA, Mr Om Parkash Sony, a close confidant of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, is seeking re-election from this constituency. While the Congress has left the seat for Mr Amarjit Singh Asal, secretary, CPI, the presence of Mr Om Parkash Kalia, district president, BJP, and Mr Sohan Lal Amrohi of Panthic Morcha will make the contest multi-cornered. The constituency was once represented by the veteran CPI leader, Mr Sat Pal Dang and his wife, Ms Vimla Dang.

The Verka constituency will also face dissension from the Congress and SAD leaders, who were denied tickets. Dr Raj Kumar, general secretary, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee is the official candidate while a former MLA Dr Dalbir Singh, had joined the ruling SAD, as he felt that he would be denied the ticket. The Congress dissidents, including former minister Mr Gurmej Singh, Mr Amrik Singh Marharhi, Mr Bharpur Singh Mehnia, Mr Gurcharan Singh Bal, Ms Preeti Singh and Mr Gurbachan Singh, strongly opposed the candidature of Dr Raj Kumar in a letter written to the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Mr Rawel Singh, senior SAD leader, who was the aspirant for the SAD ticket, will now contest the elections on the Panthic Morcha ticket.

The Beas constituency may also witness multi-cornered contest. Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa, general secretary, Indian Youth Congress, who had lost the previous Assembly elections by a thin margin, has filed his nomination papers as the Congress candidate. Bhai Ram Singh, general secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) will contest on the Panthic Morcha ticket while Mr Manjinder Singh Kang, Chairman, Punjab Forest Corporation, will contest as the common candidate of the ruling SAD-BJP. Mr Nazar Singh Saidpur (CPM) and Mr Sukhdev Singh Daul, member, Block Samiti (BSP), are also in the fray. Mr Manmohan Singh Sathiala, the sitting SAD MLA Bawa Gursharn Singh and Mr Avtar Singh Umranangal, son of the late Jeewan Singh Umranangal, who were denied the SAD tickets, may oppose the official candidate.

With the announcement of Mr Ranjit Singh Waryamnangal, a former Congress MLA, who was denied the ticket, to support the SAD candidate, Mr Rajmohinder Singh Majitha, the contest is likely to be interesting. Mr Sawinder Singh Kathunangal, who had joined the Congress last year has been given the party ticket.


Amarinder wins back rebels
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Mansa, January 22
Contrary to expectations, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, has been able to carry along the dissidents who were sore at being denied tickets for the Assembly elections. This was evident from the number of angry party leaders present at the first election rally, he addressed at Joga yesterday.

Sources said the PPCC chief was in touch with the rebels and the task of bringing them to the fold was being accorded top priority. That is the signal he has managed to send through this rally to the dissidents all over the state and the possibility of more rebels coming home was not being ruled out.

Dissident Congressmen, even those who had declared their intention of contesting as Independents from the four constituencies of this district — Mansa, Joga, Sardulgarh and Budhlada — were warmly received by the PPCC chief. However, an important exception was the DCC president, Mr Sher Singh, Gagowal, who is sticking to his guns to contest against the Congress — CPI nominee. Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhillon, a former Agriculture Minister in the Surjit Singh Barnala Government who was present at the rally announced his decision to join the Congress and work for the success of the Congress candidates in the district.

Former Minister Kirpal Singh Makha, who was said to be angry for being overlooked for the ticket also participated in the rally.

The youth Akali leader, Mr Yadvinder Singh Pirzada, also announced his decision to work for the Congress. A close confidant of Mr Sukhbir Badal, he said to enjoy considerable clout among the voters. Capt Amarinder Singh also managed to woo back Mr Sukhvinder Singh Sukhi, who was the Sardulgarh unit chief and party candidate in the 1997 Assembly elections. Former zila parishad member Prof Jiwan Dass and Mr Karam Singh Chauhan also joined the party yesterday.


Amarinder shares dissidents’ dejection
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 22
Ruling out any change of candidates in any of the Assembly segments the Pardesh Congress Committee president, Capt Amarinder Singh, said today that he also had some reservations regarding the final list of candidates, but it had to be accepted since it was the decision of the party high command.

Talking to reporters after addressing a meeting of the Punjab Pardesh Beopar Mandal, Capt Amarinder said certain candidates were denied tickets, as the list was finalised by the Central Elections Committee of the party. Mr Jagmohan Sharma was himself a ticket aspirant from Ludhiana east and had decided to contest as an independent candidate, but was pacified by the PCC president to decide against it.


Badal tells rebels to return
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Malout, January 22
The Punjab Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal supremo, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, said his partymen would not allow a single drop to flow to other states at any cost.

While claiming not to be bothered about contempt of court proceedings by any court and subsequent jail in connection with SYL canal, Mr Badal emphasised that the SAD was committed to protect the interests of state. Regarding the Punjab Congress leadership’s allegation that his government handled the SYL canal case badly in the Supreme Court, he said it was akin to a murderer offering legal services to the victim’s family. Mr Badal today filed his nomination papers for the Lambi Assembly segment with a huge rally in the local gram market. If the Congress was voted to power, they would complete the SYL canal as the AICC’s general secretary, Mr Moti Lal Vora, had already made a categorical statement in this connection, he alleged.

He appealed to the Akali rebels, who are opposing the official candidates by contesting as Independents, to come back to the party fold. The rebels should learn a lesson from the so-called stalwarts of SAD, who left the party and were not facing total rejection from the people, he said.

The Congress was a divided house, he said, now and would collapse like a house of cards. Mr Jagmeet Brar, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Capt Amarinder Singh would head only small factions.

Mr Badal accompanied by Mr Sukhbir Badal, Mr Zora Singh Mann (MPs), his wife Mrs Surinder Kaur Badal, and Mr Sujan Singh. He said former Congress minister had been indicted in various corruption cases by the Lok Pal, calling the Congress the “mother of corruption”.


Rebels file papers as Independents
Tribune Reporters

Ropar, January 22
The winning prospects of the Congress from the Chamkaur Sahib Assembly constituency received a jolt today, when a former MLA and prominent leader of the party, Mr Shamsher Singh Rai, filed his nomination papers as an Independent candidate today.

FARIDKOT: Mr Lakhbir Singh Aryianwala, one of the senior party leaders and president, district unit of the SAD filed his nomination paper as an Independent candidate from the Faridkot Assembly constituency today. He would oppose Mr Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon, son of Ms Jagdish Kaur Dhillon a former Akali MLA and official nominee of the party in the poll.


Sohi files papers amid fanfare
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, January 22
The Congress candidate from the Banur Assembly constituency, Ms Sheelam Sohi, today filed the nomination papers at the Returning Officer’s office here today.

Escorted by hundreds of supporters, she reached Ramlila Ground and left for the Returning Officer’s office in an open gypsy along with her mother-in-law, Ms Harjinder Kaur, her son and other supporters.

Scores of Congress workers from far away villages reached here in trucks, jeeps, cars and tractor-trailers. They raising slogans in favour of the party and Ms Sohi. Addressing a gathering at Ramlila Ground, she alleged the SAD had failed to fulfil its promise — closure of Punjab Meat Plant in Behra village.

Supporters of two other groups led by Mr M.S. Gill and Mr Deepinder Singh Dhillon did not join the rally. Mr Pawan Bansal, sitting member of Parliament from Chandigarh, who joined the rally, criticised the SAD-BJP coalition government for not conducting elections of Panchayat Samitis and Zila Parishads during its tenure. 

Others who addressed the rally were Mr Nirmal Singh, a former Haryana Revenue Minister, Mr R. P. Bhardwaj, Chairman of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (economic cell), Mr Bharat Bhushan Bahl, president, Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee, and Mr Balwant Singh Dapper, a CPI leader.


INLD not to contest poll
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 22
The Indian National Lok Dal has asked its Punjab unit not to field any candidate for the Punjab Vidhan Sabha election. This was stated by the state president, Mr Aad Lal Jakhar, today. The party high command has desired that INLD workers should put together their energy and resources to provide relief to thousands of people who had to migrate from border villages due to the deployment of forces there. Such migrants had not been provided any facilities despite tall claims by the government. INLD workers were free to support any candidate of their choice but no one would be allowed to use INLD banner in the elections.


Ban on plastic defied

With the elections in the state approaching, the use of plastic materials in campaigns is in full swing. Plastic flags and leaflets can be seen along roads and rooftops. Plastic is being used by political parties despite of a ban by the High Court following a civil writ petition last year. It had banned the manufacturing and use of virgin or recycled plastics having a thickness of less than 20 microns in the state. A cloth flag cost about Rs 2 per piece while a plastic one cost just 50 paise. OC


NGO drive for drug-free poll
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Kotkapura, January 22
“Aao ral mil morcha laaiye, ghar ghar vichchon nasha bhajaiye; jinha lai nashiyan di aut, unna nu na paiyo vote; jehda nashe vande, paen us nu dande.” (Come together to launch a movement against those who are taking the help of drugs in the poll and teach a lesson to those who have been distributing the drugs to woo voters). These are some of the slogans coined by the Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle (GGSSC), a non-governmental organisation in Punjab.

The GGSSC, which has been fighting the menace of drugs in the elections for the past many years, has been trying to build a public opinion against it by involving children, women, teachers, students and other opinion-makers of society. To make its campaign more effective, the children have been asked to motivate their parents not to vote for candidates who have been taking the help of drugs in the elections.

Pamphlets are being distributed to students in schools to get the signature of their parents which contain an appeal from the children to their parents that “don’t vote for those who have been distributing drugs”. Mr Sarbjit Singh, Director, Social and Health Services, GGSSC, said due to pressure being put on politicians through various modes, a number of them cutting across party lines, had submitted declaration forms that they would not use or distribute alcohol or other drugs during the elections.

More that 50 politicians, including the Punjab BJP President, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, the Excise and Taxation Minister, Mr Tikshan Sood, the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mr Balbir Singh Maini, Mr Jagmohan Singh, General Secretary, SAD (Mann), Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, Executive Member, SGPC, Col Harsharan Singh, President, Rashtriya Raksha Dal (RRD), and Mr Mantar Singh, MLA, Kotkapura, had submitted their declaration forms.

Women activists were specially being mobilised all over the state, who constituted 50 per cent of the electorate, for a drug-free poll. Prof Manjit Singh, Jathedar, Takht Sri Keshgarh Sahib, had also urged all religious bodies and youth clubs to work for drug-free elections. Mr Avinder Pal Singh, zonal secretary of the circle said contestants had also been urged to make written declarations for not taking the help of drugs.

The GGSSC had also launched a campaign to educate the voters against the use of drugs by the contestants to woo them. The state had been divided into 11 zones for effective campaigning. More stress was being laid in some pockets of the Malwa region where the use of drugs was excessive.

He said a team of the GGSSC had also met the Chief Election Commissioner, Mr J.M. Lyngdoh, and had urged him to take concrete steps to curb the menace of use of drugs during poll. Mr Lyngdoh had assured the team that adequate steps would be taken.

He had also deputed a senior official as compliance officer to ensure that alcohol and other drugs were not used during the elections.


HC orders inquiry in ransacking case
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 22
Mr Justice K.S. Garewal of the high court today directed the Deputy Inspector General of Patiala Range to personally look into the ransacking of a computer centre by relatives of the owner after she married outside her caste.

Pronouncing the orders on a petition filed by the owner’s husband, Mohammed Lali of Patiala, Mr Justice Garewal observed: “In the present petition, the petitioner has impleaded Patiala’s Senior Superintendent of Police by name as well as the Station House Officer of Sadar police station, besides other respondents. He is seeking a direction for an inquiry by some independent agency. The allegations in the petition are such that an inquiry is indeed essential to reach the truth”.

The Judge added: “The petitioner states that their marriage was inter-religious and as a result of it some persons have been trying to harass him and his family. They have removed valuable computers from the premises. His wife, Pritphal Kaur, also present in person, states that certain distant relatives were bent upon damaging her financially and socially. It is directed that the DIG will conduct a thorough inquiry after associating the petitioner and his wife and take appropriate action in accordance with law”.

In his petition, Lali had earlier stated that an inquiry into the matter was essential so that the SSP may not be able to help certain respondents to grab their property. He had added that the respondents were claiming “close relations” with the SSP.


Rail traffic blocked over boy’s death
Our Correspondent

Sunam, January 22
Residents of Lehra town, about 25 km from here, today observed a partial bandh and blocked rail traffic in protest against the death of a 12-year boy who was crushed by a truck engaged for carrying foodgrain from FCI godowns to the railway station yesterday.

The residents said trucks should not pass through the old grain market as was a thickly-populated area.

Mr Rajesh Dhiman, SDM, Moonak, said Mr Sarbjeet Singh, Deputy Commissioner, Sangrur, and Mr Jatinder Singh Aulakh, SSP, Sangrur, visited Lehra today and urged the protesters to lift the gherao.

However, the protesters said they would lift the ghearo only when the administration started the construction of a road along the railway track up to the FCI godowns.

On an assurance by the railway authorities that the DRM, Ambala, would visit Lehra on Friday to assess the situation, the protesters lifted the gherao.


PSEB told to pay compensation
Our Correspondent

Mansa, January 22
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum here has ordered the PSEB to pay a cost of Rs 1,000 and a compensatory cost of Rs 10,000 to Mr Lachman Singh, a consumer, for illegally raising Rs 72,118 from him. The forum also directed the board to recover the said amount from the erring official and to take necessary action against him.

The PSEB demanded a sum of Rs 72,118 from Mr Lachman Singh on the ground that his meter had been tampered with and was running slow by 33 per cent.

The consumer filed a complaint in the forum. The PSEB produced a photocopy of the meter change order (MCO) of August 9, 2001 wherein it was not mentioned that the meter was packed and scaled in the presence of the complainant or his authorised representative.

The PSEB again produced a photocopy of the MCO on January 4, 2002 in the forum, wherein such note was added by an official of the board. The forum observed that it was forgery and appropriate action should be taken against the forger.


Ad hoc employees to hold rally
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, January 22
The Daily-wages and Work-charge Ad Hoc/Regular Mulazam Action Committee, Punjab, has decided to hold a protest march and rally in the Beas Assembly constituency on February 4 against the present Punjab Government for not fulfilling its poll promises of regularising ad hoc employees.

The union was at present holding a chain dharna at Matka Chowk here. It alleged that the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Prakash Singh Badal, during his last pre-poll campaigning had promised that all workers on daily wages would be regularised but he did not do anything after coming to power. Mr Sukhdev Singh, general secretary of the PWD Field and Workshop Workers Union, said the union would be holding rallies and dharnas in various Assembly constituencies of Punjab against the present government.


Four killed in accident

Moga, January 22
Four persons were killed when their car rammed into a stationary truck near Ropar village on Muktsar-Malout road yesterday.

The victims were identified. They were residents of Bhunder village. UNI


Waive farmers’ loans: BKU
Our Correspondent

Moga, January 22
A meeting of members of the Punjab unit of the BKU chaired by general secretary of the Union Manjit Singh Kadian asked the government to waive loans of farmers, give compensation to those who had suffered heavy losses due to damage caused to their crops during the past two years and action against dealers of spurious fertilisers and insecticides.

They said if the government did not accept the demands of the farmers they would intensify their agitation.


New SDM for Gidderbaha
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 22
The Punjab Government today issued posting orders of three officers.

Mr Amarjit Singh Dhinda, PCS has been appointed Deputy Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, against a vacant post.

Mr Deepak Raj Garg, PCS, is the new Subdivisional Magistrate, Gidderbaha.

Miss Praneet Shergill, PCS, has been appointed Estate Officer, PUDA, Patiala, says a press release.


Fast-track court inaugurated
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 22
Mr R.M. Gupta, District and Sessions Judge, Sangrur, today inaugurated a fast-track court in the courts complex here.

On this occasion, Mr Gupta said the fast-track court had been established to clear the backlog of cases, involving undertrials in the courts.

He said Mrs Sudarshana Modi had joined as Additional Sessions Judge of the fast-track court.


13 EVMs faulty

Thirteen electronic voting machines (EVMs) have been found faulty after the initial checking conducted by the election observer deputed for the purpose here. The machines have been sent back to the Election Commission for replacement. OC


Observers for Amloh, Sirhind
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 22
The Election Commission has appointed Mr Gorakh Megh as the general observer and Mr R. Venkatraman as the expenditure observer. Both the election observers would be available daily at Bachat Bhavan here from 9 am to 10.30 am till January 25, according to Mr Vikas Partap, Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer, here today.


5 cars recovered, thief held
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 22
The district police has arrested a car thief, Rama, and seized five cars from his possession. The cars were allegedly stolen by him for smuggling intoxicants like poppy husk.

In a press note issued here today, Mr Jatinder Singh Aulakh, SSP, Sangrur, said these cars had been stolen from Barnala, Samana and Sangrur. The thief was arrested near Khadial village, he added.

The SSP further stated that the local police had arrested Bhola Singh of Samundgarh Chhana village for possessing poppy. He said the police seized 970 grams of opium from Malkit Singh.

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