Monday, February 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Congress wrests power in Punjab
Badal resigns as several ministers lick dust
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
True to expectations, the Congress has romped home with a clear majority in spite of a gallant fight put up by the Shiromani Akali Dal in one of the most fiercest and toughest battles for electoral supremacy in Punjab in the past more than three decades.

The Congress won 62 of the 116 seats while the SAD-BJP alliance ended with 44, which is 49 behind its strength of 1997.

While the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, later met the Governor to submit the resignation of his Council of Ministers, the new Congress government is expected to assume office in the coming week after the Congress Legislative Party elects its leader on Tuesday.

Though the Congress expected anything between 70 and 75 seats, it just managed to get past the majority mark of 59 by three seats, leaving the outgoing ruling alliance with 44 seats. Independents, including rebels, especially of the Akali Dal, did well by winning five of the remaining 10 seats.

The Congress triumph, though expected, certainly fell short of what the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, and some of his ardent followers visualised.

Of the 116 seats for which elections were held, the Congress bagged 62, SAD 41, BJP three, CPI one and Independents nine.

Election to one seat was countermanded due to death of a candidate.

The BSP, which fielded 99 candidates, CPM which put up 13 nominees and newly-formed Panthic Morcha (99) failed to gain entry into the House.

The results have not only shown the door to the BJP in three major cities of Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana but also rejected several seasoned stars, including former Chief Minister, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar, besides the Speaker, Mr Charanjit Singh Atwal, Deputy Speaker, Mr Sat Pal Gosain, and several ministers, including Mr Balramji Dass Tandon, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Mr Mohan Lal, Mr Chiranji Lal Garg, Mr Sikander Singh Maluka, Mrs Mohinder Kaur Josh and others.

The elections have thrown up a number of youngsters, including Mr Parminder Singh Dhindsa (Sunam), Mr Gagandeep Singh Barnala (Dhuri), Mr Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal (Koom Kalan), Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa (Beas), Mr Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon (Faridkot), and Mr Randeep Singh (Nabha).

The successful family members of established political bigwigs are Mr Tej Parkash Singh (Payal) and Mrs Gurkanwal Kaur (Jalandhar Cantonment), Mrs Harbans Kaur Dullo (Khanna) and Mr Ram Lubhaya (Sham Chaurassi).

The results have many surprises. It is for the first time that the party or alliance coming to power in Punjab is with a simple majority. A look at the previous elections reveals that the Congress and CPI in 1972 (66+10), Akali Dal and Janata Party in 1977 (58+27), Congress and Communists in 1980 ( 63+9), Akalis in 1985 (73) supported by BJP (six), Congress in 1992 (87 seats) and Akalis and BJP in 1997 (75 +18) either had nearly two-third or even more than that strength to come to power.

Never before has the outgoing ruling party won so many seats as has been done by the SAD-BJP alliance. Even in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had won clearly in seven Assembly segments while the Akalis had romped home only in 32 Assembly segments. So, the results may have disappointed Congressmen more than the Akalis who suffered heavily because of the Panthic Morcha candidates eating into their votes.

Interestingly, there were some close contests, including in Banur where the Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, just managed home with 715 votes. Ms Razia Sultan of the Congress won by a few hundred votes while former Chief Minister Harcharan Singh Brar lost by a few hundred votes. The closest was Mansa where Independent Sher Singh Gaigowal won by just ove 50 votes. At Dhariwal, a former Punjab Akali Minister, Mr Sucha Singh Chottepur, won by 80 votes as an Independent.

The contests were close and tough. At Phagwara, the Punjab Cultural Affairs Minister, Mr Swarna Ram, lost to Mr Joginder Singh Mann of the Congress by 1200 votes.

Among the big winners were Capt Amarinder Singh (Congress - Patiala) and outgoing Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal (Lambi) also won by huge margins. Another former Chief Minister, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal won from Lehra by more than 6,300 votes.

Mr Balmukand Sharma of the Congress lost his first election from Ferozepore by 7,700 votes to Mr Sukhpal Singh Saini of BJP.

While Mrs Razia Sultan, wife of Punjab DIG Mohammad Mustafa, recorded a razor-sharp win in Malerkotla, Mr Kuldip Singh Bhullar, son of Mr Mahil Singh Bhullar, Director-General of Punjab police, lost at Zira. Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira, son of former Punjab Akali Education Minister Sukhjinder Singh (also a former police officer), lost to Bibi Jagir Kaur at Bholath while at Kila Raipur, Mrs G.K. Khangurra of the Congress, a relative of Mr G.S. Aujla, Additional Director-General of Police, Punjab, also lost.

Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, who had been a police officer, too, was on the unsucessful policeman-turned-politicians’ list as his son lost the Sirhind election.

8 rebels win

Eight rebels or dissidents of major political parties won their way to the Punjab Assembly on Sunday.

The sucessful dissident or rebel candidates are: Mr Sher Singh Gagowal (Mansa), Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar (Rampura Phul), Mr Surjit Singh Dhiman (Dirba), Mr Harmeet Singh Sandhu (Taran Tarn), Mr Gobind Singh Kanjla (Sherpur), Mr Sukhdarshan Singh Madahar (Muktsar), Mr Om Parkash Soni (Amritsar) and Mr Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu (Talwandi Sabo).

Mr Sucha Singh Chhotepur (Independent) won from Dhariwal in Gurdaspur.

None of the NRI candidates was successful in the elections. Those who contested were Mrs Gurdial Kaur Khangurra (Kila Raipur — Congress), Mr Narinderpal Singh Hundal (Garhshankar — Panthic Morcha) and Mr Varinder Singh Bains (Hoshiarpur — Panthic Morcha).


Amarinder vows clean-up
Sarabjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
Obviously in an upbeat mood, the president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Capt Amarinder Singh, who led the party to victory in the Assembly elections,said today that the people of the state had given a mandate to the Congress to clean up the system. “It will not disappoint them in this connection,”he added.

The top contender for the office of Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh told TNS that a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) would be held on Tuesday to elect the leader of the CLP to head the government in the state.

He said that senior party leaders, including Mr Moti Lal Vora, Mrs Ambika Soni and Mr Ahmed Patel, would reach here tomorrow or on Tuesday. The leader of the CLP would be elected in the presence of the party observers in consultation with the party President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

Admitting that the Congress had got slightly fewer seats than what it was expecting, Capt Amarinder Singh said it was, however, a “big leap forward as the party has got a majority in the Assembly”. In the previous Vidhan Sabha elections the party had won only 14 seats, he added.

Capt Amarinder Singh, who led from the front by making the President of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who has emerged as an icon of the SAD-BJP combine, the chief political target in his election campaign, said that he was expecting between 70 and 75 seats.

A report mentioning this had also been submitted to the President of the AICC, Mrs Gandhi. Unfortunately, the Congress lost in constituencies like Ferozepore, Muktsar, Talwandi Sabo and Jagraon where it was expecting an impressive win, he added.

When asked about the poor performance of the CPI in the elections, he said that he was prepared to give only six seats to that party but the number had to be increased to11 following reports of a rapprochment between the Sarab Hind Shiromani Akali Dal and the SAD.

In fact, the only seat won by the CPI was Pakka Kalan, where it had put up Mr Gurjant Singh Kuttiwal, who had quit the Congress and joined the CPI only a few days before the filing of the nomination papers.

Speaking about the tackling of corruption, Capt Amarinder Singh said that the Congress government would start “operation clean-up from the top. A commission would be set up to probe the properties of the former Akali and BJP Ministers, including the Chief Minister, Mr Badal and top officers. There would be no dithering in this connection, he added. And there would also be no witch-hunt, he asserted.

In fact, he said, the Congress had made the elimination of corruption and the revival of the state’s economy its main planks and it would not back out from these promises made to the electorate.

All sections of society, including the Sikh peasantry, has voted for the Congress in the state. It was because of this that the Congress was able to win a substantial number of seats in the Malwa belt known as a stronghold of the Congress, he added. The presence of the Bahujan Samaj Party( BSP) had no effect on the Congress candidates. In Doaba region, where the BSP had a strong presence, the Congress had performed impressively.

He said he would not allow the Punjab Public Service Commission to function in its present shape.” We will make all efforts to block its way”, he added. The Congress would not allow anyone to “sell posts”. It would take whatever legal measures were required to revamp the commission.

Asked about the proposal of the SGPC to construct a memorial to Operation Bluestar, he said the Äkalis should not throw the state back into the gory past. “ Why did they not construct the memorial duirng their five-year rule?”, he asked.

The Congress government would not allow the Akalis to destabilise the state in any manner. It was time to look towards the future and not into the past. While the people of the state were facing the problems of unemployment, corruption, suicide by farmers and shutdown of industrial units, the Akalis were trying to live in the past, he added.

When asked about the case against Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, he said the matter was in court and it was yet to be established whether there was substance in the case or not. He said he would not tinker with the process of the law in any manner in this case.Back


Badal submits resignation
Tribune News Service

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal submits his resignation
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal submits his resignation to Governor Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd) in Chandigarh on Sunday. — PTI photo

Chandigarh, February 24
The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today submitted his resignation to the Governor, Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd).

Accompanied by his media adviser and other personal assistants, Mr Badal went to Raj Bhavan here this evening.

The Governor, while accepting his resignation, requested him to continue in office till alternative arrangements were made.


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