Monday, February 11, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



PM sharpens rhetoric on terrorism threat
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 10
In an attempt to blunt the corruption plank of the Congress, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, today sharpened his rhetoric regarding the threat perception to the country from terrorism. He appealed for votes on the plea of maintaining Centre-state cooperation, which had contributed to the development process in Punjab.

Addressing an election rally at the local stadium in favour of the SAD-BJP candidate, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, Mr Vajpayee said, “Punjab needs a government which can stand for its security and development. This can be achieved only by a government which has cordial relations with the Centre,” he said.

“Badal se hamari dosti jail se hai. Jail ki dosti barhi pakki hoti hai. Badal sahib bade leader hain. Hum ne Emergency se ikathe ladai ki hai”, Mr Vajpayee pointed out.

Mr Sahib Singh Verma, former Chief Minister of Delhi, also held out a threat by saying that, “Gai kabhi bhains ke katde ko dhoodh nahi deti, laat marti hai. Agar aap ne dhoodh lena hai, aap bachde ko hi gai ke pass rakhiye.” He added that it would be a big blot on the faces of Indians, if the AICC President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, became Prime Minister of the country.

The Prime Minister reiterated that the country was facing a threat both within and from outside, through a conspiracy aimed at creating disturbance. He added that the Central Government had amply depicted that it was strong enough to meet any challenges.

Dismissing the criticism regarding corruption, Mr Vajpayee said by making allegations regarding the coffin scam, Congress leaders were indulging in cheap talk. He said that the Congress was frustrated as the party was crumbling in the face of a leadership crisis. “After Ms Sonia Gandhi, they have no leader who could lead the party,” he remarked.

He said that whenever a country was in danger, no political party should believe in its individuality. All parties should come together to overcome that crisis. But when the BJP-led NDA government was fighting the Pakistan army in Kargil, it was being attacked by the Congress also.

Urging the people to vote on the basis of performance of SAD-BJP combine government in Punjab, he said that he could not give anything today, as Election Commission would chide him. He added that whenever he had come to Punjab earlier he always gave something to the state but today, he had come to beg votes for SAD-BJP candidates.

Praising Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal for his concern for the development of the state, Vajpayee said a stable government was required again in the state under his (Mr Badal) leadership.

The Prime Minister said that Central Government was committed to developing agricultural economy in Punjab by making the farmers take to floriculture and growing fruits. The Punjabi farmers could take benefit of WTO by producing the better quality crop and exporting it.

The Union Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, who accompanied Mr Vajpayee, alleged that some of the surveys being made by a section of the electronic media in connection with the outcome of Punjab polls were sponsored and should not be believed. He added that the Election Commission, instead of stopping such surveys, had been transferring officials.


PM to ‘intervene’ in inter-state disputes
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, February 10
The BJP today indicated that the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, would take the initiative to solve the long-pending inter-state disputes between Punjab and Haryana after the completion of the ongoing poll process in Punjab.

Addressing a Press conference here today, the BJP President, Mr Jaina Krishnamurthi, said the Prime Minister would take the initiative to solve the disputes between both states.

“In fact, we are of the opinion that both states should hold bilateral talks on these sensitive issues and sort out the matter amicably.

Otherwise the Prime Minister, who had successfully sorted out the 25-year dispute over the distribution of the Kavery river waters between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, will take initiative to put an end to these disputes between Punjab and Haryana,” he added.

Asked about the allegations of corruption levelled against two BJP ministers by its executive members and allotment of petrol stations in the name of the wife of the state BJP chief, Mr Brij Lal Rinwa, he tried to evade the query by asking the Punjab BJP organising secretary, Mr Avinash Jaiswal, who was sitting besides him, to give a reply since it was a matter relating to the state unit.

A visibly perturbed Mr Krishnamurthi offered to quit the Press conference when scribes started questioning him about different corruption-related cases pertaining to BJP ministers. “If you are to ask state-level questions, I think Mr Jaiswal is a better person to address your queries to and it will be better I shall leave,” he said.


PM will solve river issue: BJP President
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, February 10
The BJP today indicated that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee would take the initiative to solve the long-pending inter-state disputes between Punjab and Haryana after the completion of ongoing poll process in Punjab.

Addressing a press conference here today, the BJP President, Mr Jana Krishnamurthi, said that the Prime Minister would take the initiative to solve the inter-state disputes between both states including distribution of river waters and transfer of Chandigarh and Punjabi speaking areas to Punjab after the poll results.

“In fact, we are of the opinion that both the states should hold bilateral talks on these sensitive issues and sort out the matter amicably. Otherwise, the Prime Minister, who had successfully sorted out 25 years’ old dispute over the distribution of Kavery river waters between Karnatka and Tamil Nadu, will take initiative to put an end to these disputes between Punjab and Haryana,” he added.

“You see, such sensitive issues cannot be decided in haste. The Congress had already complicated these issues in the past just to gain political mileage,” he said.

When asked about the allegations of corruption levelled against two BJP ministers by its executive members and allotment of petrol pumps in the name of the wife of the state BJP chief Brij Lal Rinwa, he tried to evade the query by asking the Punjab BJP Organising Secretary, Mr Avinash Jaiswal, who was sitting besides him, to give reply since it was a matter related to the state BJP.

Interestingly, a visibly perturbed Krishnamurthi offered to quit the press conference when most the scribes present in the press conference started questioning about different corruption-related cases related to BJP ministers. “If you are to ask state-level questions, I think Mr Jaiswal is a better person to address your queries and it will be better I shall leave,” he rued.

Regarding the failure of the Punjab BJP MLAs and ministers in declaring their assets in the past five years of its rule, he said he was not aware that Punjab BJP had promised such things in its poll manifest during the last Assembly elections in Punjab. “I will ensure that all party MLAs shall declare their assets within 90 days of election to the house this time and strict disciplinary action will be taken against defaulting MLAs,” he added.


Tohra down, but not out
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 10
Tohra village may not be seeing the same crowds as when former SGPC chief Gurcharan Singh Tohra ruled the district, but he still has a loyal band of followers who see him off at 7 a.m. sharp from his house.

The first stop is at Panjola village in the Amloh constituency where he stops at the house of a supporter who is miffed with him and is not extending support to Panthic Morcha candidate Harnek Singh Deewana. Tohra enters the house of his supporter and meets the elderly man in his bedroom itself. Soon a dozen men throng the residence. Tohra appeals to them to support the Morcha candidate and departs after getting a solemn promise in this regard.

The next stop is at Bhagdana village in the Rajpura constituency. “See for yourself the development done by Tandon (BJP candidate Balramji Das Tandon),” he says. With Morcha candidate Tarlochan Dev on his side, he targets both Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Tandon. “All jobs were sold by the Badal family,” he says. “I, on other hand, have come up among you and have provided jobs to 8,000 persons, specially in the banking sector, but not taken money from even one person,” he adds.

He says there should be rules disqualifying candidates who distributed liquor or campaigned in more than five vehicles.

In the Mann territory, Mr Tohra meet Morcha leader Simranjit Singh Mann at Rajindergarh village in Sirhind. Here, Mr Tohra focuses on the shady land dealings of SAD candidate Didar Singh Bhatti.

At the Nabha grain market rally organised in favour of Morcha candidate Randhir Singh Rakhra, the Akali leader stresses that the scales is no longer the Panthic symbol and that they should reject in it favour of the gadda.

Finishing off his speech around 1 pm, he is ready to rush off to Dakala to campaign for his foster son-in-law Harmel Singh.

Travelling without a gap, Mr Tohra takes his first meal of the day which includes two missi rotis along with a glass of thick lassi. The Akali leader had started the day with a cup of tea.

When asked what keeps him going, he says he wants to expose the misdeeds of the Badal government and pave the way for a SAD sans Badal after the elections.


Votes ke liye candidate kuchh bhi karega
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Zira, February 10
Innovations have been galore in the fortnight-long aggressive electioneering featuring not only the top notch political leadership of the country but also stars of both the music and tinsel worlds.

The campaigning officially comes to an end on Monday at 4 p.m., exactly 48 hours before the close of polling in the state.

It is not necessarily the candidates of major political parties, who have been hitting upon innovative and novel methods of appealing to the voters at large by use of both audio and visual media. Even Independent candidates have added glamour, colour and newness to electioneering in the state this time.

For example, Mr Bhupinder Singh, an Independent candidate from Dhanuala, has been trying to reach the electors of his constituency through breathtaking demonstrations of sky diving, parasailing and other aviation acrobatics.

“This,” he says, “is the easiest and most eye-catching method to reach the voters as an Independent candidate has limited financial and manpower resources to cover the entire constituency in a fortnight.”

The use of aviation in electioneering is nothing new. Leaders of most of the major national parties have been using both fixed wing and rotor aircraft — helicopters — to cover as many destinations as possible in the shortest possible time.

This time, for example, both the ruling SAD-BJP alliance and Congress made optimum use of helicopters for electioneering. It was not only the PPCC president, Capt Amarinder Singh, who was moving from constituency to constituency in his hired Bel 407 helicopter, but also the All-India Congress Committee President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, who made extensive use of helicopters in her election campaigns.

For the ruling SAD-BJP alliance, though the state Chief Minister mostly travelled by a specially designed airconditioned coach because of a hip injury, his son, Mr Sukhbir Badal, also used a helicopter for the election campaign.

The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, who travelled to Punjab twice to address election rallies at Ferozepore and Pathankot on the first day and then at Bathinda during his second visit today , also used helicopters. The Union Home Minister, Mr L. K. Advani, too, undertook a whirlwind two-day tour of Punjab in a helicopter.

There were unconfirmed reports that a former Chief Minister of Punjab and Congress leader, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, too, was offered a helicopter by one of her party workers for electioneering.

Besides the use of aviation gadgets through which the leaders could reach out audiences at varying distances , the other most effective method used this time by the two major opponents — SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress — has been the electronic media. Going by the present rates for a 30-second slot on a popular TV channel, and the frequency at which their election programmes (advertisements) were repeated , the audio-visual advertising budgets of both the parties must have run into crores of rupees. These expenses were in addition to the cost of production of these audio-visual programmes.

Not only major political parties and their rebel candidates but also several Independent candidates inserted advertisements in important newspapers on regular basis to “solicit public support and votes” in their respective favours. For example, the ad-campaign of both the Congress and the SAD-BJP alliance continued in almost all major dailies throughout the campaign period.

Then there were audio and video cassettes which were distributed. In addition to all this, the use of traditional methods of canvassing through the use of handbills, colourful posters, banners, hoardings, party flags and buntings was much more this time than ever before.

The only disturbing phenomenon was the use of plastics in the election material. Most of the flags were made of plastic and even banned “recycled plastic” which is not bio-degradable.

Among the political personalities that dotted Punjab election scenario were Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Mr Lal Krishan Advani, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, Mr Arun Jaitly, Ms Uma Bharti, Mr P.A. Sangma, Mr Sharad Pawar, Mr Kanshi Ram, Dr Manmohan Singh, Mr Arjun Singh, Mrs Ambika Soni, Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, Mr Harkishen Singh Surjeet, Mr Moti Lal Vora, Mr Dig Vijay Singh, Mrs Shiela Dikshit, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, Mr Ajit Jogi and several others. Mr Om Parkash Chautala, who initially campaigned for the SAD-BJP alliance, did not come again after the January 15 order of the apex court on the SYL canal.

Never before have so many Chief Ministers campaigned in Punjab as they did this time. The Congress leadership was cautious about the Chief Minister of Rajasthan and leaders from the Haryana Congress as their “utterings on the river waters” could have generated “unsavoury controversies for the Punjab Congress.”

And there was no party that could manage a big election rally without the support and performance by one musical group or the other. Popular folk singers, including Sardol Sikander, Kuldip Manak, Gurpreet Singh Ghuggi, Harbhajan Mann, Mohd Siddique and others, also helped keep the gatherings enthralled till the political celebrities arrived at the venues, mostly 30 minutes-to-three hours behind schedule.

These stars were joined by stars from the Bollywood, including Govinda, Vinod Khanna, and Hema Malini.

As many as five deaths were reported due to “drinking” and two persons were murdered, one at Bhikhiwind and the other near Chandigarh, in the poll violence during electioneering. There were several other cases of clashes among workers of different parties at various places.


No ‘voter cards’ for ‘mini-Bharat’ residents
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Chhehrata (Amritsar), February 10
Unity in diversity prevalent here has given the status of “mini-Bharat” to this satellite town of Amritsar which is only 16 km from the Indo-Pak border.

Though 55 residents of Chhehrata were killed during bombardment by Pakistan in 1965, it continues to be the second home to thousands of migrants.

Terrorism and other factors had led to the shifting of men and capital to adjoining states, however, one can still find those who have come from West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Chennai, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh and other far-flung states.

Mrs Bimla Dang, a former MLA and wife of CPI leader Satya Pal Dang, belongs to Allahabad. Her forefathers were among the first Hindus who had migrated from Jammu and Kashmir to safer places during the Mughal rule.

Similarly, Mr Milkhi Ram, a senior leader of the All-India Trade Union, had migrated from Jammu in the early fifties and made Chhehrata his home. Mr Bacha Alam and Mr M.D. Fazal, both from West Bengal, have come here to eke out their living. Mr Ashok Kumar, also a resident of the town, hails from Kangra in Himachal Pradesh.

A large number of people had migrated to Chhehrata town from Peshawar in Pakistan after Partition.

Come elections, the working class here becomes the most sought-after voters.

However, the migrant labourers have been living in miserable conditions despite the enforcement of various labour laws.

In some units, they are virtually treated as “bonded labour”. A casual visit to the town revealed that human rights are being violated with impunity.

So much so, identity cards are not being issued to some of them as factory owners do not want to issue them certificates which are mandatory to show that they are residents of Amritsar.

A glaring example is that of a mill where at least 50 employees who succeeded in enrolling themselves as voters were not issued identity card as the mill owner was not ready to give them certificates.

As per instructions, identity card can be given on the basis of passport, driving licence, ration card, arms licence, freedom fighter certificate etc.

Most of them could get the identity cards either on the basis of a ration card or proof provided by the factory owners.

Since the instructions of the chief electoral officer regarding photo identity cards reached here recently, it has become difficult to get the labourers the identity cards.

In a letter to the district electoral officer, Mr Dang has alleged that the 50 employees who get themselves enrolled as voters are not being issued identity cards as the mill owner is not giving them proof of attendance.

However, Mr Harjinder Singh, manager of the mill, claimed that no worker had approached the management for issuance of such a certificate.

He admitted that the mill was raided by the employee provident authority and Labour Department twice in the past, but added that the workers were not being treated as bonded labour.

Giving the reason for restricted entry in the mill, he said the management had to resort to such an action as Communist leaders tried to create “nuisance by exploiting the workers”.


Campaigning ends today
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
On the penultimate day of the fierce poll campaign for elections-2002, the ruling Akali-BJP combine made yet another effort to tilt the scales in its favour by having the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, address a poll rally in Bathinda today.

All sound and fury will fade into silence tomorrow at 5 p.m. The heat and dust will take some more hours to settle down. Keeping in view the model code of conduct, the political parties and candidates will not be permitted to use the media, print and electronic, thereafter, to drum up support.

Thus the aggressive campaign, which saw the high and low of political morality and ethics, will change into yet another style: door-to-door canvassing coupled with the distribution of polling slips. The silent 48 hours will also see the positioning of polling agents and assigning of duties and vehicles to ‘‘fetch voters.’’

This is the crucial phase in any election. This is the time-period, though limited, which is used for maximum exploitation of ‘‘silent’’ voters, so important to any political party and candidate, in any election. This is also the pregnant pause when tactical and strategic planning is done for the mobilisation of voters. It is commonly believed that anyone, who can actually transport the voters to the booths, gets an edge.

Punjab, by and large, has had a clean track-record of peaceful, fair and free elections, barring some stray incidents. Punjab elections are highly politicised but not violent. Nevertheless, some unsavoury poll-related incidents have been reported from different parts of the state, which have added a new dimension to the security arrangements.

Besides a killing each in Morinda (Nayagaon) and Patti (Bhikhiwind) assembly segments, there have been skirmishes between supporters of different political parties and candidates. Sporadic incidents have been reported from Bholath (Nikki Mian), Jalalabad, Ludhiana etc. Given the high political stakes and the bitterness that has been created by the ad-campaigns, the apprehension is that a small incident could ignite tempers.

A total of 100 para-military force (PMF) companies have been deployed besides the 50,000 strong Punjab police and ‘‘sensitive’’ polling stations/booths have been identified. There are a total of 3,268 sensitive polling booths in the six police zones. The break-up is as follows: Faridkot —229, Ferozepore — 378, Ludhiana —552, Patiala — 3679, Jalandhar — 746 and border range — 1,044.

As soon as the polling is over on February 13, but for 15 companies, the rest of the PMF will move out for election duty elsewhere. The State Election Office has taken up the issue with the Commission, requesting that at least 40-odd PMF companies should be retained in the State given the heightened political tension.

As a security measure, says, the Additional Chief Electoral Officer, Mrs Usha R Sharma, there will be one ‘‘mobile’’ police patrolling party for every 20 polling stations in rural and one for every 40 polling stations in urban areas. 


Rai Sikhs hold the key in Jalalabad, Guru Har Sahai
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Jalalabad, February 10
Unlike other areas in the state, caste factor is still alive in the Jalalabad and Guru Har Sahai constituencies of Ferozepore district. The Rai Sikhs hold the key as a majority of the population here is dominated by them.

In Jalalabad, out of 1,50,753 voters, more than 75,000 belong to this community.

Historical background of the constituency reveals that during the past four decades, only two candidates— Mr Lajinder Singh Bedi and Mr Hans Raj Joshan — both from the Congress had won from the constituency.

Otherwise, Mr Mehtab Singh and Mr Phumman Singh of the CPI, Mr Manga Singh of the Congress and Mr Sher Singh of the SAD, all belonging to the Rai Sikh community, have represented the constituency.

This time, the sitting MLA, Mr Sher Singh, and a former MP, Mr Mohan Singh Falianwala, are the two main Rai Sikh contestants in the fray. The Congress has fielded a Kamboj, Mr Hans Ran Joshan, who although enjoys good reputation among the masses but does not have the advantage of being from the Rai Sikh community.

The other two Rai Sikh candidates in the fray are Mr Darshan Singh of the Janta Dal (S) and Mr Jeet Singh, an Independent.

Chances of getting support from other communities lie in favour of Mr Joshan, but Mr Sher Singh enjoys support of the BJP that dominates in the Jalalabad city. It may be mentioned that at present all 15 Municipal Councillors of the Jalalabad Municipal Committee are from the BJP. Even in the 1993 MC elections, the party had won on 10 out of the 13 seats. Reports reveal that there are more than 15,000 Hindu votes in the city, majority of which are likely to go in favour of the SAD-BJP candidate, Mr Sher Singh. In addition, there are about 22,000 Kamboj , 18,000 Jat Sikh and 15,000 Dalit votes in the Jalalabad constituency.

In Guru Har Sahai, Rai Sikhs have won the elections on seven occasions. Mr Lakshman Singh has won the seat four times, Mr Sajwar Singh twice and Mr Bakhtaur Singh once. This constituency gave a surprising result in 1988 when Mr Kushal Chand won on a BJP ticket. But during the last Assembly elections, a Jat Sikh, Mr Paramjit Singh Sandhu, won the seat on a SAD ticket.

There are about 15,000 Jat Sikh , 15,000 Dalit , 50,000 Rai Sikh , 25,000 Kamboj and 18,000 Hindu Brahmin votes in the Guru Har Sahai Assembly constituency.

The constituency is likely to witness an interesting contest as the Congress has denied the party ticket to a Rai Sikh and fielded Rana Gurmeet Sodhi, a non Rai Sikh.

Even a resident of Guru Har Sahai, Mr Darshan Singh, told TNS that the Congress has betrayed the community by denying party ticket to Mr Sajwar Singh.

Most of the Rai Sikhs have decided to back Mr Sajwar Singh, who is contesting the elections as an Independent candidate. Out of eight candidates in fray, Mr Joginder Singh of the BSP also belong to the Rai Sikh community.

Keeping in mind the historical background of the constituency, electoral battles seems to be drawn between Mr Paramjit Singh and Mr Sajwar Singh. But the manner in which Capt Amarinder Singh is showing interest in the constituency Rana Sodhi’s presence cannot be ignored.


Triangular contest in Zira
Kulwinder Sandhu
Tribune News Service

Zira, February 10
There is no single party bastion in this constituency. The voters do not seem to be in a mood to reveal their opinion at this juncture. When the election campaign is in full swing. It may be because two Akali stalwarts of the area, the sitting MLA, Mr Inderjit Singh Zira, and a former minister, Mr Hari Singh Zira, are both contesting on the Panthic Morcha and the SAD ticket, respectively. The Congress, has however, fielded a newcomer, Mr Kuldip Singh Bhullar, neglecting a local Congress leader Mr Nareh Kataria.

The lackadaisical attitude of the voters in this Assembly constituency has not only complicated the poll scene but also made the task of poll managers of different political parties difficult.

During the last two elections Mr Inderjit Singh Zira had won on the SAD ticket, but this time having left the ruling party he seems to be facing a tough task. His rival, Mr Hari Singh Zira, had won from the constituency in 1985 and enjoys a good support of the traditional Sikh vote bank.

A total of six candidates are in the fray. Mr Ajaib Singh of the Democratic Bharatiya Samaj Party, Mr Ramesh Kumar of the Shiv Sena and Mr Avtar Singh, an Independent, are also contesting the elections from Zira. In the last elections, Mr Inderjit Singh Zira had defeated his nearest rival, Mr Naresh Kataria, by a margin of more than 19,000 votes. This time a triangular fight between the Congress, the SAD and the Panthic Morcha-BSP combine is expected.

The Congress candidate this time, Mr Bhullar claims that he will win the elections by a margin of more than 25,000 as the traditional Akali votebank has been divided into two factions.

In his rallies, Mr Bhullar does not dwell much on politics. In his brief speech at a nearby village, he made a few promises to people, including a bonus of Rs 30 on paddy purchase, plots to the economically backward, repairing the roads, creating employment opportunities for the rural youth and pension to widows and old-age persons. Interestingly, his campaign is being managed by Mr Naresh Kataria, who was denied the party ticket this time.


Rebels ensure multi-cornered contest
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo, February 10
This Assembly segment, housing the fifth Takht of Sikhs, Takht Shri Damdama Sahib, located in the farthest corner of south Punjab, bordering Haryana, is likely to witness a multi-cornered contest as both official candidates of the Congress and SAD, Mr Harminder Singh Jassi, sitting MLA, and Mr Mohan Singh Bangi, respectively, are facing rebels.

This constituency, which was once known for having Leftist leanings and returned a CPI candidate, Mr Jangir Singh, to the Vidhan Sabha in 1962 in pre-reorganised Punjab, abruptly changed its character as from the 1967 Assembly elections to 1997 Assembly elections either the Congress or SAD candidate have won from here.

The question, which is being hotly debated in this segment dotted with small towns and historical villages, is that will the sitting MLA, Mr Harminder Singh Jassi, who won the last two elections consecutively, make a hat trick or not. In the last nine Assembly elections (since 1962), Congress and SAD candidates have returned to Vidhan Sabha four times each.

Apart from the SAD candidate, Mr Mohan Singh Bangi, Mr Jassi has been facing a Congress rebel, Mr Niranjan Singh Kutiwal, who was once his confidant. Mr Kutiwal was later adopted by the National Congress Party (NCP) as its candidate. Mr Bangi has also been facing problems from the Akali rebel candidate, Mr Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu. Mr Sidhu unsuccessfully contested the last Assembly elections as SAD candidate from this seat and he was defeated allegedly under a well-planned conspiracy when an Akali rebel also jumped into the election arena.

Mr Jassi secured 4209 votes in 1992 elections which was boycotted by the mainstream Akalis while his nearest rival and BSP candidate Jagdeep Singh managed to get 3217 votes and again Mr Jassi managed to win this seat in 1997 with a narrow margin of 3193 by defeating Mr Jeet Mohinder Singh Sindhu. The Akali rebel, Mr Jaspal Singh, who contested as an Independent, polled 8088 votes.

While Mr Jassi has been trying to make non-development of the area as a big issue, Mr Bangi has been banking upon the performance of the SAD-BJP combine government in the past five years. Mr Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, who has been promising overall development of the area, could emerge as a tough fighter. The election rally addressed by AICC President Sonia Gandhi for Mr Jassi on February 7 has been turning an advantage for him. Mr Balwinder Singh Mahi Nangal, Lok Bhalai Party (LBP) candidate, and Mr Barinder Singh, SAD (Mann) candidate, have also been making their presence felt in the constituency. There are total eight candidates in fray.

Almost all the candidates have been doing their best to reach out to the maximum number of voters with the help of kin, friends and other associates.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab, who condemned Mr Sidhu for jumping into fray as an Independent candidate on being denied ticket pointed out that it was denied to him that he (Mr Sidhu) had no contribution for the “Panth”. Mr Sidhu, on the other hand, has been hammering Mr Badal continuously on why he (Mr Badal) gave ticket to Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also had nothing to show for his contribution to the Panth.


Rebels may play spoilsport
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Kharar, February 10
A four-cornered contest has emerged in this key constituency of Kharar where the Congress candidate, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, the SAD candidate, Mr Kiranbir Singh Kang, the Panthic Morcha candidate, Mr Rajbir Singh Padiala and rebel Congress leader, Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, are locked in a close fight.

Another rebel Congress candidate, Mr Harnek Singh Gharuan, is catching up fast. Both the rebels are projecting themselves as Congressmen, a source of worry for the official candidate.

While Mr Gharuan was a minister in the Beant Singh government, Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu contested in the 1997 elections on the Congress ticket. Both the rebels have staunch supporters among the minorities, Dalits and rural voters. The Panthic Morcha candidate faces tough competition from the two rebel Congressmen in rural areas.

However, the Congress candidate claims to be in the driving seat after the Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, addressed a rally at Kurali on February 7. He faces a tough fight from Mr Balbir Sidhu in the rural areas, especially in the Chunni-Saneta belt.

The Panthic Morcha-BSP candidate, Mr Rajbir Singh Padiala, is trying to ride on his father's legacy. Bachittar Singh, a known Akali leader, was murdered in 1996. He is also the son of the sitting MLA, Mrs Daljeet Kaur.

A split in the Akalis is expected to result in the urban voters preferring the Congress. The Panthic Morcha candidate and the rebel Congress leader, Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, are playing up the six-month old incident at Siau village where two Dalit children were murdered and the Khanpur incident against the SAD candidate.


Afghani wife, unpopular secretary
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 10
The erstwhile princely town of Nabha is witnessing a triangular contest with an Afghani wife, a ‘‘Secretary’’ who no one likes and a grassroot leader who is squirming in the new party he helped launch in the State after leaving the Congress being the main factors at play.

Though statistics favour the Congress nominee and former minister Gurdarshan Singh's son Randeep Singh, the ‘‘kaka’’, as he is known in the constituency, has not endeared himself to the public by keeping away from the seat after losing by a narrow margin to Raja Narinder Singh of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the last elections. Mr Randeep Singh had been an Independent candidate during the last elections with the official party nomination going to Mr Ramesh Singla.

Randeep has preferred to live in Chandigarh during the past four years and has only shifted house recently. His political opponents claim his Afghani wife is responsible for this and the issue has been made into a major poll plank against him. Mr Randeep Singh is, however, hoping that his own clean image and the goodwill earned by his family will go in his favour.

SAD candidate Raja Narinder Singh, who has adopted the prefix Raja to his name despite having nothing to do with royalty, is in a tight spot mainly because of the role of his Political Secretary who is accused of having creating illwill amongst the rural votebank of the Akalis. Many villages in the constituency are miffed at the Akali candidate because his Political Secretary was reportedly instrumental in denying release of funds and also because in many villages money was not handed over to the sarpanches but given to the Panchayati Raj Department for execution of various works.

The SAD nominee is also facing problems with former party leader Manjit Singh Lassi, who was also a contender for the party ticket, contesting as an Independent candidate. Mr Lassi has a committed vote-bank in the constituency. Besides this, there are two other Akali candidates in the fray, one being the official Panthic Morcha candidate Randhir Singh Rakhra and the second being dissident Morcha candidate Paramjit Singh Saholi. The SAD candidate also has a reluctant circle jatha accompanying him in the poll campaign which may affect his chances further as he is already playing second fiddle to both Mr Randeep Singh and Mr Ramesh Singla in Nabha township.

Mr Ramesh Singla is the man to watch in the constituency. Having been refused the Congress ticket, he was instrumental in creation of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in the State. Although Mr Singla started off on a high note, announcing he would contest both the Patiala and Nabha seats, he quickly backtracked on that statement. He is at present engaged in trying to wrest the seat by discrediting the Congress candidate by highlighting his accessibility and claiming his fight is against the SAD candidate.

However, Mr Singla is finding the going difficult without the Congress machinery by his side in the constituency. He suffered a major jolt recently with his long-time confidant and former Block Samiti Chairman Harwinder Singh Khanaura, who has influence in the Bhadson pocket of the constituency, shifting his loyalty to Randeep. Besides this, Randeep is also being supported by the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) group in the villages.

All the contestants are concentrating on Nabha town in the final days of the campaign. Political managers are playing a game of one upmanship with the Randeep camp ensuring he was weighed at 71 spots in the town one day after Mr Ramesh Singla had been weighed at 22 places and a few days after Raja Narinder Singh was weighed at a dozen spots.


Election scene hots up in Banur
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, February 10
It was a day of rallies in Banur, a key constituency of the state, for the February 13 Assembly elections. Thousands of supporters of three political parties — the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party — and an Independent candidate organised massive rallies.

Amid honking horns, beating of drums and loudspeakers, the rallies passed through various townships, villages and colonies of the constituency in a bid to lure voters by taking up different issues.

Supporters of SAD were seen luring the voters on the development work taken up by the Akali government in the last five years while Congress supporters sought their vote and support by highlighting weaknesses of the SAD-BJP government.

Meanwhile, supporters of Ms Karamjit Kaur, a Bahujan Samaj Party candidate, tried to unite the Dalit voters under its ‘‘flag’’ and strengthen the party in the state alleging that previous governments were going step-motherly treatment to them for the last 50 years.

The SAD candidate, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, today covered the entire areas of the Banur constituency by organising four rallies involving thousands of two wheelers- and four-wheelers. The SAD supporters weighed Capt. Kanwaljit Singh and his wife against coins and ladoos during their final round of active election campaign.

Meanwhile, congress candidate Sheelam Sohi accused Capt- Kanwaljit Singh for spreading caste based politics in the constituency in the last five years while addressing public gathering at Zirakpur and Banur. She alleged that Capt. Kanwaljit Singh promised to unite people in villages but started dividing the public.

During her election campaign, Ms Sohi today visited dozens of villages in Zirakpur and Banur areas. Accompanied by her son, she also went door to door to strengthen her position at grass-root level.


Sukhbir: weigh up our performance
Our Correspondent

Sardulgarh (Mansa), February 10
Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, a Rajya Sabha member and General Secretary of the SAD (B), while addressing an election rally for the party nominee, Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder, here today called upon the people to compare the performance of the Badal government with that of the previous Congress governments before casting votes.

He said while the SAD-BJP government always considered itself servant of the people, the Congress governments had acted as rulers. The Congress had been following the ‘divide and rule’ policy to capture power. If the successive Congress governments at the Centre and at the state had worked for the welfare of the people, the country in general and Punjab in particular would not have faced problems of poverty, illiteracy and unemployment even after 50 years of independence, he headed.

He said the Congress governments at the Centre had always given step-motherly treatment to Punjab and particularly to the Sikhs. The Congress had not only deprived Punjabis of their basic rights but also launched a propaganda against the Sikhs throughout the world by branding them as terrorists.

He called upon people to take into account the developmental works carried out in Punjab during the tenure of the Vajpayee government at the Centre and the SAD-BJP government in the state.

Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, Chief Minister, tried to play the Hindu-Sikh unity card while addressing the rally. He said the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, had restored the glory of Punjabis, which was damaged by the previous Congress governments. Mr Dhumal urged the people to cast votes in favour of the SAD-BJP combine, which, he said, would strengthen the hands of Mr Vajpayee.


Sekhon’s man eludes arrest
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, February 10
The police has failed to arrest a local Municipal Commissioner, Mr Joginder Singh, alias Jindu, against whom a case was registered in the cantonment police station on Friday.

Mr Joginder Singh, a staunch supporter of the SAD candidate from Ferozepore cantonment seat, Mr Janmeja Singh Sekhon, was allegedly involved in a minor scuffle with Congress workers. The local police had earlier refused to register an FIR against him. However, later with the intervention of the district administration following a complaint lodged with the Election Commission of India a criminal case was registered.

A team of police, which went to Mr Joginder Singh’s residence to arrest him was prevented by his supporters from entering his house. It allegedly had to return without arresting him following pressure from the ruling party.

The police refused to disclose details of the case when this correspondent tried to enquire about it. The SSP was also not available for comments.

Meanwhile, Mr Sekhon has alleged that his rivals are lodging fake complaints against his supporters to demoralise them. However, the local Congress leaders say supporters of the SAD and the BJP are threatening their workers and forcing them to support their candidates.


Manmohan projects Singla as FM
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 10
A former Union Finance Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, while addressing a rally here late last night blamed the SAD-BJP alliance for the poor state of the Punjab economy and asked the people to vote for Mr Surinder Singla.

Dr Manmohan Singh while championing the cause of Mr Singla said by voting for him (Mr Singla) the people would not be choosing an MLA, but a Finance Minister, who would put the economy of Punjab back on rails. He went on to say that Mr Singla had a blue print in mind for the economical revival of Punjab and it would be the duty of the Congress government to see that the state regains the number one position in the country in terms of per capita income and all other economic factors.

Dr Manmohan Singh said every time a party other than the Congress ruled any state at the centre the economy had been destroyed, industries have faced a slow down, unemployment had increased and the debt crossed all limits.

Mr Arjun Singh, a former Governor of Punjab and senior Congress leader while addressing the rally said the SAD-BJP combine had lost the faith of the people and had not lived upto the expectations of the people after the massive mandate they got in 1997.

Mr Surinder Singla accused the SAD-BJP government of destroying the Punjab economy and for the Rs 63,000 crore debt. He claimed that people would not be burdened by increasing the taxes but the loopholes and leakages in the system would be plugged.

Many other senior leaders of the Congress also addressed the gathering seeking votes for the Congress candidates. Neither the state nor the central leaders of the party replied to the question regarding the Chief Ministerial candidate of the Congress. They said the issue was still open and would be decided by the MLAs of the party and the high command after the election results were out.


CM: alliance alone can deliver the goods
Tribune Reporters

Gurdaspur, February 10
Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, while addressing a rally here today in favour of Mr Munawar Massih, SAD-BJP candidate for the Gurdaspur Assembly constituency, accused the Congress of depriving Punjab of adequate power, drinking water, railway lines and other projects during its long stint in power. He alleged that successive Prime Ministers of the Congress never bothered about the progress of the state.

He said Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee during his short stint as Prime Minister had visited the state many times and had provided liberal aid for its development.

Mr Badal said if the SAD-BJP combine was again voted to power it would persuade the Centre to further contribute liberally for the betterment of Punjab while voting the Congress to power would mean no development of the state.

Mr Badal said the Congress was a divided house and had not been so far able to decide on its chief ministerial candidate. He said the alliance partners had expressed their faith in him to head the state if the alliance was voted to power.

Mr Badal also addressed election rallies at Dharwal and Kahnuwan from where Mr Sucha Singh Langah, Public Works Minister, and Mr Sewa Singh Seikhwan, Revenue Minister, respectively, are contesting as the alliance candidates.

BATALA: Mr Badal addressed a rally in support of Mr Jagdish Sawhney, BJP-SAD candidate for the Batala Assembly constituency, at the Chitti ground here on Sunday.

Urging the people to vote for Mr Sawhney, Mr Badal said the Shagun Scheme was launched by his government in Punjab to help the poor families and under it Rs 500 was given on the birth of a girl child while Rs 4,500 was deposited in a bank in the girl’s name.


Amarinder vows to probe Badal’s assets
Tribune Reporters

Kapurthala, February 10
Capt Amarinder Singh, President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, has announced that the Congress, if voted to power, will form a commission of eminent jurists to inquire into the huge wealth and property “amassed” by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, and his family.

Addressing a rally at Shalimar Garden yesterday in favour of Rana Gurjit Singh, Congress candidate for the Kapurthala Assembly constituency, Capt Amarinder Singh said the Badal family owned property worth Rs 3,500 crore.

He said Mr Badal had backed away from his proposal that both of them should get their properties probed by approaching the Chief Justice of the state.

He said industry, trade and farming in the state had been ruined during the five-year rule of the SAD-BJP government.

He said more than 600 farmers had committed suicide in the state because of huge debts till December 31 last during the present rule.

Capt Amarinder Singh alleged that during the SAD-BJP rule Punjab had come under a debt of Rs 63,000 crore.

He accused Mr Badal of selling the interests of Punjab to Haryana in order to gain personal gain of Rs 550 crore to construct a five-star hotel.

He promised to give ministerial berths to Rana Gurjit Singh and Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira if they were elected from the Kapurthala and Bholath Assembly segments and if the Congress came to power.

The Congress organised this rally to counter the SAD rally at Shalimar garden two days ago in favour of the SAD candidate and Transport Minister, Mr Raghbir Singh which was addressed by Mr Badal.

Rana Gurjit Singh assured the people that if elected he would set up a sugar mill in the Kapurthala constituency besides two women colleges in Kala Sanghian and Bhandal Bet villages.

GURDASPUR: Capt Amarinder Singh, while addressing an election rally at Kalanaur on Sunday in favour of Mr Salamat Massih, Congress candidate for the Dhariwal Assembly constituency, said the SAD-BJP government had landed the state in a financial mess. He said the Congress, if voted to power, would bring about changes to improve the financial health of the state.

Capt Amarinder Singh said Mr Sucha Singh Chhotepur, who is contesting as an independent from Dhariwal, was mis-informing voters by saying that he had an understanding with him.

Mrs Sukhbans Kaur Bhinder, a former Union Minister, said the district had six ministers in the Badal government but no development had taken place after the present government took charge.

NANGAL: Addressing a rally at the Staff Club of Nangal in favour of the party candidate, Mr K.P.S. Rana, on Sunday, Capt Amarinder Singh said the real issues before the people of Punjab were unemployment and the “rampant corruption” committed during the five-year rule of the SAD-BJP government in the state.

He said the SAD-BJP government had failed to fulfil the promises made in its manifesto. It had failed to protect the interests of small farmers.

Mr K. Natwar Singh, a former Union Minister and AICC General Secretary, who was also present on the occasion claimed that only the Congress could give a stable government.


Darshan Singh dares Badal to open debate
Our Correspondent

Phagwara, February 10
Prof Darshan Singh Khalsa, a former Jathedar of Akal Takht, today dared the SAD President and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal to an open debate and claimed that he would prove that during Mr Badal’s five-year rule, he and his party had proved neither to be custodians of Sikhs and the Panth nor of Punjab but only of “parivarwad” (family fiefdom) and nepotism.

Addressing a press conference at the residence of Jathedar Ajaib Singh Sangha here, Prof Darshan Singh released copies of the letter. Before putting the posers, he made it clear that he belonged to no group but was playing the role of “qaum di awaz”.

He asked Badal to clarify whether the SAD had fought for Sikh rights as a Panthic body or as a Punjabi body.

He asked about the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, a separate Sikh code of conduct, and Nanakshahi Calendar, among other things.


Poonam, Govinda lend glitz
J. S. Malhotra

Jalandhar, February 10
To counter the poll strategy of the BJP to invite film stars like Vinod Khanna for attracting crowds at rallies in Punjab, the Congress today formally had former Miss India and film actress Poonam Dhillon and Govinda campaigning for its candidates in the state.

Clad in a white suit, Poonam proved to be a crowd puller for the Congress as an unprecedented number of people attended the corner election meetings and rallies at various places in Jalandhar and Kapurthala districts today, while Govinda attracted a sizeable number of people in Ludhiana with his “latke jhatke”.

The president of the district unit of Punjab Congress, Mr Tajinder Singh, introducing Poonam Dhillon to the scribes here today, declared that she, being a Punjabi, would better understand the feelings of the people of the state, who were virtually fed up with the corrupt SAD-BJP ruling combine.

Asked why she had decided to complain in favour of the Congress candidates, Poonam said that she had decided to associate with the Congress due to its secular ideology.

Besides, hundreds of Congress leaders and workers had sacrificed their lives for the country, said Poonam, while adding that she would like to learn more about the party before formally joining the politics and Congress ranks.

On the future of coalition politics in the country, she said that days of the coalition politics to run the governments were numbered and it was only the Congress which could provide a stable government to the people of Punjab, in particular, and the nation, in general.

“As I belong to the state and most of my relatives are still living in Punjab, so I decided to campaign for Congress only in Punjab so far, “ she added.

Commenting on the reported appeal of the actor-turned-politician and MP Vinod Khanna to the film stars not to campaign for any political party until they joined the same, she said campaigning was the best way to help the party with which one want to be associated or identified.

With super star Amitabh Bachchan, Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini, Parveen Kumar and Govinda, aggressively participating in the poll campaigns of different political parties, Poonam Dhillon has added in the war among political parties to bring more and more film personalities in their campaigns to attract crowds to the rallies.


Pretty Priety pulls people
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Bhawanigarh, February 10
Film actress Priety Zinta and Kunal Goswami, film actor and son of renowned film personality Manoj Kumar, drew crowds at a Congress rally here today, organised to boost the election campaign of Mr Arvind Khanna, the Congress candidate for the Sangrur Assembly constituency.

However, Capt Amarinder Singh, President of the PPCC, failed to turn up at the rally though he was scheduled to come to address the gathering. In his absence, Ms Kiran Walia, an MLA from Delhi, Mr Jasbir Singh, a former MLA from Sangrur and former Punjab minister, and Mr Arvind Khanna addressed the rally.

Priety Zinta greeted the crowd with “Sat Sri Akal”. She said she had an old association with the Khanna family and the Umeed Khanna Foundation. She appealed to the gathering to vote for Mr Khanna.

She assured the gathering that if Mr Khanna won by a huge margin she would come to Bhawanigarh to thank the people.

Kunal Goswami described Mr Khanna as a selfless person who, he said, had been serving the area since the past five years.

Several admirers of Priety Zinta took her autographs. Both film stars waved to the crowds time and again to capture their hearts.


Gharuan hopeful of victory
Tribune News Service

SAS Nagar, February 10
A former Congress minister, Mr Harnek Singh Gharuan, who is contesting as an Independent, today dismissed reports of his withdrawing from the elections. Talking to mediapersons, he said certain vested interests were spreading rumours against him.

I am hopeful of winning from the seat as I have the backing of different sections of society, he said, adding that he was seeking votes on the basis of development works undertaken by him earlier and did not believe in mudslinging. He claimed that certain candidates were trying to influence the voters with liquor and money. He said the Congress candidate, Mr Bir Devinder Singh, was hardly a serious rival for him.

Mr Bir Devinder Singh today toured Phases 4 and 11, Balongi, Baroli, Kambala, Jagatpura, Jhunjheri, Bhabat, Bari and Matra villages. He was weighed against ladoos and coins at different places. Addressing a rally in Phase XI, he said the SAD-BJP government had failed on all fronts. Mr Kirpal Singh, president of the Phase 4 market, announced support for the Congress candidate. The Defence Brotherhood, Mohali region, and the Rajput community have also extended support to Mr Bir Devinder Singh.

A group of industrialists led by Mr S.S. Sandhu and Mr Gurjit Lehal have extended support to an Independent candidate, Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu.

Meanwhile, the Panthic Morcha candidate, Mr Rajbir Singh Padiala, was weighed against coins at a function in Sector 70 here.

Mr Bir Devinder Singh has sought transfer of the Returning Officer-cum-SDM and the Deputy Superintendent of Police, SAS Nagar, for allegedly siding with the SAD candidate, Mr Kiranbir Singh Kang.

In a fax message to the Chief Election Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer of Punjab, the Congress candidate has expressed fears that the officials, going beyond their official duty, had made arrangements for bogus voting by bringing people from Haryana and Chandigarh. Deployment of the CRPF in the town for a free and fair poll has been sought by the Congress candidate.


Banking on youngsters
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 10
The youth are a force to reckon with as the election fever in Punjab reaches a zenith. The cynosure of all political parties looking for propaganda and publicity sans investment, the youth are having a ball absorbing the various hues of life in the spectrum of the elections as they campaign for candidates and rub shoulders with the party top brass.

With studies on the back burner and adrenalin levels high, the youth are neck-deep into the jobs assigned to them as they spend the nights planning strategies with the party intelligentsia while the day goes by implementing them. Open jeeps, fluttering flags atop trees and houses and slogan-shouting youngsters add up to the poll frenzy that has caught their fancy and the mood in the youth camp is upbeat.

“Both our frontal organisations, the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) and the National Students Union of India, have their hands full and are tightly packed till the election time. We began our exercise long before the election schedule was announced. Beginning with identifying students in colleges and universities with inclination towards politics, the blueprint of observers and their role was finalised by the IYC president, Mr Randeep Singh Surjewala, well in advance,’’ says Mr Jagat Singh, general secretary of the IYC and observer for Punjab.

Conscious of the anti-Congress feeling after 1984, the Congress has set itself the task of reaching out to “the new generation’’, taking up issues of employment generation and channellising the energy of the youth stifled by the grim economic scenario in the state. “We strongly believe that the youth can make or mar our election prospects and they are easily the backbone of the entire campaign process. We are involving them in a big way, whether it is about organising election rallies or publishing our manifesto or even convincing the electorate to vote for us,” adds Mr Surjewala, touring the state to muster support for the party candidates.

For the youth wing of the Akali Dal, too, the youth, at election time, mean a pot of gold. Claims president of the organisation, Mr Charanjit Singh Dhillon, “Sade munde agge hoke kam kar rahe ne. Pindan vich othon de munde te shahiran wale college te university de munde kam vich jutte ne te aahi sanoon jitaange.’’ Their job in the scheme of things is to sing paeans on the works done by the SAD-BJP combine and wrest the support of the public with convincing arguments.

However, despite this involvement and enthusiasm, the youth of the state are sceptical of the ways of the politicians. “We are of prime interest only till the votes are caste. Once they are in the chair, we are forgotten and our needs figure nowhere. We can cry ourselves hoarse and there is nobody to lend us ear. We are needed to raise slogans, take the brickbats and the beating for extending support to the politicians. We serve no other purpose,’’ says Sandeep Singh, actively involved in campaigning in Patiala.


Dejected students seek negative voting
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 10
Notwithstanding hectic electioneering and crisp campaign styles adopted by the political parties, the youth of this region consider Punjab elections to be of little significance. While many of them did not make any effort to seek voters' identity cards this time, the registered voters are also in no mood to cast their vote. With politics going from bad to worse, the youth don't consider exercising franchise sacred any longer. In fact, they are refusing to get themselves involved in canvassing for the local candidates. Such is the level of dejection among urban youth that many contestants had to hire rural youth to campaign for them. Not just that, most students categorically demand a provision of negative voting during elections.

Even as three days are left for the poll, Punjab Agricultural University is far from alive. As The Tribune went about talking to students of six colleges affiliated to the university, it found that everyone had reasons to stay away from power politics. Of the 10 students contacted, only three wanted to cast their vote. While some are tired of corruption and lack of alternatives, others consider all politicians to be alike. No wonder, they are not inclined to discuss election issues at all.

Ashwani Soni, a lecturer said most of his students did not know who the contestants were. Of the 25 students in my class, only two want to participate in elections. The rest are either unaware or indifferent to casting a vote," he said. Ashwani himself admitted that had he not been posted as election presiding officer in the Jagraon constituency, he would also have thought twice before voting.

Indu Kutty, a PhD student said, "The youth has been demanding job-oriented courses. Nothing has been done so far. Nothing will ever be done because there is no political will.''

Sukhmeet Singh, a BCA student, was aware of the candidates from Ludhiana West, his constituency. He says, "I will cast my vote, but I am not very keen. No one among my friends is keen on voting, nor do we regard any candidate worthy of our ballot. Nothing was done to provide sound computer education in colleges. I am a BCA student, but my course teaches me nothing about computers. I will, however, vote in hope for better times."

For Amandeep, a BCom student, job is the issue. He said, "The parties should concentrate on strengthening the economy so that by the time we pass out we stand some chances of making a decent living. All politicians are here to fill their own coffers. That is why there is no charm left in elections."

Agricultural engineering student Jyoti Lakshmi also agreed, "I have not even cared to get my voters' identity card. It does not matter which party wins. Corruption is common to all of them."

Jasmeet Manku, a BSc student added on similar lines, "There is no choice left. We have to either vote or serve as mute spectators to an inefficient rule.'''


Sons of 2 Akali stalwarts in fray
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
The Sunam and Dhuri Assembly constituencies of this district are the centre of attraction in the current Assembly elections as sons of two Akali stalwarts, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala, Governor, Uttaranchal, and Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Union Cabinet Minister, are contesting from there.

Mr Gaganjit Singh Barnala is a candidate of the SAD from Dhuri while Mr Parminder Singh Dhindsa has been fielded once again from Sunam by the SAD as he had won the byelection from Sunam in September 2000 by defeating the Congress candidate, Mrs Parmeshwari Devi, by 16711 votes. Mrs Parmeshwari Devi is the widow of Bhagwan Dass Arora, Congress MLA from Sunam, who committed suicide in July, 2000.

In the current Assembly election, Mr Dhindsa is facing Mrs Sonia Deepa Arora, Congress candidate and daughter of late Bhagwan Dass Arora.

Talking to “The Tribune”, Mr Parminder Singh Dhindsa and Mr Gaganjit Singh Barnala admitted that being sons of Akali stalwarts, they were had an advantage as they were not facing any identity problem. People of their respective constituencies were giving love to them.

Mr Parminder Singh Dhindsa was born in 1973 and has done MBA. Mr Dhindsa, who now represents Sunam in the Punjab Assembly, is a former general secretary of the youth wing of the SAD.

Mr Parminder Singh Dhindsa said his direct fight was with the Congress. He claimed that he was getting a positive response from the public as he had done a lot of development work in the constituency as an MLA by spending Rs 30 crore since October 2000. He said Mr Gurpreet Singh Lakhmirwala, Panthic Morcha candidate, would not hit his prospects as he would erode the vote bank of the Congress.

Mr Dhindsa also stated that he was seeking votes on the basis of his performance and development of the constituency. Besides, he was propagating the message of unity of the Punjabis.

Mr Gaganjit Singh Barnala, who was born at Barnala in 1962, completed his graduation from Chandigarh. He had worked for 15 years with his father when he was Chief Minister, Punjab, Union Minister, and Governor of Tamil Nadu.

Mr Gaganjit Singh Barnala said his main fight was with Mr Achhra Singh, candidate of the CPI-Congress alliance. He said Independent candidates would not fare well in the contest.

He said he was seeking votes from the Dhuri segment voters by making a promise with them that he would do 15 years’ work in just five years.


Five Congressmen expelled
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 10
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, today ordered the expulsion of five office-bearers, including a district president, for their anti-party activities, including opposition to official party candidates in the February 13 Assembly elections.

Those expelled are Mr Kartar Singh Sekhon, president, District Congress Committee (Nawanshahr), Mr Gulzar Singh, former president, District Congress Committee (Kapurthala), Mr Harbans Singh Chandi, Member, PPCC, Mr Jagtar Singh Multani, former minister and member PPCC (Kapurthala) and Mr Iqbal Singh, vice-president, District Congress Committee, Nawanshahr.

Meanwhile, Rana Kuldeep Singh has been appointed acting president, District Congress Committee, Nawanshahr.


Congressman joins SAD

Amritsar, February 10
Shiromani Akali Dal led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today got a shot in the arm when a senior Punjab Congress leader and Chairman, Punjab Dalit Council, Mr Amrik Singh Marari joined SAD along with hundreds of his supporters.

Mr Marari who wields considerable clout in the verka constituency might cause serious blow to the congress candidate Raj Kumar at this critical juncture, in this constituency, when the countdown for the February 13 Punjab elections has already begun.

In the nine-cornered contest from the Verka constituency, the straight fight is said to be between the SAD candidate Dalbir Singh and congress’ Raj Kumar.

Talking to reporters later, Mr Marari alleged that earlier he was assured of party ticket from the Verka constituency by the party high command. But at the last moment, party ticket was announced in favour of Raj Kumar, he added.

“They were demanding a hefty amount for the ticket, which I was unable to pay”, Mr Marari alleged.

Mr Karnail Singh Marari, father of Amrik Singh Marari had been Jail Minister in the Punjab Government from 1967 to 1969 under the chief ministership of Laxman Singh Gill. After the demise of his father in 1991, junior Marari joined the Congress fold. PTI


Uma Bharti campaigns in Sangrur
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 10
Ms Uma Bharti, Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, today called upon the Punjabis to not let the Congress come to power in Punjab keeping in view that it had sown the seeds of terrorism in the state about 20 years ago.

Addressing an election rally of the SAD-BJP candidate from Sangrur, Mr Sanmukh Singh Mokha, here today, Ms Bharti chided the Congress for its inability to decide upon a candidate for the post of Chief Minister. She also lashed out at Congress for making Ms Sonia Gandhi its President.



Mr Parmod Mahajan Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Telecommunications, on Sunday promised that the BJP would take the most decisive action against Pakistan if supported by the electorate. He said the Indian security forces would not recede an inch before Pakistan provided those on the list of most wanted forwarded by India. In a speech largely devoted to comparisons between the Congress and the BJP, he said Ms Sonia Gandhi was one of the weakest presidents of her party due to her foreign origin. OC

Mr Mohinder Singh Gill, a former PPCC President and senior Congress leader, on Sunday claimed a strong wave in favour of the Congress and said it was poised to form the government under the stewardship of Capt Amarinder Singh, PPCC chief. Talking to this reporter, Mr Gill said he received an overwhelming response during his tour of various constituencies. OC

Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar, an SAD rebel and Independent candidate from Rampuraphul, held a rally here on Sunday. People from all walks of life were present in large numbers at the rally and raised slogans in favour of Mr Kangar. OC

Mr Rohtas Garg, treasurer; city unit of the BJP joined the Congress along with scores of other workers on Sunday. Two Municipal Councillors of the BJP, Ms Raj Rani Goyal and Ms Kamla Devi along with former councillor, Mr Ram Avtar Singh and city vice-president, Ms Pushpa Siyag were already campaigning in favour of the Congress candidate, Mr Sunil Kumar Jakhar. OC

Ms Meera Bhardwaj, MLA (Manadawali, New Delhi) and general secretary of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, while campaigning for the Congress nominee, Mr Parkash Singh, addressed corner meetings at Rahon, Nawanshahr, Begumpur, Langroya, Shamaspur and Behloor Kalan villages on Saturday. She attacked the SAD-BJP alliance and BSP for flaring up communalism and casteism to seek votes. OC

Dissident Congress candidate Harinderpal Singh Mann put up a show of strength at the grain market in Patiala on Sunday and took out a procession in the Tripuri township to protest against the nomination of an “out-sider” as the Congress candidate in the Samana constituency. Mr Mann said the constituency had suffered due to the imposition of outsiders and this in turn facilitated an easy win for the Akali nominees. TNS

The Shiv Sena (Bal Thackeray) got a shot in its arm on Saturday night when Mr Satwinder Singh, candidate of the Phulley Bharati Lok Party from Phagwara, retired in favour of the Shiv Sena candidate Mr Harinder Bhagat. The state, district and block units of the party have also decided to join the Shiv Sena along with hundreds of their supporters, he claimed. With Mr Satwinder Singh’s retirement, nine candidates are left in poll fray here. OC

In a representation to the Additional Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab, Ms Usha Sharma, Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union, on Sunday pleaded that since teachers of private colleges have become a party by declaring to oppose the SAD-BJP candidates in the February 13 polls and were also opposing the higher education policies of the ruling combine, they should not be deployed on election duty. Prof KBS Sodhi, President PCCTU has demanded that they be exempted from the poll duty. OC


Poll activity hits municipal work
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 10
Workers of different political parties, especially Municipal Councillors, seem to be in a fix with residents of their areas asking for ‘‘special ’’ favours in return for their votes.

Many of those who are contesting the forthcoming Assembly elections are also expected to try their luck in the next municipal council polls.

Which is why they are trying their best to earn goodwill and woo the voters even if they have to bend rules, especially in cases related to illegal building activities and corporation bills.

Consequently, many cases of illegal buildings in the Chheharta , Katra Jaimal Singh, East Mohan Nagar , Basant Avenue , Putlighar, Ajnala road ,Ranjit Avenue block A and B areas, recovery of penalties, demolition , house tax and recovery of dues for water supply and sewerage have come to a standstill, causing losses amounting up to crores to the exchequer.

For instance the demolition of a shopping complex at Katra Sher Singh, was stopped midway when a senior official of the MC intervened.

However, an MC employee told this correspondent that employees were issuing challans which would be released soon after the elections.

Meanwhile, losses to the MC as well as the state government seem to be going unnoticed in the election euphoria.


Seven killed in road mishap

Ropar, February 10
Seven persons were killed when a Tata Estate collided with a truck coming from opposite direction near Bharatgarh, about 20 km from here, yesterday, police sources said here today.

The victims, including a woman and a child, were going to Kiratpur Sahib when their vehicle collided with the truck coming towards Ropar.

The truck driver managed to escape, the sources said, adding that a case had been registered at the local Sadar police station. PTI

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 |
122 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |