Monday, February 4, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Inter-state row: Centre ‘may mediate’
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 3
The Centre would seriously consider any proposal for mediation between Punjab and Haryana for settling the inter-state disputes, in case both the state governments express any such desire.

Stating this, Mr Arun Jaitley, Union Minister for Law Justice and Company Affairs, who was in the city today maintained that the Congress had played a spoilsport in the past by complicating the inter-state disputes, including the sharing of river waters, transfer of Chandigarh and other Punjabi speaking areas to gain political mileage.

“The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has been trying his level best to sort out the matter with Haryana. We are of the opinion that both state governments should resolve all disputes bilaterally and if they seek mediation of the Central Government, we will seriously consider their proposal in this regard,” he added.

When asked about his views on the recent statement of Mr Badal that he would oppose the construction of the Sutlej Yamuna link canal despite the Supreme Court’s order, Mr Jaitley tried to evade a direct reply by saying, that “since the matter is in the court, I will not comment on the issue.”

Criticising the Congress for opposing the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO), he said the Central Government had asked for the views of all state governments before issuing the ordinance and most of the Congress chief ministers had favoured the POTO. “But the Congress high command had tried to sideline the views of their chief ministers by opposing POTO,” he said.

He disclosed that the Constitution Review Committee (CRC) would submit its report very soon to the Centre. “There is great need to develop an inhouse mechanism to settle all matters related to judicial system and The CRC, in one of its recommendations, had suggested to set up a national judicial commission to further improve the functioning of the judicial system,” he said.

Regarding the delay in the appointment of judges resulting in pendancy of cases in various courts throughout the country, the law minister said he had already written to the chief justice of all high courts to expedite the process of recommendation of panel of judges. He admitted that shortage of judicial officers had caused delay in trials. “Since the government is just an authority to notify the appointment of judges on the recommendations of the Judiciary itself, we have no option but to wait,” he quipped.

He further said high courts were competent enough to take suitable action against those subordinate judges, who were found guilty of misconduct and other irregularities. He, however, evaded queries whether his ministry had furnished its advise about possibility of handing over of “undisputed” land near the disputed structure in Ayodhya.


Satta men give Cong 62 seats, SAD-BJP 35
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 3
The Congress is likely to win 62 or more seats, according to satta operators, while the Akali-BJP combine is placed far behind at less than 35 seats. The bids are reportedly being accepted in favour of the Congress. Unlike in cricket, the bets are evenly placed in the elections. If someone places a bet of Rs 100 for the Congress winning 62 or more seats, he will get Rs 200 in return. In case the Congress tally is less than 62, he will lose his money.

Similarly, those who place bets for less than 60 seats for the Congress will get Rs 200 for each sum of Rs 100 they place as a bet. Two numbers, 60 and 61, are kept by satta operators for themselves. That means if the Congress wins 60 or 61 seats, those who have batted on more than 62 on less than 60 seats will lose and the money would go to the satta operators.

While for cricket the bets are accepted by local bookies, election bets are being managed by some influential satta operators from Delhi and Mumbai. Sources having association with people who place bets revealed that for the Akali-BJP alliance, the satta operators had fixed 33-35 seats. Betters will either place bets for less than 33 seats or 35 or more seats. Again if the alliance gets 33 or 34 seats, nobody will win and the money will go to the bookies.

The sources clarified that no manipulations were involved since the stakes were too high to leave any scope for manoeuvring. “It is not possible for anyone to influence the satta market. It operates on its own, since nobody can risk setting wrong stakes which might lead to massive losses”, a source clarified.

Satta operators fix the rates and number of seats a party or alliance is going to win through their good connections. Bookies also take inputs from mediapersons who indicate trends about the chances of different political parties. Even the contesting parties take a regular feedback from the satta market, which they believe indicates credible trends.

Although the betting on elections is organised from Delhi and Mumbai only, the satta operators have their local connections who accept the bids. The network is said to be the same as that of cricket. Since in this type of betting the bets are made verbally, the credibility of the person placing these is essential. For this the satta operators are reportedly taking the services of local bookies, who are acting as commission agents. Interestingly one of the sons of a rebel Congress candidate, who already stands expelled from the party, is said to be inviting bets, giving the Congress more than 62 seats.

Although the Congress is said to be having a clear edge at this stage according to satta operations, the situation keeps changing from time to time. The satta operators keep monitoring the situation and the rates keep varying, depending on the changing prospects of different parties. 


No wave in favour of any party
Local factors and stature of rebels to influence voting
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Punjab's poll arithmetic is as difficult to decipher as the current spell of elections is proving to be an enigma. Even the presence of 917 candidates vying for 116 berths in the Vidhan Sabha, makes the campaign trails unexciting. The guessing game is on with contestants, constituents and analysts looking for traces of a breeze, what to speak of a wave in favour of either of the two major political combines — the SAD-BJP and the Congress-CPI.

The next week will see political heavyweights arrive in the state to pitch-in for their party candidates. It is commonly held that any political outfit that wins the maximum seats in the Malwa belt will be better placed to form the government. This is because this region has the maximum number of seats — 65.

Malwa, the citadel of the Akalis, may turn the fortunes in their favour once again but just. The Akalis secured 44 seats out of 58 it had contested in Malwa in 1997. Their tally in Elections-2002 is anyone's guess.

The poll scene varies from constituency to constituency, depending as much on the political stature of the candidate as the stature of the ‘‘rebels’’' that have sprung up like mushrooms in the two major contender parties.

During a two-day whistle-stop 750-km tour of Patiala, Sangrur, Bathinda, Muktsar, Faridkot, Moga, Ludhiana and Fatehgarh Sahib districts, it was observed that the issues on which votes are sought varied from constituency to constituency and are influenced by local factors. No one would either disclose his/her mind or predict which party would be the front-runner and with how many seats in its kitty. The common refrain is one of voters' indifference. The common voters devoted more time in airing ‘‘personal’’ problems rather than speaking out what Punjab needed and who could deliver the goods for the good of the state.

BANUR: It is 8 a.m. The Thursday morning sun is struggling to clear its way by dispersing a thin sheet of clouds and smog. A group of people at the party office of Capt Kanwaljit Singh (SAD) sit sipping tea. The whereabouts of the Captain are known but he is unaccessible at present. His mobile does not respond in that area. On election prospects, the man behind the counter is modest to say: ‘‘You can assess better. We may be biased.’’

RAJPURA: 9.30 a.m. A group of daily wage-earners have blocked half of the wide Rajpura-Patiala road, waiting to be picked up. This crowd is clearly sharp and bitter when asked about the poll prospects. They spoke simultaneously. After brief arguments among themselves, they allowed one person to speak out. They were bitter because of the ‘‘inflated’’ electricity bills, labour lay-off due to closure of factories in the town, delayed receipt of ‘‘shagun’’ and sarcastically added: ‘‘Ït is question of survival not votes. If we vote, it will be for the Congress.’’ Those who disagreed tried to chip-in but were rebuffed. The Local Bodies Minister, Mr Balramji Das Tandon, is contesting from here.

CHUHARPUR: It is 11.30 a.m. Under a ‘‘pepal’’ tree that had shed most of its leaves, sat a small crowd, mostly of women and children. Some elders sat on chairs. Addressing this group was SAD's Surjit Singh Rakhra. The village is in Samana constituency. He talks of ‘‘money’’ (Rs 8 crore) he had got distributed under the ‘‘Sangat Darshan’’ programme and jobs he procured for the youth. His stress point is development and decries corruption while expressing anxiety over unemployment. As the meeting folds up a woman, collecting glasses, remarks: ‘‘'Sare bole ke chale jande ne, vekh lavan ge.’’

THEH: It is noon. The small locality on the outskirts of Sunam is on the badly battered Jakhal road. Outside the closed shutters barely 20 people are gathered with a mike tied to a slim bamboo. The speaker is concentrating more on holding it in place. The tyre-burst of a tractor-trolley momentarily disturbs the meeting. The candidate, Mr Parminder Singh Dhindsa, is handed over a demand-list. The major demand is appointment of a ‘‘sweeper’’ in the area. He holds out some vague promise and delves in lecturing them about the Panthic Morcha reminding them that the ‘‘Khalistan’’ demand would be revived if those who have boarded the ‘‘'Gadda’’, the election symbol of Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, were elected.

The Congress candidate, Ms Sonia Arora, and her husband, Mr Rajinder Deepa, are canvassing in different villages in opposite directions. They are banking as much on the contribution of her father, the late Bhagwan Das Arora, who was also a minister, as on the ‘‘corruption’’ and the ‘‘anti-incumbency’’ factors. She stresses on further development through small agro-industry and promises a better deal for women.

LEHRA-GAGA: It is 1.30 p.m.The town is under a cloak of unusual silence. A small group of people, employees and small-time shopkeepers, sit at a dhaba taking lunch. An old man holding a Congress Party flag watches them. ‘‘Babaji, ki lagda hai chona bare?’’ His answer attracts the attention of others too. ‘‘Lagna ki hai. Bibi hoonja pheru aitkin pher.’’ With this he raises the small party flag and chuckles. A short distance away, as one stops to buy ‘‘ber’’, two farmers from Changali holding diametrically opposite views converge on at least one point: The manner in which farmers' wheat and paddy had been procured at remunerative prices and the disbursement of money in all villages. ‘‘Lokien bevafa naih, jinan tusi samjde ho. Larai te takri hai. Per Akalian ne kam vi keete ne.’’ The other disagrees. This is the constituency of former Chief Minister, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal.

CHAGGLI: It is now 2.30 p.m. The entire village, including Mr Baldev Singh Mann and Mr Sunmukh Singh Mokha, SAD candidates, are part of the congregation that has gathered at the bhog of a jathedar, Maghar Singh, who died recently. Led by police escort that raised clouds of dust in the village, the Union Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, joins the prayer meeting.

The SAD Secretary-General tells TNS while travelling from the village to Mastuana (Sangrur), where he joins a sea of humanity gathered to mark the anniversary of Baba Attar Singh, that the contests are ‘‘close and tough’’. He is hopeful that slowly supporters of Akali rebels in Sangrur would return to the folds of the parent party. He denies in-fighting but admits some wrong selections. Yet, Mr Dhindsa says the SAD would win at least five seats. He agrees, whosoever gets the lion's share of seats in Malwa has better chances of forming the next government.

RAMPURA PHUL: It is 6 p.m. The rebel Akali candidate, Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar, joined by Mr Paramjit Singh Maluka, are addressing a corner meeting in Kalgidhar colony. As the evening shadows lengthen, so do their wisecracks aimed at ridiculing the official Akali Dal candidate, Mr Sikandar Singh Maluka, who is a Minister for Power. Mr Paramjit Singh is the real nephew of Mr Sikandar Singh.

BATHINDA: Till late in the night, Mr Surinder Singla of the Congress and the Akali Minister, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, continue to sweat it out in the cold. The former has in Mr Kulwant Rai Aggarwal, a dissident ‘‘'local’’. The BJP is yet to fully gear up in support of Mr Garg. This seat carries more prestige for Capt Amarinder Singh because Mr Singla is his hand-picked man being projected as the next Finance Minister. The guessing and betting game is on. Both contacted on mobiles around 9.30 p.m. were still in villages and sounded confident of winning.

In each of the constituencies, Lambi (where the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal is contesting) to Muktsar (where former Chief Minister Harcharan Singh Brar is in the fray) the poll scene changes so do the talking points. But one sign is discernible. Most of the small mandis, inhabited largely by the Hindu ahrtiyas, are looking towards the Akalis, knowing their political equation with New Delhi. 


A cradle of two CMs
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 3
Though Ludhiana has every tenth seat in the state Assembly, its voter share is much higher. Every eighth voter in Punjab is from this industrial town, which also boasts of the largest migrant labour population in the state.

Two of the biggest constituencies — Ludhiana Rural with 3, 54, 845 voters and Dakha with 2,27, 239 voters — are from this district whereas the average size of the remaining constituencies is about 1.5 lakh voters with Ludhiana East (1,16,255 voters) as the smallest constituency.

JAGRAON: A unique constituency from where both the SAD and Congress have been taking turns in the state Legislature since 1977 is poised for a tough quadrangular contest featuring Wg Cdr P.S. Sibia (retd) from the Congress; Mr Darshan Singh Brar (Independent) and Congress rebel, the sitting MLA, Mr Bhag Singh Malha (Akali Dal), and Mr Jagjit Singh Lopon (Lok Bhalai Party). Others in the fray are Mr Piara Singh Kaonke (Bahujan Samaj Party) and Mr Darshan Singh (Lok Jan Shakti Party) .

Mr Lachhman Sing (1962 -Akali), Mr Nahar Singh (1969 Independent); Mr Tara Singh (1972-Akali); Mr Dalip Singh (1977-Akali); Mr Jagroop Singh (1980-Congress); Mr Gurdeep Singh (1985-Akali); Mr Darshan Singh Brar (1992-Congress); and Mr Bhag Singh Malha (1997-Akali) have been the previous winners of this seat.

Another interesting feature of this constituency has been the number of important Sikh religious sects, including Nanaksar Bath, located here. Voters are under influence of these baths and deras, including those of Sant Ishar Singh of Kaleranwale and Sant Darbara Singh (Lopon wale). Normally, the heads of these sects stay clear of politics because of their large following.

RAIKOT: An essentially Akali stronghold, this is the home constituency of a former SAD and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief, Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi. While Mr Jagdev Singh himself represented this constituency in the state Assembly in 1969 and again in 1972, his brother Dev Raj Singh (1977) and son Ranjit Singh Talwandi (1997) have also been successful from here. In 1992, during the boycott of elections by the mainstream Akali Dal, the seat was won by Mr Nirmal Singh of the Congress.

The other winners of this seat have been Mr Gurnam singh (Akail-1962), Mr Jagdev Singh (1980-Congress); and Mr Talib Singh (1985-Akali).

Defending his seat is Mr Ranjit Singh Talwandi (Akali Dal) and opposing him are Mr Jagjit Singh (Bahujan Samaj Party), Mr Avtar Singh (Lok Bhalai Party), Mr Harminder Singh (Congress), Mr Jagjit Singh (Independent) and Mr Balwinder Singh Bains (Panthic Morcha).

DAKHA: It is more of an urban than a rural seat, with 2,27, 239 voters spread from Shimlapuri in Ludhiana city up to almost the Gill Road. It has 262 polling stations, of which 41 are very sensitive, says Mr Malwinder Singh, Returning Officer.

Mr Darshan Singh Shivalik, an LPG distributor, is the nominee of Shiromani Akali Dal and opposing him are Mr Malkiat Singh Dakha, confidant of slain Chief Minister Beant Singh, and sitting MLA Mr Bikram Singh Khalsa, now representing the breakaway Sarb Hind Shiromai Akali Dal. Also in the fray is, perhaps, the youngest woman candidate, Ms Mandeep Kaur of the Bahujan Samaj Party. Others in the fray are Mr Sohan Singh (CPM), Ms Harbans Kaur (Lok Jan Shakti Party), Mr Teja Singh (Independent) and Mr Darshan Singh of the Nationalist Congress Party.

This constituency has remained mostly with the SAD and the Khalsa family. Before Mr Bikramjit Singh arrived on the political scenario, his late father Basant Singh Khalsa, represented it in 1969,1972, 1980 and 1985. In 1977, Mr Charanjit Singh (Akali) was the winner while in 1992, Mr Malkiat Singh won on the Congress ticket because of the Akalis’ boycott.

KILA RAIPUR: This constituency has produced two Chief Ministers from the district — Justice Gurnam Singh Grewal and Mr Parkash Singh Badal, though the latter quit this seat soon after his election and left the field for the present Technical Education Minister, Mr Jagdish Singh Garcha.

The seat has been a traditional Akali stronghold, with Giani Arjan Singh Litt romping home victorious from here in 1972, 1977, 1980 and 1985. The boycott of the 1992 elections by the Akalis saw Mr Tarsem Jodhan of the CPM climbing the victory podium. In 1992, Mr P.S. Badal and then Mr J.S. Garcha were elected from here. The Congress has never won from here though in the last Lok Sabha elections in 1999, the Congress candidate, Mr G.S. Ghalib, polled more votes than his Akali opponent, Mr Amrik Singh Aliwal, from this segment.

This time, this constituency is witnessing a fierce contest among the sitting MLA, Mr Jagdish Singh Garcha (Akali Dal), an influential NRI, Mrs Gurdial Kaur Khangurra, (Congress), Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal of the SHSAD , Mr Tarsem Jodhan CPM, Mr Kuldip Singh (Independent), Mr Gurdial Singh (Independent) and Mr Jasbir Singh (Independent). Mr Kuldip Singh is a Sarpanch of Kila Raipur village, known worldwide for its Rural Olympics. 


Bid to freeze ‘scales’ fails
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 3
An effort to get the “scales”, the poll symbol of the Shiromani Akali Dal led by the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, frozen through a judicial decree from the Punjab and Haryana High Court, has failed, at least for the time being.

A writ petition was filed by Mr Gurdarshan Singh Grewal, former advocate-general of Punjab, and Mr Karam Chand, advocate, on behalf of the sitting MLA, Mr Ravi Inder Singh, who is seeking re-election from the Morinda constituency as a nominee of the Panthic Morcha. The writ was, however, dismissed in limine by Mr Justice Jawahar Lal Gupta who ordered that the matter be referred to the Election Commission. Since the election process was already on, the matter could be not taken up with the Election Commission immediately, according to counsel for Mr Ravi Inder Singh. The counsel, however, indicated that the legal battle on the issue was not over and they intended taking up the matter at the appropriate level after the elections.

Interestingly, Mr Ravi Inder Singh, who is a former Speaker of the Punjab Assembly, has himself being fighting and winning on the poll symbol of “scales” as the nominee of SAD. Now, he has parted ways with SAD and is a leading light of the Panthic Morcha which consists of the SHSAD led by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, SAD (Mann) headed by Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, the Panthic Akali Dal of Bhai Jasbir Singh Rode and the Sant Samaj led by Baba Sarabjot Singh Bedi, besides the faction headed by Mr Ravi Inder Singh.

The petition prayed for directions to the Election Commission of India to withdraw the symbol of “scales” from the list of free symbols and reserved symbols for the regional parties, under the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, allotted to the SAD, because scales are the national symbol of the judiciary in India and it represents the concept of justice throughout the country and cannot be allotted to any political party.

The petitioner pointed that at earlier stages, the SAD had opted for symbol of bow and arrow, but on objection having been taken that bow and arrow was a religious symbol in India, a second choice was given to SAD by the Election Commission and the symbol of scales was selected by SAD. Another faction of SAD (Amritsar) was originally allotted the symbol of lion but on complaint made and objection raised that lion was a part of the National Emblem, the symbol was changed from lion to bullock cart (gadda).

The scales are also a religious symbol because it is associated with Guru Nanak Dev who in younger days worked in a shop and was known for weighing goods on scales. 


Vote uski, jo pilai whiskey’
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 3
Apart from the contestants trying their luck to make it to the Punjab Assembly in the February 13 poll, the addicts dotting various districts of the Malwa region have also been coining slogans to convey their message to the quarters concerned.

‘‘Nasha do, vote lo’’, ‘‘Vote uski, jo pilai whiskey’’, ‘‘Bhuki khawao, vote di gal makao’’, ‘‘Jidee daru, usda palda bharu’’ and ‘‘Mawe di na rakho tot, raj ke lao saddi vote’’ are some slogans coined by the ‘‘amlis’’ (drug addicts) to express their desires before the contestants.

Come elections and it is a boom time for the addicts in many parts of Punjab. The people have little faith in the policies and programmes of any party as their main concern always remains that they should be supplied with the drugs as per their requirement.

The Malwa region, which has got a dubious distinction of having a large population of the addicts, is yet to witness an election without the blatant use of liquor, opium, poppy husk and illicit liquor.

For the past three to four years, liquor, poppy husk and opium have been substituted with inorganic intoxicants, including pain-relievers and cough syrups, freely available in the market. Though the campaign managers have been denying that drugs are being used to woo the voters, the information gathered by TNS reveals that addicts are not being disappointed by principal contenders in various assembly segments and their confidants have been managing to arrange various kinds of drugs for them.

Though the contestants have been claiming that they have been trying to secure votes of the people by presenting their policies and programmes before them, a tour to various pockets showed that the use of drugs had also acquired the dimension of a major factor which could affect the poll outcome.

In nearly all nine Assembly segments falling in Faridkot district, including Faridkot, Kotkapura, Bagapurana, Muktsar, Moga, Nihalsinghwala, Gidderbaha, Panj Garain and Lambi, the habits of a major section of electors have been spoiled by a section of landlord-turned politicians, who used money, drugs and muscle power in the elections.

The district police authorities are anticipating that the flow of drugs to this area might increase due to the Assembly elections and have managed to break a police-smuggler nexus by registering a criminal case against Inspector Jagdish Singh Bhola, who won the Arjuna Award for wrestling a few years ago, for his alleged involvement in smuggling of narcotics. The police seized poppy husk from two trucks and a car reportedly being used by Bhola and his accomplices. However, Bhola has not been arrested so far. 


NDA govt to fall after poll: Surjeet
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, February 3
The CPM general secretary, Mr Harkishen Singh Surjeet today said the NDA government would fall after the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha elections as the BJP was going to lose them. In Punjab too he said, the SAD-BJP combine would be routed because of the non-performance of their government.

Addressing an election rally at Mullanpur for the CPM candidate from the Dakha reserve constituency in Ludhiana district, Mr Surjeet said Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, President, Samajwadi Party, would form the government in Uttar Pradesh. The election results would affect the NDA government, which was sure to fall after the elections.

The controversy over the construction of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya had been raked by the BJP to win the elections, he said. Accusing the BJP of playing a dangerous game, he said on one hand it was inciting the sants on the mandir issue while on the other it was asking them to let the NDA government function till 2004. The people would not fall prey to this gameplan, he asserted.

Lashing out at the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the CPM general secretary said Mr Badal could not befool the Punjabis any more as he had been exposed during his five- year tenure. The SAD-BJP combine had failed to deliver the goods and had only indulged in corruption practices, without doing any service to the people of Punjab.

The fiscal status of Punjab had been dealt a severe blow by the SAD-BJP combine and the follies of the Chief Minister. The prosperous state for Punjab had become bankrupt, he said

Mr Surjeet will undertake a two-day tour of Punjab before leaving for Uttar Pradesh.


Digvijay for continuation of MSP
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 3
The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr Digvijay Singh, says that the NDA government at the Centre cannot be partisan to the Congress governments in the states.

Talking to newsmen at Punjab Congress Bhavan before the start of his two-day electioneering programme in Punjab, he said the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, had been" extremely fair" to the Congress Chief Ministers in various states.

Supporting the continuation of the present procurement policy, he said that minimum support price (MSP) and lifting of entire agricultural produce must continue as before. He, however, advocated the need for diversification of crops and fixing of remunerative MSP for oil seeds to encourage farmers. "This would help in reducing imports of oil seeds," he said maintaining that the farmers of Punjab had done very well in making the country self sufficient in food grains.

Mr Digvijay Singh wanted the SAD to clarify its stand on the Ayodhya's Ram Janam Bhoomi vis- a- vis the Vishav Hindu Parishad." SAD is certainly not a secular party though it may have been protecting the minorities in the state," he said claiming that the Congress has "always stood for the minorities, weaker sections, and Dalits".

The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister said in most of the states, both the Dalits and minorities were still supporting the Congress, admitting alienations in some states, including Uttar Pradesh.

He said the SAD-BJP government had failed to "deliver". 


Badal expels rebel Kariha
Our Correspondent

Nawanshahr, February 3
Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister and President, SAD has expelled the rebel SAD MLA, Mr Jatinder Singh Kariha, from the party for his anti-party activities. He announced this at an election rally held here yesterday.

Mr Badal said though he had worked hard to ensure Mr Kariha’s victory during the byelection two years ago, yet instead to expressing gratitude he had revolted against him when he was denied the ticket this time. He has instead lent support to another SAD rebel, Mr Hardev Singh Kahma, who is contesting as an Independent, he added.

Mr Kariha, when contacted on the issue of his expulsion from the party, said he had no ideological differences with the SAD President, Mr Badal, and the decision to field Mr Hardev Singh Kahma as an Independent from Nawanshahr was taken as per the dictates of the sangat, which wanted to rectify the “political blunder” committed by Mr Badal in fielding Mr Resham Singh Thiara. The sangat, which includes as many as 65 sarpanches, two municipal council presidents, a SGPC member and representatives of a number of different social and religious organisations, had decided to field Mr Kahma to fulfil Mr Badal’s mission of defeating the Congress in the state.


A votary of farm diversification
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Kapurthala, February 3
Progressive farmer-turned-industrialist Rana Gurjit Singh, Congress candidate who is pitted against Punjab minister and SAD candidate Raghbir Singh, is a first timer with a difference—he is a strong votary of diversification in agriculture and industry and this is evident from his promise to voters that he will set up a sugar mill in the area if he came to power.

Well mannered, Rana Gurjit Singh is considered to be a close aide of PPCC chief Capt Amarinder Singh and is a product of Dagshai Public School. Though he has spent most of his time in Chandigarh and Bazpur in Uttar Pradesh, where he has a huge modern farm spread over 4000 acres. At the same time, he is aware of the problems faced by the farming class to which he originally belongs. Which is why, according to him, he has chosen politics, though he is one of the most successful farmer-turned-entrepreneur of Punjab. “I think this way I can do much more for people of my state,’’ Rana Gurjit Singh told the Tribune, adding that, ‘‘In my view, diversification is the key to success in both fields—agriculture and industry. Diversification can cope with present day maladies concerning agriculture as well as industry and this will be my first priority apart from setting up a sugar mill and a polytechnic institute in Kapurthala if I am elected,” he said.

He himself has experimented with diversification in a successful manner by going in for seed cultivation at his Bazpur farm at a time when it was not in vogue in the North.

Interestingly, it was Rana Gurjit Singh who had dared to open a sugar mill at Chowk Mehta when militancy was at its peak. Apart from his sprawling and technically-advanced farm, he owns a paper mill at Kurali, a construction company and a 100 per cent export-oriented spinning mill at Lalru.

His ability to strike an instant rapport with people is evident from his unique approach as he returns the money given to him by villagers by using it for developing the villages.


Bhattal’s view downplayed
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 3
Punjab Pradesh Congress president Amarinder Singh has tried to downplay the recent statement of senior Congress woman Rajinder Kaur Bhattal that no leader had been projected as the future Chief Minister by the party high command Talking to TNS here last night, after addressing public functions organised in the city by senior leaders Vishnu Sharma and Nirmal Singh Bhattian, Capt Amarinder Singh said the normal procedure was that the party high command sends its observers if the party achieves a majority to facilitate election of the legislative party leader.

Though he was reticent to speak on the issue, his supporters feel that he has a strong chance in case the Congress is returned to power in the state as he had beaten his rivals — Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Jagmeet Brar and R. L. Bhatia — in securing ticket for their loyalists.


Beant, not Badal brought peace: Bhattal
Our Correspondent

Budhlada (Mansa), February 3
Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, a former Punjab Chief Minister and Senior Congress leader, addressing an election rally here today in support of Mr Hardev Arshi, the CPI candidate from the Budhlada Assembly constituency, said Punjabis could not forget the sacrifice of the late Beant Singh who had saved the state from militancy.

She said the Badal government was wrongly claiming to have brought peace to the state. She alleged that instead of expressing his sympathies with victims of terrorism, Mr Badal used to attend bhog ceremonies of terrorists.

She said the Badal government had failed on all fronts. She accused Mr Badal of engaging a “weak” advocate for the SYL canal case before the Supreme Court.

Lashing out at the Panthic Morcha, she said her party was fighting a war against those who “honoured” the assassins of Indira Gandhi.

She said the Mansa area had been discriminated against by the Badal government as only Rs 1,500 per acre had been given as compensation to flood victims whereas a relief of Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per acre had been given to affected farmers of Muktsar district.

Mr Joginder Dayal, state secretary of the CPI, addressing the rally, said Mr Badal had encouraged the criminalisation of politics by giving ticket to Bibi Jagir Kaur, who was facing a criminal charge under Section 302 of the IPC for the alleged murder of her daughter. He demanded the remission of loans outstanding against farmers on the pattern of sick units. He demanded that outstanding loans of arhtiyas against farmers should also be paid by the government. 


Traders, workers back Singla
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 3
The former spokesman of the All-India Congress Committee (AICC) and party candidate from this Assembly segment Mr Surinder Singla, today got a shot in the arm when representatives of traders, employees unions, trade unions, industrial associations, labour unions, taxi operator unions and a major section of farmers pledged support to him.

These representatives, who organised a big rally, gave a rousing welcome to Mr Singla when he reached there to put forward his views on the Bathinda Development Mission.

While addressing the gathering Mr Singla said the main aim of the Congress was to give people a change and freedom from a rule marked with police atrocities, corruption, discrimination and nepotism. He added that apart from providing a rule of law, the Congress government would come out with policies extending benefits to all sections of the society.

He pointed out the other main agenda of the Congress would be the economic reconstruction of Punjab and arranging money for carrying out development works in the state.

He pointed out that Congress government had always extended benefits to traders and industrialists by simplifying the tax structure, to farmers by getting them remunerative prices of their commodities, labourers by hiking their minimum wages and employees by increasing their salaries and instalments of earners allowances.


No anti-incumbency trend: Sushma
Our Correspondents

Phagwara, February 3
The BJP star speaker, Ms Sushma Swaraj, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, last night said through the Congress was hoping to gain power in Punjab due to the “anti-incumbency factor”, it was not the reality. She said that the SAD-BJP combine was all set to be voted back to power.

Addressing a well-attended rally for the SAD-BJP candidate, from Phagwara, Mr Swarna Ram, Punjab Tourism Minister, Ms Sushma Swaraj, remained the Congress that the anti-incumbency factor did not have any impact on the CPM government in West Bengal and the Chandra Babu Naidu government in Andhra Pradesh. Similarly, it will not have any impact on the Badal government in Punjab, she quipped.

Jalalabad: Ms Uma Bharti addressed another mammoth rally

at Ram Lila Chowk, in favour of Mr Sher Singh Ghubaya, the SAD-BJP nominee from here.

She urged the people to caste their vote in favour of the combine, which in turn would strengthen the hands of Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee. Lashing out at the Congress she said that it was an agenda less party, which was misleading people on account of secularism.

Among others who addressed the rally were Mr Zora Singh Maan, MP from Ferozepur, Mr Sher Singh Ghubaya, MLA and the local SAD-BJP candidate and Mr Prem Kumar Valecha, president of the local Municipal Council. 



Support for Captains
The Patiala Ex-Serviceman Organisation on Saturday extended its support to the PPCC President, Capt Amarinder Singh, from the Patiala Assembly seat and also to the Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, and a senior SAD leader, Mr Surjit Singh Rakhra, from the Banur and Samana Assembly seats, respectively. Announcing this here at a function Col (retd) Gurtej Singh, Col (retd) G.K.S. Sidhu and Col (retd) Sucha Singh said their association had made the decision to support the SAD candidate from the Samana-Assembly segment — Surjit Singh Rakhra — due to the social work done by him in the constituency. TNS

NYF decision
The National Youth Federation has decided to extend its support to various candidates from different parties. They are: Mr Gurinder Pal Singh (Dhanula), Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Dhillon (Lambi), Mr Harminder Singh Gill (Patti), Mrs Satwinder Kaur Dhaliwal (Khanna), Mr Narinderpal Singh Hundal (Garhshankar), Capt Kanwaljit Singh (Banur), Mr Parmeet Singh Saholi (Nabha), Mr Rajbir Singh Padiala (Kharar), Bibi Satwant Kaur (Chamkaur Sahib), Mr Harmel Singh Tohra (Dakala), Bhai Manjit Singh (Valtoha). TNS

Blow for morcha
Mr Ram Singh, general secretary, Shiromani Akali Dal (A), who is contesting from the beas Assembly seat on the Panthic Morcha ticket on Saturday fell during campaigning and fractured his right leg. With this the campaigning of the Panthic Morcha has suffered a great setback. Mr Ram Singh’s main rivals are Mr Manjinder Singh Kang and Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa, the SAD and Congress, respectively. TNS

Gaganjit weighed
Mr Gaganjit Singh Barnala, son of Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, Governor, Uttaranchal and the SAD nominee from the Dhuri segment, was weighed against coins twice during two separate rallies held here late on Saturday evening. Addressing the rally, he would solve the problems of the town on a priority basis. OC

Jakhar’s tirade
A former Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr Balram Jakhar, has described the election manifesto of the SAD as a bundle of lies and false promises. Talking to newspersons here on Sunday on his return from Uttaranchal, Mr Jakhar said the steps taken by the Election Commission after announcing election schedule in Punjab speak volumes for the unfair, undemocratic working of the present government led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal. OC

Chamba joins BJP
Mr Ashwani Chamba, a senior Shiv Sena leader, on Saturday joined the BJP. Mr Chamba had unsuccessfully contested from the Phagwara Assembly segment last on the Shiv Sena ticket. This time, Mr Harinder Bhagat had upstaged Mr Chamba by getting the ticket. Meanwhile, Mr Pawan Parbhakar, vice-president, Punjab Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray) had expelled Mr Chamba from primary membership of the Shiv Sena. OC

Sonia's visit
The Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, will address her first rally in the border district of Ferozepore here on Tuesday. The venue for the rally was finalised on Saturday evening after the visit of the Deputy Commissioner and other senior officers at the new grain market. Mrs Sonia Gandhi is expected to reach here by 2 p.m. by a helicopter. The PPCC President, Capt Amarinder Singh and other Central leaders would accompany her. OC

Election office
Election office of the BSP candidate, Mr Ram Kishan was inaugurated by the persons belonging to general category. Due to the social relations of Mr Ram Kishan, a retired tehsildar, and his son Dr S.K. Sukhi, the BSP, it seems, would get votes from the upper castes also. OC

Lal's promise
A former minister and senior Congress leader, Mr Lal Singh, today said the road network in the Dakala constituency, the work on which was stopped after Harmail Singh Tohra was sidelined after he quit his ministership to side with Gurcharan Singh Tohra, would be relaid once the Congress returned to power in the state. TNS


Family joins Kanwaljit in poll campaign
Our Correspondent

Zirakpur, February 3
The candidate of SAD-BJP alliance from the Banur Assembly constituency, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, today gave his election campaign a personal touch by fielding his wife and other family members for canvassing. Giving momentum to his election campaign and to gain support of womenfolk, the minister fielded his wife Ms Sarabjit Kaur, sisters Ms Harpreet Kaur and Ms Gurdarshan Kaur, and daughter Ms Manpreet Kaur.

Accompanied by scores of women party workers and supporters, Ms Sarabjit Kaur flagged off a youth rally at Zirakpur today. The rally passed through a various villages and colonies and appealed the public to support their leader.

Ms Sarabjit Kaur, went for a door-to-door campaign in Bhankharpur village and spoke of various development works undertaken by the minister for women during past five years. Meanwhile, a scooter rally was also organised by the Youth Akali Dal at Lalru. Capt Kanwaljit on his second phase of election campaign visited Issapur, Issapur Jangi, Dera Jagadhri, Bakarpur, Paragpur, Ibrahimpura, Bahora, Bahori, Mubarikpur, Dhanoni, Mehmadpur, Fatehpur Jattan, Karkaur, Baraoli, Amlala, Chandiala, Janetpur, Focal point Dera Bassi and some other parts of Dera Bassi circle.



Tippler causes flutter
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, February 3
A tippler caused a flutter on Saturday night when he shouted ‘murdabad’ instead of “zindabad” in a poll rally of Mr Swarna Ram, the SAD-BJP candidate from the Phagwara Assembly segment. His first “murdabad” went unnoticed but when he shouted the same for Akalis, particularly the SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, the SAD-BJP leaders rushed to his corner to take him away.

Meanwhile, a new slogan was heard at the rally here on Saturday night. “Sonia Gandhi aur Captain Amarinder Singh choron ki yeh battalion hai, raj karegi kya woh party, jis ki neta Italian hai.” 


‘Punjabis more prone to heart diseases’
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 3
The northern part of the country, especially Punjab, is more prone to the heart diseases due to their “fatty” food habits.

This was stated by Dr Achintya Maulick and Dr Jagmohan Varma, Senior Consultant, cardiothoracic surgery, and Senior Consultant, invasive cardiology, respectively, with Fortis Heart Institute, Mohali, at an awareness programme on heart diseases held here yesterday. It was organised by the institute.

While talking to mediapersons, Dr Maulick said about 3 million people of the country were suffering from various heart diseases. Even the youth of 30 years of age were now suffering from these.


Poet Rajwinder honoured
Our Correspondent

Kapurthala, February 3
A function was organised today by the Sirjana Kendra and the Literary Forum at Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia Government College here in honour of Rajwinder Singh, a poet.

Surjit Pattar, a Punjabi poet, presided over the function in which his book, “Ghar and Parvash”, was also released.

Rajwinder Singh said he wrote poems in German as well as Punjabi. He was awarded the highest award in Germany known as “Poet Laureate”.

More than 100 poets and scholars participated. Mr Harphool Singh, president of the forum, honoured Rajwinder Singh with a shawl.

Dr Gurbaksh Bhandal, president of the kendra, thanked the poets while Mr Kanwar Imtiaz compered the function.


Opening of dhabas beyond 10 pm banned
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, February 3
Keeping in view the forthcoming Assembly elections in Banur constituency, Ms Pritam Singh Johal, SDM, has directed all owners of dhabas, petrol pumps and liquor vends in the constituency and particularly located along the Chandigarh-Ambala highway to close their establishments from 10 pm till 7 am for two months.

Enforcing Section 144 of the CrPC, the SDM has banned gathering of more than four persons at any public place and carrying of arms for two months. The rule has been implemented to avoid any untoward incident.

The SDM has also directed all industrialists, brick-kiln owners, hoteliers, businessmen and other employers to submit particulars of their employees with recent photographs to the nearest police station after proper verification. Violators will be penalised under Section 188 of the IPC.


Custodial death: ASI, three others booked
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, February 3
Residents of Chounta village, accompanied by Congress, BJP and Shiv Sena workers, gheraoed Dinanagar police station yesterday in protest against the death of Bhim Raj of the village in police custody. The protesters also blocked traffic.

The gherao which began at 11.30 a.m. was lifted at 4.30 p.m. after some district administration officials intervened and a case was registered against ASI Sudesh Kumar, Head Constable Kashmir Singh and Surinder Kumar and Santokh Singh, a driver who reportedly brought the victim to the police station on February 1 following a complaint by Janak Rani.

According to an FIR, Janak Rani, wife of Inder Singh Fouji of Chounta village, had filed a complaint that the accused often misbehaved with her daughter. The panchayat intervened and persuaded the police to settle the matter at the panchayat level itself but the complainant insisted that the police pursue her complaint.

On Friday, at about 6 p.m., the ASI went to the village and apprehended the accused. He and his wife were allegedly manhandled. When the village Sarpanch, accompanied by several others, reached the police station, they found the victim lying on the floor in a critical condition.

Most nursing homes at Dina Nagar refused to admit him due to pressure of the police, they alleged. He was admitted to the Civil Hospital at Gurdaspur where he died yesterday.

The police said when the accused was being brought to the police station, he jumped from the running jeep and was seriously injured.


Man held for stealing carbine
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 3
The police has arrested Kuldeep Singh, a helper, who had fled away with the carbine of a truck owner while they were going to deliver the ammunition to the Army from near Bhuchu Mandi a few days ago. He has been sent in police remand for two days.

The SSP, Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, in a press note issued here today said Mr Manoj Kumar a resident of Ballana in Rohtak district of Haryana along with some of his friends was going towards Bikaner in Rajasthan to deliver ammunition to the Army which they had loaded from Patiala, when carbine was stolen.

Mr Sewa Singh was the driver of the truck while Kuldeep Singh was the helper. On February 1 on their way to Bikaner, they stopped near Bhuchu Mandi in the district. After taking meals from a dhaba they went to sleep on the premises of the dhaba.

Dr Jain said Kuldeep Singh fled away with the carbine of Mr Kumar, with two magazines. Mr Kumar lodged a complaint with the police at Nathana. A case under Section 380 of the IPC and Section 25 of the Arms Act was registered against Kuldeep Singh.


Five arrested for smuggling narcotics
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 3
The police has arrested five persons for their alleged involvement in the smuggling of narcotics and recovered 50 kg of poppy husk, 160 gms of opium, and 8000 tablets from different parts of the district.

The SSP, Dr Jatinder Kumar Jain, in a press note issued here today said Balwinder Singh, a resident of Chak Hira Singhwala and Jarnail Singh were arrested from Takanwala village for allegedly carrying 15 kg of poppy husk. The two had put narcotics in a plastic bag. A case under Sections 15,61, 85 of the NDPS Act has been registered against them at the Raman police station. The scooter used in the crime has also been impounded.

Jarnail Singh of Sireawala village was arrested while carrying 35 kg of poppy husk in a plastic bag on his bicycle near Bhagta Bhaiaka village. He has been booked under the NDPS Act at Dayalpura police station.

Rajvir Singh, a local resident has been booked under Sections 18, 61, 85 of the NDPS Act for possessing 160 gram opium. A case has been registered against him.

Dr Jain said Lalit Kumar, alias Bobby, a resident of street No 5 of Aggarwal Colony was booked as he was found in possession of 8000 intoxicant tablets. A case under Sections 22, 61, 85 the NDPS Act had been registered against him at Kotwali. He was running a chemist shop in the Hospital Bazaar of the city.


Man murdered
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, February 3
Mukhbirpal Singh (42), owner of Mukhbir Fertiliser Store situated on the Banga road here, was allegedly murdered while on his way to home village, Jandiali. The body has been sent to Banga for post-mortem. A case has been registered.


Teachers look for gain in poll
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 3
With election fever running high in Punjab and politicians straining their vocal cords at rallies, teachers of private aided and unaided colleges are hoping to elicit some assurances on their demands hanging fire since the SAD-BJP combine assumed charge in the state.

With an eye on the dual advantage of mustering political support for ``their cause’’ as well as pinning down the SAD-BJP government for non-fulfilment of its demands, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of these colleges has given a statewide call for “save higher education day” on February 6.

At this stage, when the support of one and all is welcome for political parties, the time, they say, is ripe to expose the “dismal” performance of the SAD-BJP combine in addition to enlisting Opposition leaders to address rallies.

The date and venues of the rallies were decided recently at a meeting of the JAC held in Ludhiana. The key issues include the implementation of the pension-cum-gratuity scheme, the release of Rs 100 crore pending salary grant and Rs 21 crore in respect of UGC pay scales, and bringing 30 unaided colleges under the 95 per cent grant-in-aid scheme.

The JAC also decided to float the idea of the imposition of an education cess on business houses to generate funds rather than burdening the student community and making higher education an expensive affair.

Giving details of the programme, the spokesperson of the JAC, Prof Charanjit Chawla, said that rallies would be held at 11 district headquarters on the same day. Members of the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU) would be supported by the principals’ federation, the managements’ federation and the non-teaching staff of these colleges in addition to political parties.

Rallies would be organised in Chandigarh, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Bathinda, Patiala, Hoshiarpur, Muktsar, Barnala and Batala.

Pamphlets showing the “indifferent” attitude of the SAD-BJP government would be distributed. Later, a convention against the proposed fee hike would be held by the principals in their colleges.

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