Monday, January 28, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Badal expels Bachi
Tribune News Service

Dirba (Sangrur), January 27
Mr Parkash Singh Badal, President of the SAD and Chief Minister, Punjab, today expelled Mr Gurbachan Singh Bachi, administrative member of the PSEB from the party for his alleged anti-party activities especially his opposition to the party candidate, Mr Baldev Singh Mann, from Dirba, and his support to an Independent.

Mr Badal announced this while addressing a rally in support of Mann here today. Earlier, several speakers had said some local SAD leaders, including Mr Gurbachan Singh Bachi, should be expelled as they had been opposing the party candidate and extending their support to an Independent.

Mr Badal asked the district president of the SAD, Mr Gurbachan Singh, Fatehgarh to take disciplinary action against the remaining rebels.

Mr Badal also appealed to the rebel SAD candidates to withdraw by January 28, failing which they would be expelled from the party.

Mr Badal also told the gathering that if they help Mann, win with a margin of at least 20,000 votes, the candidate would get a Cabinet berth.

Lashing out at the leaders of the Panthic Morcha, Mr Badal claimed that not even a single candidate of the morcha would become an MLA in the current Assembly elections. He alleged they were contesting the elections to help the Congress and harm the SAD.

Among others who addressed the rally included Mr Gurbachan Singh Fatehgarh, district president of the SAD, Mr Ajaib Singh Khetla, Mr Thakur Jagdish Rai, district president of the BJP; Mr Barjinder Singh Hariayu, Mr Kapoor Singh Chhahar; vice-president of the BKU, Punjab; and Mr Kulbhushan Goyal, president of the Dirba unit of the BJP.


MLA booked for beating up excise staff
Tribune News Service

Jalalabad, January 27
In a significant development, which could have far reaching effects on the outcome of the elections in Ferozepore district, the SAD MLA and nominee from this constituency, Mr Sher Singh, has been booked for his alleged involvement in the beating up of excise officials here on the evening of January 25.

Mr Sher Singh, MLA, Mr Devinder Singh Babbal, Chairman, Market Committee and senior BJP leader, Mr Surinder Kamboj, and few others have been booked under Sections 323, 332, 353, 380, 186, 148, 149 and 201 of the IPC for their involvement in the beating up of the Excise and Taxation Officer (ETO), Mr Bhim Sain in the Sadar police station. Mr Sain, on whose complaint, the case was registered, has also suffered injuries.

Though the police authorities are tight-lipped due to the “pressure” from the ruling SAD-BJP alliance of Punjab not to make the incident public, information gathered by the TNS revealed that Mr Bhim Sain and other members of the excise staff had raided a premises in this Assembly segment and seized a large quantity of illicit distilled liquor.

Sources said a team of excise officials on a tip-off had raided the premises and seized large quantity of illicit liquor along with other material. When the excise official reached the police station for completing the legal formalities in connection with the seizure, Mr Sher Singh along with others stormed into the police station and beat up the ETO, Mr Bhim Sain, and others took away the material seized by them.

Sources further added though Mr Sher Singh had been campaigning in various parts of the constituency even after a case had been registered against him, the police had so far failed to arrest him and others.

The incident has emerged as a major issue as the opponents of Mr Sher Singh and the Congress candidates of other constituencies had been accusing the Akalis of their alleged involvement in crimes.

Mr Hans Raj Joshan, a former MLA and Congress candidate from this constituency, had also written to Mr S.R. Ladhar, District Election Officer (DEO) for taking appropriate action against the guilty as per the instructions of the election code of conduct.

Mr S.R. Ladhar, when contacted, said the police authorities had assured him that action would be taken as per the law.

Mr Sher Singh and others, who have been booked in the criminal case, could not be contacted for their comments despite repeated attempts.


Contrasts & similarities in election scene
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 27
The temperament of the Punjabis and their religious composition makes it rather difficult to hazard a forecast in an election. As elections are held at different points of time, the same factors are usually not at play. Except, perhaps, money and liquor! The intervening period changes political equations within parties and among alliances. Even marriages of convenience between political parties (often ideologically mismatched), end in divorce and so do attempts for new partnerships and alliances.

Nevertheless, one does come across traces of contrasts and similarities while rummaging through the debris left behind by every election. That helps trace broad contours of the picture likely to emerge.

Much of the political landscape has changed in Punjab between 1997 and 2002. (It was vastly different in 1992). The ‘‘alliances’’ emerged as a strong factor in 1997 and paid off well for the SAD-BJP. Even the Congress and the CPI have remained natural allies, despite estranged relations. But where is the alliance between the SAD(M) and the BSP? And now there is a heterogeneous conglomeration of the Akali factions — the Panthic Morcha.

Panjab University’s Prof P S Verma, who studied the voting pattern in 1997, observed that Sikhs and Hindus, 72 per cent each, 22 per cent Hindu Scheduled Castes and 34 per cent Sikh Scheduled Castes voted for the SAD-BJP. This cemented the unity between the two major communities as much as it ushered in political stability. It also sent correct communal amity signals across the country that helped restore the “dignity and respect” of the Sikhs. The two parties continue to have a political tie-up for the fifth time. What will be the voting pattern now?

The Congress, credited with restoring peace in 1992, had failed to earn any new support and in the absence of “development activities, administrative efficiency, job opportunities for unemployed youth etc”, fared poorly in 1997. Says Prof Verma: “The Congress was ridden by factions with party men working against each other. It ended up cornering just 26.38 per cent votes and winning only 14 seats against 43.71 per cent votes and 87 seats in 1992. Its comrade-in-arms, the CPI, polled 2.98 per cent votes and won just two seats against 3.64 per cent votes and four seats in 1992. The SAD-BJP, on the other hand, polled 45.97 per cent votes with 93 seats (75 and 18, respectively). The BJP had polled 16.60 per cent votes and won just six seats when it went alone in 1992, while, the SAD had boycotted that election.

Of Punjab’s three regions — Majha, Doaba and Malwa — the Congress is considered to have a strong hold in Doaba and Majha. It is a travesty that the party was routed in these two regions in 1997. Though a competing party in Majha, it lost all 24 out of 27 seats it had contested. It could win just five out of 25 seats in Doaba, considered to be its traditional citadel. In Malwa, with 65 Assembly constituencies, it won just nine out of 56 seats it had contested.

The performance of the SAD was as follows: Majha — it won all 18 seats it contested; Doaba — it won 13 out of 16 seats; and Malwa — 44 out of 58. The BJP, on the other hand, won seven out of eight seats in Majha, five out of eight in Doaba and all six in Malwa. How will these regions respond on February 13? Much will depend on how the SAD-BJP projects it self.

The factors at play in 1992 and 1997 have changed. The “peace” card may not help the Congress now, as it did not in 1997. Will the Congress again play it or use only “corruption and anti-incumbency” factor as a fulcrum to overthrow the incumbent parties? On the contrary, will the five-year performance (development, peace, progress and amity) eclipse that indictment, pay dividends and churn out votes favouring the SAD-BJP? This combine had made “corruption” an issue in 1997. It is the other way around now. Will it cut ice with the voters?

The election-2002 scene is quite in contrast to 1997. The SAD-BJP is not yet riding high on the crest of a popular wave, despite the advantage it scored by starting the campaign much ahead of the Congress-CPI, who are working as alien allies. This does give an electoral edge to the Akalis. The Congress is trailing far behind in campaigning as it had lagged behind in 1997 as much due to fault-lines in the distribution of tickets as break-down of talks with the BSP. And to cap it, the former Chief Minister, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar, had then withdrawn from Muktsar and got hospitalised in New Delhi giving a serious jolt to the Congress electoral prospects.

The Congress has again suffered a high-voltage shock in about 28 constituencies with several aspirants, who were denied the party ticket, filing nominations as either Independents or boarding the band wagon of the National Congress Party. Not that the going for the SAD-BJP is smooth. The pervasive dissent and rebellion is causing problems for the official candidates in several segments, putting the combine on the defensive.

Thus, both the Akalis and the Congress face new challenges and problems (dissent and rebellion). The campaign this time is more shrill and politically biting. And as in a kaleidoscope, the political patterns will change further as electioneering warms up and “big” national leaders arrive. Political bitterness within the parties is clearly discernible. If the BJP finds itself in a spot in the urban areas, the SAD will also have to plough through rough rural stretches. The coming weeks should see senior party leaders engaged in fire-fighting trying to dousing flames of ‘‘bagawat’’.

And add to the prevailing confusion and murky politics, a bewildering variety of candidates are making contests multi-cornered with no-holds-barred campaigns and allegations. The disjointed Panthic Morcha, the disgruntled BSP and a beehive of ambitious Independents will add more gist to the poll passions already running high. This will further compound the choice of the voters. Yet, the real fight for power will remain between the Akalis (BJP) and the Congress.


Badal works for Kairon-Brahmpura patch-up
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 27
Even as the feud between Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, Cooperation Minister, and Mr Surinder Singh Kairon, a former Congress MP, has reached a flashpoint, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, SAD chief and relative of Mr Kairon, will arrange a meeting for them soon.

The animosity between them has worried Mr Badal as a feud will affect the prospects of the party in at least six Assembly constituencies of the boarder belt.

According to sources, Mr Badal is in touch with Mr Kairon and Mr Brahmpura so that a rapprochement could be brought about at the earliest. On the other hand, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, General Secretary, and a Rajya Sabha member, has been entrusted with the task of softening the stand of the Akali rebels in other parts of the state. The sources said the Chief Minister was likely to visit the border belt in the first week of next month in this regard.

It may be mentioned here that Mr Kairon has been supporting Congress candidate Jagir Singh, a former Congress minister, in the Naushehra Pannuan constituency from where Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura is seeking re-election. Similarly, Mr Brahmpura has already directed his supporters to work for the defeat of Mr Adershpartap Singh Kairon, son-in-law of Mr Badal. Mr Kairon is seeking re-election from the Patti Assembly constituency.

Despite the efforts of Mr Surinder Singh Kairon, Mr Badal had denied ticket to his confidants from Jandiala, Tarn Taran, Valtoha and Khadoor Sahib. The ticket was given to the confidants of Mr Brahmpura. Irked with the decision of the SAD, Mr Kairon decided to oppose the official candidates. He has supported Mr Ajaipaul Singh Mirankot, a sitting MLA from Jandiala, who was seeking election as an Akali rebel. Similarly, Mr Kairon has fielded his confidant Harmit Singh as rebel Akali nominee who is pitted against Mr Alwinder Singh Pakhoke, senior president of the SGPC and confidant of Mr Brahmpura. In Khadoor Sahib, too, Mr Kairon is supporting Congress candidate Sukhdev Singh Shahbazpuri, a former minister. On the other hand, Mr Brahmpura is working against the official candidate, Mr Gurdial Singh, in the Voltoha constituency who was given ticket at the behest of Mr Kairon.

Mr Ajaipaul Singh Mirankot, a sitting MLA who had filed his papers from Jandiala, has decided to withdraw in favour of official candidate Malkit Singh. He has withdrawn the papers at the behest of Mr Badal who had deputed Mr Jagir Singh Chattiwind, Chairman, Housefed, for the purpose.

Earlier, too, Mr Badal had been efforts to bring about a rapprochement between Mr Kairon and Mr Brahmpura which lasted for a few months.

Interestingly, Mr Kairon has not yet joined the SAD, yet he succeeded in getting two Assembly tickets for his confidants. No posting or transfer in the Majha region was ordered without the consent of Mr Kairon since the formation of the Badal government in 1997.


Tension easing on Indo-Pak border
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Hussainiwala, January 27
No matter the spirits of the jawans of the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Indian Army are high as the clouds of war are still hovering menacingly most of the Army officers posted along the Indo-Pakistan border here feel that it is a political gimmick of the government to get mileage in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. However, now tension somewhat seems to be lightening.

People living in the adjoining border villages have also started returning. Even few boats of fishermen were seen at the Hussainiwala barrage, the area which had been covered with landmines. The people of the area feel that the chances of the war breakingout were bleak.

Mr Mukhtiar Singh, of Bareke village, told TNS that he had brought back his family from Faridkot where he had shifted to his relative’s house last month. He said the district administration was helping people resettle but the Army was keeping a distance from them. Their fields had been covered with landmines. Two mines have exploded during the past one week near Hussainiwala killing one cow and two dogs.

Mr Gurmej Singh of Chak Bhange Wala (Gatti) village said the situation was normalising but the Army movement was still gaining strength. He had not been allowed to spray fertilizer in 25 acres he owned across the fencing with standing wheat crop. The BSF and Army officials said the fields had been covered with landmines. Even bunkers had been constructed on the agricultural land.

People living near the check-post tower outside Thawaan village said they were not allowed to collect fodder for their livestock from the fields. Earlier, they were allowed by the BSF authorities to go to fields from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.


It is a problem of plenty
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 27
There is plenty of everything, including violation of the law, as electioneering has started picking up momentum in Punjab. Though yesterday, being Republic Day, was a dry day, liquor vendors, both of country liquor and Indian-made foreign liquor, defied rules and kept their vends open.

This was not an isolated violation. There are far more and even serious violations taking place everywhere. These mostly pertain to violation of the guidelines of the Election Commission.

For example, putting up of party flags, banners and hoardings on government buildings, highways, trees, electric and telephone poles, in spite of warnings from the Returning Officers at various places, has been continuing unchecked. Rather, the trend has been on the rise.

The Excise violations are not limited to opening of vends on a dry day but there are complaints lodged with the election observers at many place over ‘‘free distribution of liquor and drugs.’’ The problem is more severe deep in Malwa and the border belt.

A Tribune team undertook an extensive survey of Punjab travelling through various assembly segments, including Kharar, Morinda, Sirhind, Khanna, Payal, Samrala, Qila Raipur, Raikot, Jagraon, Moga and Ferozepore Cantonment and Ferozepore City.

Though the carrying of firearms has been prohibited in Ferozepore district, Mr Dhyan Singh Mand, candidate of the Panthic Morcha, lodged a formal complaint with the election observer that supporters of a candidate of the ruling alliance were not only carrying firearms and lethal weapons with them but were also getting their party flags and banners displayed on various buildings forcibly.

Then there are complaints against the ruling alliance candidates for ‘‘misusing the official machinery’’, including the police. For example, Mr Vijay Saathi, the Congress candidate from Moga, lodged a complaint with the election observer about the ‘‘partisan role’’ being played by certain policemen. He has warned these policemen to desist from such activities failing which he would initiate ‘‘action’’ against them.

The candidates of all major political parties have now plenty of ‘‘enthusiastic workers’’ handling transport, ‘‘langar’’, distribution of election material, and managing campaign programmes for their respective candidates.

Then there are hundreds of children moving from one party office to another, collecting flags, banners, posters and badges in their endeavour to beat each other in ‘‘numbers’’.

The elections have generated a lot of interest everywhere, in almost every segment of society. In fact, Punjab these days is overflowing with ‘‘kinnows’’ , cabbage, and also with sugarcane. Besides, rural Punjab wears a ‘‘kesri blanket’’ as ‘‘sarson’’ is in full bloom.

One finds a large number of indigenous ‘‘gur manufacturing stills’’ along the highways selling freshly made ‘‘gur’’ and ‘‘shakar’’. From Jagraon to Dakha, one finds a number of stalls selling farm fresh ‘‘bers’’, the king of stone fruits.

It is not only agriculture produce, which is in plenty, even farmers have plenty of free time as they have finished irrigating their wheat fields and would be busy again only in April when harvesting starts.


Exercise right to franchise: Jacob
Tribune Reporters

Ropar, January 27
The Punjab Governor, Lieut-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd) as urged the people of the state to exercise their right to franchise during the forthcoming Assembly elections in the state. While speaking at a state-level function held on the occasion of the 53rd Republic Day at Nehru Stadium here yesterday, the Governor said the people should vote in the elections with a sense of duty to elect a government that truly represented them.

Lieut-Gen Jacob took the salute of the contingents of the Punjab Armed Police, Punjab Police, NCC cadets and girl guides. Students of various schools and colleges in the district presented colourful cultural programmes. The PAP jawans gave a fine display of tent pegging and also presented a dog show on the occasion.

The Governor presented President’s medals to the Junior Staff Officer, Punjab Home Guards, Mr K.S. Taggar, and the Company Commander, Punjab Home Guards, Mr Inderjit Singh, for their meritorious service. Others who were also honoured included international hockey player Amarjit Singh, National Games rifle shooting gold medalist Sukhmanpreet Singh Sandhu, handball championship gold medalists, Kuldeep Kaur, Indu Bala and Atul Soni. The Governor also distributed sewing machines and tricycles among the poor on the occasion.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner, Ropar, Mr G.S. Grewal, declared a holiday in all schools and colleges of the district on January 28.

SANGRUR: Raja Narinder Singh, Public Health Minister, Punjab, unfurled the National Flag at the War Heroes Stadium here on the occasion of the Republic Day on Saturday. He also released pigeons and balloons on the occasion.

The minister also inspected the parade and took the salute of the march past comprising contingents of the Punjab Police, Home Guards and NCC cadets. He also distributed 11 sewing machines, five tricycles on behalf of the District Red Cross Society to the needy persons.

Children from various schools presented a PT show cultural programme on the occasion. Several “jhankies” depicting development activities being carried out by different departments were also taken out.

HOSHIARPUR: Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Minister for Food and Civil Supply, Punjab, unfurled the National Flag and took the salute of the march past of the BSF, Punjab Police, Home Guard jawans, NCC cadets and Scouts girl guides at the local police ground on Saturday.

Addressing people on the occasion, Mr Mittal said every Indian should respect the Constitution of the country. A PT show and a cultural programme were presented by schoolchildren.

Thirty persons were honoured by the district administration for the commendable job in the fields of education and social service. Fifteen sewing machines and 10 tricycles were also distributed among the needy persons by the district Red Cross Society.

GURDASPUR: Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, Minister for Animal Husbandry, unfurled the National Flag on police line grounds here on Saturday. He inspected the march past and took the salute of the contingents of the BSF, Punjab Police, Punjab Home Guards, NCC cadets and girl guides. As many as 68 sportsmen and 10 next of the kin of the Kargil martyrs were honoured on the occasion.

KAPURTHALA: Mr Manoranjan Kalia, Medical Education Minister, unfurled the National Flag at Guru Nanak stadium on Saturday. He took the salute of the contingents of the Punjab Police, NCC cadets and scouts.

He also distributed tricycles, sewing machines among the poor and gave away prizes to students and players.

AMRITSAR: Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlan, Panchayat and Rural Development Minister, unfurled the national flag here on Saturday. He also took the salute of the march past of the contingents of the Home Guards, NCC cadets, girl guides, boy scuots and students. The Red Cross Society donated 36 tricycles and 12 sewing machines on the occasion.


Republic Day celebrated
Tribune Reporters

Bathinda, January 27
Mr Gurdev Singh Badal, Punjab Agricultural Minister, after unfurling the national flag at the local sports stadium on the 53rd Republic Day yesterday said the citizens of India should be grateful to the formers of the Constitution which has given them freedom to live.

He further said people in India lived with peace and harmony despite the differences of language, caste and religion.

Mr R.P. Meena DIG, Faridkot range, Mr R. Venkatratnam, Deputy Commissioner, Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, SSP, Mr B.C. Rajput, District and Sessions Judge, were among the prominent persons present at the function.

On the occasion Home Guard personnel, NCC cadets, scouts, girl guides and Punjab police personnel, bands of MSD school, GHP school and police public saluted the national flag.

MUKTSAR: Mr Mohan Lal, Punjab Minister for Higher Education, asked the citizens to make every sacrifice to keep intact the democracy of India for which thousands of freedom fighters had laid down their lives.

He was speaking at the local Government College yesterday on the occasion of the 53rd Republic Day. He also unfurled the national flag and appealed to the people to fight terrorism unitedly.

Mr Mohan Lal said some vested interests were trying to create differences among the people in order to destabilise the nation. He asked them to be alert to defeat such forces. He said while protecting the interests of the country, we should forget our differences.


Old hand Kanwaljit vs greenhorn Sohi
Tribune News Service

Banur, January 27
Woman power is on full cry in this constituency of Patiala district where it has begun to pose a credible challenge to the Akali stalwart and the Punjab Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh.

It is actually a battle between a political greenhorn in the person of Ms Sheelam Sohi who has been fielded by the Congress and the old battlehorse, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, who is also the secretary-general of the SAD.

A confidant of the SAD chief and the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Capt Kanwaljit Singh's credentials as a secular Akali leader are impeccable and his political career long and unblemished. He has represented the Banur constituency twice. On the first occasion, he became a minister of state for home in the Barnala ministry while in the second, he held the position of the Finance Minister in the Badal Cabinet.

Now he is seeking re-election on the basis of the extensive development work which he had undertaken during his stint as the Finance Minister. his posters proclaim:‘‘Assi ki bolliye, sada kam bolda hai.’’

Ms Sohi on the other hand is a political novice. This is her first election. She was a housewife who seldom ventured out of her house until July last year. But the death of her husband Ravinder Sohi, changed her life as also the political scene of the area.

Her husband was chairman of the Patiala Zila Parishad and was tipped for Congress ticket for the Banur constituency. A popular figure, he commanded lot of goodwill. A large number of bhog ceremonies were held in the area on his death and were attended by hundreds of people.

In one of the bhog ceremonies, the SHSAD leader, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, reportedly said his party would not field a candidate against Ms Sohi if she contested from Banur. And true to his promise, the SHSAD has not put up a candidate in Banur. Her supporters claim that SHSAD workers are helping them in the campaign.

It is known that Mr Tohra has his own scores to settle with Capt Kanwaljit Singh who once regarded the former SGPC chief as his political mentor before throwing his lot with Mr Badal. Capt Kanwaljit Singh is known to be among those who have consistently taken a hardline against Mr Tohra in the Badal-Tohra feud which finally led to the parting of ways between the two leaders. Mr Tohra will, therefore, like to leave no stone unturned to see his rival humbled. His support to Ms Sohi has to be seen in this context.

Ms Sohi is trying to cash in on the goodwill her late husband. Her posters proclaim that she wants to carry on the unfinished work of her husband. In this endeavour, she makes no secret of the fact that she is banking on votes from women who turn up in large numbers at her rallies. She and her supporters claim that there is a ‘‘big sympathy wave’’ in her favour.

Dressed in a white salwar-kameez with her head covered, she recalls with tears in her eyes the work done by her late husband. She also makes it a point to recount the difficulties she has had to surmount. This seldom fails to move the audience, especially women, who gather around her after the rally and promise all sort of help.

Ms Sohi is being projected as a Cong-CPI candidate. It is her popularity that has got Capt Kanwaljit Singh worried. He has now inducted his wife also into the campaign to counter Ms Sohi who has complained that Capt Kanwaljit Singh has been making unsavoury remarks about her and has warned the Finance Minister against hitting her below the belt. Her women supporters have threatened to block the Zirakpur-Rajpura highway in this regard.

Banur voters have been fickle in the past. They have sent to the assembly such diverse personalities as Mr Hans Raj Sharma (Cong),Mr Chand Goyal (BJP), Mr Venod Sharma (Cong),Mr Mohinder Singh Gill (Cong) and Capt Kanwaljit Singh (SAD-BJP). It remains to be see whom they will vote for this time.


Youngest candidate in fray?
Tribune News Service

Dakha, January 27
She is perhaps one of the youngest candidates in the fray for the February 13 Assembly elections in Punjab. A postgraduate trained teacher, it is ‘‘unemployment’’ which has forced her into electoral politics.

‘‘Politics comes to me naturally. My late father, Master Kamikar Singh, was into politics. My mother, Mrs Gurjeet Kaur, is a member of the Zila Parishad. I want to fulfill the dreams my father had," says 26-year-old Mandeep Kaur, nominee of the Bahujan Samaj Party from Dakha Assembly constituency.

‘‘Yesterday, our national President, Mr Kanshi Ram, came to inaugurate my election office. I expect former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Ms Mayawati, to come and address a few of my election rallies,’’ she says, maintaining that it was only the BSP which had given fair representation to women in the distribution of the party ticket.

‘‘The year 2002 is the Year of Women Empowerment. See our mainstream parties. They have either ignored women or given them just token representation. The BSP is committed to checking crime against women and children.

‘‘I am aware of the problem of female foeticide. It is a crime and we will wipe out this social disgrace from our society,’’ asserts Ms Mandeep Kaur. The BSP would come out with its election manifesto after January 31.

The main issues in the coming elections, she says, will be corruption and unemployment. ‘‘Our party is committed to implement the Mandal Commission report, clear the backlog of seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes in various departments, and ensure proper implementation of the Supreme Court verdict in the Ajit Singh Janjua case.

‘‘There are no jobs. I am doing my second MA but I do not think I would get a job because I do not have the money . For a teachers' job, the rate is Rs 3 lakh. Where do I get this money from ?’’, she asks, maintaining that there has been overwhelming response to her everywhere.

‘‘My main rival here is the Shiromani Akali Dal and I am confident of my triumph,’’ she adds. The BSP has already chalked out a comprehensive campaign programme under the command of Mr Dharam Pal, Mr Balbir Singh Virk and Mr Gurdev Singh, a Councillor, at a meeting of the party workers here this morning. Various organisations of employees have promised full support to us, she concludes.


Multi-cornered contests here
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

After the allotment of ticket by the Congress and the SAD, barring two or three Assembly constituencies in this district, rebel candidates of both parties are in the fray, creating problems and affecting the prospects of the official candidates.

There will be an interesting contest between a brother and a sister in the Malerkotla constituency. Ms Razia Sultana and her brother Mohammad Ashraf Dali will fight against each other. Ms Sultana is a Congress candidate while Mr Dali is a Panthic Morcha nominee.

This time all constituencies — Dhuri, Malerkotla, Sherpur, Barnala, Bhadaur and Dhanaula — will witness a multi-cornered contest as major political parties like the Congress, the SAD, the Panthic Morcha and the BSP have fielded their candidates in each constituency.

As the Congress has left this seat to the CPI, Mr Dhanwant Singh, main claimant for Congress ticket from Dhuri, will now contest from there as an Independent without resigning from the party. In Sherpur, Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla, who had recently resigned from the SAD after denial of ticket, is also in fray. Bibi Rajinder Kaur is contesting from Barnala (without resigning from the SAD) against the official candidate, Mr Malkit Singh Keetu, MLA. In Dhanaula, Mr Bharpur Singh Dhanaula, a senior SAD leader, will contest as a rebel against the official SAD nominee, Mr Gobind Singh Longowal, Minister of State for Irrigation. Likewise, Mr Madanjit Singh had applied for Congress ticket from Dhanaula, but could not get it. He will contest against the official Congress candidate, Mr Jagjit Singh Dhaula.

DHURI: In this Assembly constituency, there are 111 villages, besides Dhuri, which has about 1,33,000 voters. Since the reorganisation of the state, the Congress and the SAD had won this seat thrice each while the CPI and an Independent, Mr Dhanwant Singh, had won once each. The Congress, the SAD and the CPI have their pockets in different parts of the constituency.

MALERKOTLA: It has always sent either a Congress or an SAD MLA to the state Assembly in the past. In the elections since 1967, the Congress and the SAD had won from here four times each. Among the previous winners are Nawab Iftkhar Ali Khan and Ms Sazida Begum. Malerkotla and Ahmedgarh are being considered as the strongholds of the Akalis and the Congress, respectively. There are more than 1,46,000 voters in the Malerkotla constituency and it has always sent a Muslim representative, but this time there is a feeling among non-Muslim that there should be a non-Muslim representative and the name of Mr Ajit Singh Chanduraian, who had unsuccessfully contested in February 1997, is being floated.

BARNALA: This Assembly constituency is the bastion of the SAD. Mr Surjit Singh Barnala had won five times from here while his wife Ms Surjit Kaur Barnala (SAD), won once. In 1992, when the Akalis boycotted the elections, Pandit Som Dutt of the Congress had won while Mr Malkit Singh Keetu, an SAD rebel, won as Independent in 1997.

SHERPUR: This seat was won by the SAD four times since 1967. Mr Chand Singh Chopra of the CPM won thrice. The BSP won this seat in 1992 when the Akalis boycotted the elections. Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla (SAD) won from here in 1985 and 1997. This is purely a rural constituency in which 82 villages fall and has more than 1,20,000 voters. This constituency is considered backward as it has no government college.

BHADAUR: This constituency considered to be a stronghold of the SAD as it has sent SAD representatives five times since 1967 to the state Assembly. Even the sitting MLA, Sant Balbir Singh Ghunas, is from the SAD. The Congress, CPI and BSP had won this seat once each. The number of voters this time is more than 1,22,000.

DHANAULA: This constituency cannot be considered to be a bastion of any party as in 1967, 1969 and 1977 the CPM won from here while in 1980 and 1992 the Congress captured the seat. Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa won this seat as an Independent in 1972 while Mr Gobind Singh Longowal of the SAD emerged as a winner in 1985 and 1997. The number of voters here is about 1,24,000 this time with an increase of about 5,000 voters as compared to 1997.


Cong woos rebels
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 27
Notwithstanding the indications of an overall edge over other political parties, the Congress leadership is learnt to be concerned over the number of rebels contesting against the official candidates. The PPCC president, Capt Amarinder Singh, is said to be taking personal interest in taming the rebels by trying to establish a direct contact with them in an effort to make them withdraw. He has delayed his own campaign in this pursuit. Besides this, a senior party leader, Mr Ahmad Patel has been camping in the state for the past several days to motivate the rebels into submission. They are also being offered plum posts after the party comes to power.

While there are a number of rebel candidates in the fray, the party seems to be concerned mainly about five seats where the rebels are too influential and powerful to be ignored. They do pose a potential threat to the official candidates. These constituencies include, Ludhiana East and Jagraon in Ludhiana district, Bathinda, Kharar in Ropar district and Jalandhar Central in Jalandhar district.

From Ludhiana East, while the official candidate and District Congress Committee president, Mr Surinder Dawer, is posing a tough challenge to the sitting MLA and Deputy Speaker, Mr Satpal Gosain, the presence of rebel candidate, Mr Ashok Prashar ‘Pappi’, is a worrying factor for him.


Preity Zinta to address rally
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 27
Noted film actress Preity Zinta, the president of the PPCC, Capt Amarinder Singh, and a former Punjab Chief Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, will address the election rally here on February 10 to give a boost to the election campaign of Mr Arvind Khanna, Congress candidate for the Sangrur Assembly constituency.

Talking to mediapersons here, Mr Khanna claimed that his main competitor was Mr Ranjit Singh Balian, an Independent candidate who had recently resigned from the Punjab ministry and the SAD.


BJP leader joins Congress
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 27
Mr Jagmohan Kaura, a senior BJP leader, today joined the Congress. He was introduced to the mediapersons by Capt Amarinder Singh, President of the Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee. Mr Kaura was involved in a serious tussle with the BJP leadership a few months ago and had levelled serious allegations against certain leaders.

Mr S.P. Dhawan, a former Deputy Director (Colleges), Punjab, also joined the Congress today. A few senior leaders of the Punjab Rajput Sabha have also joined the Congress.


6 in fray from Samrala
Our Correspondent

Khamano, January 27
There are six contestants for the Samrala constituency. They are Mr Amrik Singh Dhillon of the Congress, Mr Kirpal Singh Khirnian of the SAD, Mr Gurtejpal Singh of the Panthic Morcha, Ms Kulwant Kaur of the BSP, Mr Kamaljit Puri of the Shiv Sena and Mr Harbans Lal as Independent.

This time Mr Gurtejpal Singh will challenge Mr Khirnian. Another candidate who is new for the public is Ms Kulwant Kaur. She will grab some Congress votes.


NGO campaigns for drug-free poll
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 27
Voters of the state, especially women, in large numbers are organising themselves for a drugs-free poll. They will give a befitting defeat to the candidates who will depend on the distribution of alcohol and other drugs to lure them.

Claiming this here, Prof Sarbjeet Singh, Director, Social and Health Services, Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle (GGSSC), said in order to boost the drug-free poll campaign, the study circle had also initiated a signature campaign in the state, under which a target to get 50 lakh signatures from voters had been fixed. The state had been divided into 11 zones to carry out this gigantic task, he added.

Prof Sarbjeet Singh said the volunteers of the study circle were going from door to door in villages and other places to get the signatures of the voters. Besides this, registers had been placed at various locations throughout the state where interested persons could go and put their signature.

He also claimed that the study circle had mobilised more than 1,200 NGOs, temple and gurdwara committees, welfare organisations and business associations to launch an aggressive awareness campaign in the state.

He said the past experience showed that despite strict election code, various political parties’ candidates indulged in large scale supply of liquor and other drugs to influence voters. It was also feared that political parties and their candidates might go in for massive abuse of intoxicants this time also. He described this practice as a mockery of democracy and election system.

Mr Surinder Pal Singh Sidqi, president of the Sangrur-Patiala zone of the study circle, said the study circle had also drawn up a three-point programme for drugs-free poll in Punjab. Under this programme, the study circle would mobilise strong public opinion against the use of intoxicants. Besides this, it would also put pressure on politicians to stop this practice. The study circle would have a close liaison with the Election Commission and national and international bodies in this regard, he added.


DTO acquitted of corruption charge
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, January 27
Mr Jagroop Singh Mahal, special judge-cum-Additional Sessions judge on Friday acquitted Mr D.S. Sandhewalia district Transport Officer, here now posted as Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Amritsar, of corruption charges. The vigilance police caught Mr Sandhewalia then posted as District Transport Officer, Kapurthala, red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 4000 from his driver Avtar Singh in his office on July 22, 1997.

Avtar Singh lodged a complaint that Mr Sandhewalia has been demanding bribe of Rs 4,000 for the issuance of last pay drawn certificate.

The prosecution got the complainant Avtar Singh declared hostile from the court when he changed his statement saying that he had taken a loan of Rs 4000 from Mr Sandhewalia which he returned to him on the day of arrest of Mr Sandhewalia. The complainant Avtar Singh was rewarded Rs 25000 by Punjab government on his getting a gazetted officer arrested in a bribe case.

On the acquittal of Mr Sandhewalia as the complainant changed his statement the vigilance police is contemplating legal action against Agtar Singh.


Tongawalah” Congress campaigner for over 40 yrs
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 27
Even though changing parties has become a fashion with politicians of all hues, there are some who have placed their faith in a particular party, braving all odds.

One such diehard Congress worker is Mr Kartar Singh. Though he has crossed 70, he has been campaigning for Congress candidates in this Assembly segment for the past more than 40 years using his “tonga” (horsecart), aptly called “Congressi tonga”.

Inder Singh Bhutto, a bhangra artiste and his disciple, (Mr Kartar Singh was a bhangra coach) has won President’s award for his performance.

A freedom fighter and close associate of various senior leaders of different parties, Mr Kartar Singh can be seen campaigning from early morning to late in the evening, shouting the slogan: “Jaat par na paat par, mohar lagegi haath par”.

Talking to TNS here today, he said memories of the freedom struggle were still fresh in his mind. Though he had been getting pension and other privileges, he had been campaigning for the Congress for over four decades in every kind of election without any consideration for money, he said with pride.

He said the money he earned from campaigning was not even sufficient to meet the expenses of the sound system fitted on his tonga and the diet of the horse, besides the daily payment to one of his assistants. However, he had no complaints. He had also won awards twice from the Congress for his style of campaigning. He was also given Indira Gandhi Award for best worker.

Mr Kartar Singh who is campaigning for Mr Surinder Singla, said he never added his own words to the campaign. “The speeches and the slogans are all written by the party and I never add my own opinion to the campaign. I know it can alter the calculations of the party,” he pointed out, adding that he had no concern with the candidates and never expected anything from them. His only concern was to campaign at the grassroots.

He said though over the years, his earnings had gone down and the expenses had risen, his determination to campaign had not taken a beating. He never speaks against the opponents of the Congress, but only appeals to people to vote for the party.


Police abuse power: ADGP

Phagwara, January 27
Punjab State Human Rights Commission (PSHRC) Additional Director-General of Police (ADGP) A.P. Bhatnagar on Friday admitted that there were definitely cases of misuse of authority by the police while arresting a person and these should be curbed.

Talking to reporters here, he however, said in genuine arrests, the 11 guidelines of the Supreme Court were being followed by the police. He said the commission had sent the first quarter’s report of three- member subcommittee about it to the apex court this week.

The report was prepared after interaction and correspondence with the DGP Punjab and the government, and surprise checks of police stations in Amritsar and Dera Bassi.

The committee studied three aspects about arrests — misuse of power of arrest, custodial violence and punishment by thrashing, he said.


Blood donation on birthday
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, January 27
Mr M.P. Singh, project manager, Saviour Youth Club, celebrated his birthday on Friday in a unique way. He himself donated blood on this occasion, besides organising a blood donation camp at the local Guru Nanak College where 51 units of blood were collected while a total of 74 prospective donors enrolled themselves. Addressing students on this occasion, Mr M.P. Singh called upon the youth to celebrate their birthdays by donating blood to serve mankind.

Mr Malkiat Singh Ragbotra, who has donated blood 50 times, also motivated the students to donate blood.

Mr G.S. Toor, a pioneer of the blood donation movement in Nawanshahr, who had donated blood 46 times, called upon the public to celebrate their wedding anniversaries and birthdays by donating blood. He disclosed that there were 106 couples in Nawanshahr who donated blood on their wedding anniversaries. The ADGP, Punjab State Human Rights Commissioner Mr A.P. Bhatnagar, presided over the function. Mr Parveen Sinha, Deputy Director, Police Academy, Phillaur, was the chief guest. The college principal, Mr Inderjit Singh, also motivated the donors.


4 die as minibus hits car

Moga, January 27
Four persons were killed when their car was hit by a minibus on the Moga bypass late last evening.

According to the police, the accident occurred when the car carrying the victims was hit by a minibus of Calcutta Transport Company, which was on route to Ramoonwla.

The police said the victims had come to attend a marriage. Those who were killed have been identified as Mohinder Singh, sarpanch Rajiwala, another villager near Lohara, Joginder Singh who was driving the car, and the fourth was a 10-year-old boy.

The police reached to the scene and with the help of other people recovered the bodies of the victims.


4 of family die in mishap
Our Correspondent

Tarn Taran, January 27
Four members of a family were killed when the motor cycle on which they were riding was hit by a bus here on the Sarhali road on Friday. The deceased have been identified as Chanan Singh (65), Ajit Singh (50), Satnam Singh (27) and Sonu (8), all residents of Sangatpur village near Naushehra Pannuan.


BKU to ‘expose’ fertiliser scam
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 27
The Bharti Kisan Union (Punjab) has decided to oppose “anti-farmer” candidates of the ruling alliance in 12 seats and to ‘expose’ a fertiliser scam.

The union has decided to take up the issue of the sub-standard fertiliser distributed through state cooperative societies and ‘spurious’ pesticides in the cotton belt, which resulted in loss to farmers to the tune of more than Rs 1,500 crore. The union is asking the parties to promise to waive the loans of the affected farmers and take a firm stand on the SYL issue to protect the interests of the farmers. He pointed out that the union was supporting candidates of the Lok Bhalai Party in Jagraon and Tarn Taran.


3 arrested in abduction case

Jalandhar, January 27
By arresting all three accused, the police today claimed to have solved the case of the alleged abduction of a 13-year-old girl, who was abducted from Kotal village under the Noormahal police station on January 23.

Stating this here, Mr Gaurav Yadav, SSP, said those arrested were Rachhpal Singh, alias Kaka, his wife Santosh Kaur, alias Sukho both of Khurdpur village, and Major Singh of Kandhola Khurd village. The police seized the car used for abduction, besides a countymade pistol, two cartridges and 1 kg of opium. UNI


Schools, colleges closed today
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, January 27
All educational institutions in the district will remain closed tomorrow.

This was announced by Mr R. Venkatratnam, Deputy Commissioner, yesterday during the Republic Day celebrations at the local sports stadium.

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