Tuesday, January 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Withdrawals clear some mist
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 28
As the time for the withdrawal of nominations ended, feverish activity set in all 116 constituencies (poll in one, Malout, in Muktsar stands adjourned) spread over 17 districts to tabulate the final tally of contestants left in the fray.

An election office spokesman said 918 candidates were in the fray in 17 districts.

The break-up is as follows: Gurdaspur-70, Amritsar-109, Ferozepore-58, Faridkot-33, Moga-39, Muktsar-23, Nawanshahr-23, Mansa-34, Ropar-38, Sangrur-79, Hoshiarpur-64, Ludhiana-89, Kapurthala-36, Fatehgarh Sahib-15, Patiala-65, Bathinda-50 and Jalandhar 93.

A clear picture, party-wise and constituency-wise, however, will emerge by tomorrow evening. From the number of nominations received — 1,495 — it is apparent that enthusiasm is far greater in the current Assembly elections than in 1997. That time, a total of 693 candidates were in the fray. The average number of candidates, per constituency, then was six; with a minimum of two and a maximum of 14. There were 641 men and 52 women contestants in 1997. Out of them, 381 men and 39 women had their deposits forfeited.

This time, the poll scene is different. The alliances that have survived include the ruling SAD-BJP-BSM and the Congress-CPI. The emergence of the Panthic Morcha, which failed to clinch the issue of seat-sharing with the BSP, is a new factor at play. The BSP has gone ahead on its own steam. Its presence will cast a shadow over the Congress in as much that the Morcha candidates may cast a shadow on the SAD nominees in selected pockets.

Interestingly, of the Morcha’s various constituents, it is the SAD of Simranjit Singh Mann, which is a registered, unrecognised party by the Election Commission. Its symbol is gadda. When the symbols are allotted, it remains to be seen if the Morcha accepts a ride on Mann’s gadda or opts for separate symbols from the ones shortlisted by the commission in whose eyes the Morcha does not exist.

Though senior leaders of the key political parties had tried to persuade rebel candidates to withdraw, it is not yet known how many of them have responded. In the days ahead, several candidates are expected to even retire in favour of the official candidates. But their names would be very much on the ballot or in the electronic voting machine (EVM) chip. This time, Punjab poll will be totally on the EVMs.

A perusal of field reports from TNS staffers received late in the evening, shows that in Sangrur, for example, rebel candidates of the Akalis and Congress are stay put and may give sleepless nights to the official contestants.

The Panthic Morcha did not welcome those who left the ruling SAD to contest as Independents in protest against being denied ticket. The strain in the Congress-CPI combine is visible in some pockets. Sangrur is expected to give surprise results for both the ruling SAD and Congress.

A bird’s eye-view of the 116-odd constituencies across Majha, Doaba and Malwa, shows that the key contests will shape in several segments, not only because of the “personalities” in the election arena but also because of the presence of certain rebels.

Nevertheless, despite a variety of party, faction and Independent candidates, the real tug-of-war remains between the Congress and the Akalis (BJP-BSM).

In Malwa, if the Congress has three front-runners for the Chief Minister’s gaddi in Capt. Amarinder Singh, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Mr Harcharan Singh Brar, for the Akalis and its allies, it is one candidate, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

Besides the stalwarts in Malwa, the notable feature of the belt is the presence of sons and daughters of senior leaders of the two main parties, the Congress and Akalis. If in Dhuri it is Gagandeep Singh, son of Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, Governor of Uttaranchal, there is in Sirhind, Eman Singh Mann, son of Simranjit Singh Mann, and in Sunam Mrs Sonia Arora, daughter of the late Bhagwan Das Arora. Amandip, Sonia’s brother, has retired in favour of his sister, at the behest of Mrs Pareneet Kaur, MP from Patiala. At Kotkapura, there is Ms Vibha Sharma, daughter of former Congress minister Upender Kumar Sharma, and in Payal, Tej Parkash Singh, son of the late Beant Singh. This is not the complete list.

Likewise, in Doaba and Majha, too, key fights are shaping up. The most interesting, perhaps, will be in Kapurthala and Amritsar. It is Bibi Jagir Kaur in Bholath, facing Sukhpal Singh Khera of the Congress. In Kapurthala itself, Mr Malwinder Singh Chahal, a rebel Congressman has not withdrawn his papers and is facing the official candidate of the Congress, Mr Gurjit Singh Ran and Mr Ranjit Singh Brahempura, Cooperative Minister in Naushehra Pannua and Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon in Patti.

The intriguing part is that an uncle of Mr Adesh Partap Singh, Mr Gurinder Singh Kairon, is the Congress candidate from the neighbouring Tarn Taran.

On other hand, Mr Surinder Singh Kairon, father of Adesh Partap, does not see eye-to-eye with Brahmpura. While the father (Surinder Singh Kairon) is helping his son in Patti, official Akali candidate (being the son-in-law of Parkash Singh Badal), he is opposing Brahmpura in Naushahra Pannua, SAD’s official candidate. These are just illustrative examples.

In Amritsar, there was another development. A sitting Akali MLA, Mr Prem Singh Lalpur, who owes allegiance to the Gurcharan Singh Tohra group that gave him ticket for the Tarn Taran seat, has withdrawn his candidature in favour of an Independent, Harmit Singh, an Akali rebel and confidant of Surinder Singh Kairon. Harmit Singh is pitted against SGPC senior vice-president Alwinder Singh Pakhoke, who is close to Brahmpura, and is the official SAD candidate.

The real, clear picture, however, will emerge by Tuesday evening. The mist was cleared only partly till late tonight. — With Bureau reportsBack

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
121 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |