Tuesday, February 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Biggest drubbing went to BJP, Panthic Morcha
P.P.S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
There is the expected ecstasy and despondency in the Congress and the Akali camps after the results of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. While the SAD-BJP combine is meeting, though separately, to dissect the entire election gamut and analyse what went wrong, the Congress is getting into the act of forming the government.

The jolt received by the BJP is far greater than the one felt by SAD. Though the two somehow managed to complete the five-year term, despite in-built and inherent contradictions, squabbles and ego hassles, some accusations and passing of the buck cannot be totally ruled out.

The results pointer to several significant factors at play in the past five years right up to February 13 election as much as certain facts that are loud and clear. The negative vote cast by electors shows a clear divide between the urban and rural voters. It also shows the erosion of BJP’s urban vote-base as much as the Akalis’ retaining their rural electoral base besides the impact of performance and governance on the voting pattern.

This analysis is about the way the rural voter reacted to the elections. But a word about the behaviour of the urban voters vis-a-vis the BJP ministers will be fully justified. The BJP Cabinet and Ministers of State had all the portfolios that anyone would wish or wont to have as all dealt with urban constituents, covering a wide range — municipalities, employment, labour to food and supplies to health, family welfare, medical education and research to higher education to excise and taxation etc. all so dear to the BJP. All ministers, but for one, Mr Tikshan Sud, have lost with big margins. A post-mortem of the election will show the trouble or malice was BJP’s “internal politics’’.

On the other hand, the Akalis always ruled the roost in rural Punjab. They are rooted in the soil. They understand the socio-economic ethos of the peasantry as much as of the landless labour, commission agents and sections of semi-urban population dependent on agriculture. Therefore, once again Malwa’s 65 constituencies have returned the maximum number of Akalis to the twelfth Vidhan Sabha though their strength has shrunk compared to 1997. Their score then was 44. It is around 30 this time. Yet, Malwa remains Akalis’ saving grace. Moreover, Mr Parkash Singh Badal has proved his mettle in that belt with the Congress unable to win a single seat in Faridkot, Moga and Muktsar, besides Mansa. The BJP, too, should be indebted to the Akalis for winning as many as six seats in 1997, while its score is down to just one now.

The Akalis had made a clean sweep of all 27 seats in Majha in 1997. Not this time: they have not reached even double digit. The BJP, too, has been mauled in Amritsar-Gurdaspur where from it had won seven seats in 1997 but failed to open its account this time. In Gurdaspur, a rural district, the Akalis could manage just one out of 11 seats, while, barring Amritsar city’s four seats, of the remaining 12 they could win just half.

Majha, unlike Malwa, is not a citadel of the Akalis. But its two districts, Gurdaspur and Amritsar, provides a competitive turf to the two — the Akalis and the Congress. In fact, even the SGPC politics (a fusion of religion and politics) had for quite some time revolved around Majha for several years before Malwa’s religio-political Akalis came to the centre-stage of Sikh politics.

Doaba, on the other hand, with a heavy concentration of Scheduled Castes, has been perceived as a Congress stronghold. This was ruptured and partially captured by the Akalis in 1997 when out of 25 constituencies, the Congress could win in just five, surrendering as many as 13 to the Akalis and five to the BJP. This time the BJP has scored just two wins, both in Hoshiarpur and the Akalis have settled with a single digit.

But more than the Akalis’ retaining their rural vote bank, what is important and merits attention is the drubbing that the Panthic Morcha has received at the hands of the Akali voters and supporters, particularly the Sikh electors in rural constituencies. Barring Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, partly Patiala and some semi-urban areas that account for 30-odd constituencies, a majority of the 117 constituencies fall in the rural areas. It is these constituents that bore the brunt of militancy or terrorism, particularly, in Majha and in parts of Doaba and Malwa. Therefore, what should be of significance is the fact that the ruling Akali Dal, headed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has given an “ideological’’ blow to the radical views held by the Morcha leaders, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann and the like.

If the late Beant Singh used politics as a weapon to “kill’’ terrorism and restored peace, Mr Badal’s impressive performance under the prevailing circumstances has to be understood in the proper context. His party scored 41 seats at a time when “change’’ was the theme song in Punjab and “once his own colleagues’’ were gunning for him. The Morcha candidates, 84-strong, have failed miserably. The much-hyped “sidhant’’ (principles) that Mr Tohra has replayed since 1999 has been simply ignored and the Panthic Morcha snubbed rudely. Most of its candidates have even lost their security deposits.

While the rural constituencies remained insulated against corruption and anti-incumbency, another pointer of the results is towards the social matrix. This is discernible from the victory of Bibi Jagir Kaur, (former SGPC President) at Bholath in Kapurthala, a rural constituency. This proves the point that though sex determination tests and female foeticide had placed Punjab in poor light, the alleged involvement of Bibi Jagir Kaur in the “murder’’ of her daughter did not matter. Thus despite all controversies that enveloped the Bibi, the people have voted for her, perhaps, either ignoring those darts or because of her work in the constituency.

The poll percentages for the rural constituencies have been on much higher side than the turnout in the urban constituencies. Elections are more of a festival for the villages. The poll percentage have been as high as 83 per cent in some places. Afterall, election are more of a festival for the villages.

Thus there is a grain of truth when Mr Badal says kisans solidly stood by the Akalis this time as never before. But for several extraneous factors and some internal miscalculations and mishandling of electioneering, the margin of seats between the Congress (62) and the Akalis (41) is not that wide.


Exit poll scientific or sponsored?
A.S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
The inaccuracy of opinion and exit polls conducted by various media outfits with regard to the number of seats which might be won in the elections to the Punjab Assembly has raised serious questions about the independence, accuracy and purpose of such an exercise.

Is an opinion or exit poll just a sponsored programme commissioned by different political parties? Or is it part of electioneering by various contestants? Or is it really a rigorous and scientific exercise designed to determine the exact behaviour pattern of the voters in a given situation? From what has happened in the recent elections to the Punjab Assembly, it is clear that the predictions made by the opinion and exit polls have been way off the mark and have created “ünnecessary complications”, according to Dr Pramod Kumar of the Institute of Development and Communication. On the one hand, predictions of a “Congress sweep” in Punjab elections raised false hopes in the party cadres and misled the public, on the other, it led to despondency and demoralisation among the SAD-BJP alliance members.

Little wonder, there has been a demand from the outgoing Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, that such “misleading” opinion and exit polls should be banned by the Election Commission. The Congress, which has probably been the main beneficiary of these polls, has taken a more tolerant view of the situation and has not made such a demand. As a matter of fact, Punjab PCC chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, today sought to defend the exit polls, by pointing out that the laudatory projections made by same organisations about Mr Badal were earlier utilised by the SAD-BJP government to pat itself on the back.

There cannot be a blanket ban on opinion and exit polls as demanded by Mr Badal. If the opinion poll has been carried out by an outfit as a part of campaigning by a political party, then it is a legitimate and democratic exercise.

But all opinion and exit polls have claimed to have followed the three-fold criteria of exactness, finality and neutrality. However, in actual practice, they seem to have failed on all three counts. The very fact that different opinion and exit polls have predicted different seat strengths for the Congress, varying between 70 and 91, shows that they are anything but accurate. As regards the criterion of finality of an opinion poll, it is pointed out that it is a contradiction in terms. A prediction is just a prediction and it can never be final.

As regards the criterion of neutrality, this too has been called into question. An exit or opinion poll has to be very rigorous and scientific. Psephology is a well-developed science and there is an established procedure for it. This does not seem to have been followed as regards the opinion and exit polls aired by various TV networks. The problem lies in the fact of that ever since the opinion polls and exit polls have moved into the realm of market research, they have become an instrument of profit. Psephologists will, therefore, will have to change their methodology.


Cong men ready to share spoils
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 25
The victory of the Congress in the state has buoyed Cong men of the district, both legislators as well as office-bearers, who are now angling for a share of the spoils.

While former minister Lal Singh, who has won the Dakala seat, is likely to find his name in the first Congress ministerial list, another strong contender for a ministerial post is former minister Jasjit Singh Randhawa who has been elected from the Ghanaur seat.

However, the competition is likely to be more strong among those who could not get ticket on one ground or the other and those who had a major hand in the election of the PPCC chief from the Patiala town with a huge margin of over 33,000 votes. A senior leader waiting in the wings to be adjusted is former MP Sant Ram Singla, who was an aspirant for the Congress ticket from Samana, but could not get the ticket as former minister Brahm Mohindra was adjusted there after his traditional seat of Patiala town was given to the PPCC chief. Mr Singla is a strong contender for a senior post or may have to wait in the wings till the Rajya Sabha elections come around the corner.

Among the city leaders, prominent names doing rounds are that of District Congress (Urban) President Ved Prakash Gupta, District Congress (Rural) President Hardyal Singh Kamboj besides senior city leaders Vishnu Sharma and K.K. Sharma. While few of them, including Mr Gupta are in line for a chairmanship, the others are vying for the coveted post of Chairman of the local improvement trust.

Mr Gupta is a front runner as he has taken credit for the huge margin of victory secured by the PPCC chief, which was amongst the biggest in the state, and much more than the 22,000 votes margin secured by SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal. As Mr Gupta has already served as Chairman of the local improvement trust, he is hoping for a better post this time around. His position as chairperson of a beopar cell also strengthens his position as a contender for a chairmanship which is linked with traders. The other candidates — Vishnu Sharman and K.K. Sharma are also eying the post of chairmanship of the improvement trust. In case this is not possible they could be also promised the post of municipal commissioner in case of a Congress victory in the future municipal commission elections.

Sources said Patiala MP Preneet Kaur and Mr Lal Singh will have a major say in adjustment of local Congressmen in important posts. Mrs Preneet Kaur had personally managed the campaign of the PPCC chief and is likely to play a major role in deciding how loyal party leaders are to be rewarded. Mr Lal Singh is perceived to be close to the PPCC chief and could play an important role in selection of Congress leaders from the rural areas for important assignments.

The PPCC President is, however, likely to have a tough task at his hands adjusting a host of local leaders who are upbeat with the chief ministership of the state likely to come to Patiala. While this may benefit local leaders it could also cause heartburn with too many leaders in the race for top posts.


Congress fouled up: CPI
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 25
The belated pre-poll alliance between the Communist Party of India and the Congress did not work well, especially in Amritsar, Garhshankar and Mansa, which resulted in the defeat of many candidates of the poll partners in the state.

The senior leadership of the CPI has openly alleged that the Congress has blatantly played “foul” and now it is need of the hour to undergo introspection whether the party should have such an alliance in future or not. Similarly, many senior Congress leaders have openly alleged that the Congress has committed a blunder by forging alliance with the CPI and hence 10 seats have been given to the SAD-BJP alliance on a platter as the CPI candidate, Mr Gurjant Singh Kuttiwal, who was denied ticket by the Congress, could win the seat from Pakka Kalan (Bathinda).

Though Dr Joginder Dayal, secretary, CPI and Capt Amarinder Singh, president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, had a closed-door meeting at Amritsar a few days before the elections, to sort out differences, and decided to campaign vigorously for the candidates put up by the alliance, yet it did not happen. So much so, Capt Amarinder Singh did not address the rally in favour of the CPI candidate, Mr Amarjit Singh Asal, though he was in Amritsar and the time and venue of the rally was fixed according to his (Capt Amrinder Singh’s) convenience. Much to the disappointment of the CPI, Capt Amarinder Singh sent a message at the last moment that he could not come to address the rally as he would be going back to make arrangements for the visit of Ms Sonia Gandhi. Despite repeated requests made by the CPI leadership, no Congress leader, except Mr R.L. Bhatia, member of Parliament, and Mr Inderjit Singh Baserke, acting president, District Rural Congress Committee, who made brief appearances and address the rally in favour of Mr Asal. Veteran CPI leader, Mr Satya Pal Dang, has alleged that instead of supporting the CPI candidate from Amritsar (West), Mr Bhatia and his men openly campaigned in favour of one Capt Rajinder, who contested on the ticket of the National Congress Party as they wanted to settle scores with the sitting MLA, Mr Om Parkash Soni.

Mr Dang alleged that Mr Amarinder Singh did not address the CPI rally as Mr Soni was his close confidant and he wanted him to get back in the Congress. Mr Soni was expelled from the Congress as he had allegedly roughed up Mr Bhatia.

Since the Congress leaders did not come forward to campaign of the CPI candidate in Amritsar (West), some Communist leaders decided not to campaign for the Congress candidate, Mr Tarlok Singh Chakkwalia, who was contesting from the Patti constituency on the Congress ticket.

Mr Dang said that the CPI must consider seriously whether it should continue to have overall adjustments with the Congress without a mutually agreed minimum programme.

On the other hand, Mr M.M. Cheema, a veteran trade union and Congress leader, alleged that it was a blunder on the part of his party (PPCC) to allocate 11 seats to the CPI which lost the election from 10 seats. He said he had applied for the Sri Hargobindpur seat as a Congress candidate. However, the seat was allocated to a CPI candidate who lost even his security deposit. He said there were other seats which could have been won if the Congress candidates had contested the elections.


Kairon-Brahmpura feud cost SAD 3 seats
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 25
The feud between Mr Surinder Singh Kairon, a former Congress MP and son-in-law of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and Mr Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, a former Cooperation Minister, led to the loss of at least three seats to the SAD-BJP alliance in the Majha region. Though Mr Badal took the initiative to bring about a rapprochement between the two leaders, they refused to bury the hatchet, which cost the Shiromani Akali Dal dearly.

Mr Kairon had openly supported an Akali rebel, Mr Harmeet Singh Sandhu, who defeated the Akali candidate, Mr Alwinderpal Singh Pakhoke, senior vice-president of the SGPC and a close relative of Mr Brahmpura. Addressing an election rally in favour of Mr Pakhoke, Mr Badal had announced that any rebel — referring to Mr Harmeet Singh — who would fail to withdraw from the contest would be expelled from the party.

Earlier, Mr Kairon had announced that Mr Harmeet Singh would support SAD after winning from Tarn Taran. Interestingly, the younger brother of Mr Kairon, Mr Gurinder Singh Kairon, who contested on Congress ticket, finished third.

In Jandiala, the Akali ticket was denied to the sitting MLA, Mr Ajaipaul Singh Mirankot, a confidant of Mr Kairon. Though Mr Mirankot had withdrawn from the contest, he reportedly did not support SAD candidate Malkit Singh wholeheartedly. Hence, the seat was won by Congress candidate Sardool Singh.

Similarly, the Valtoha seat was won by Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar, Congress candidate, who defeated Mr Kairon’s confidant Gurdial Singh of the SAD. Here Prof Jagir Singh Bhullar, sitting MLA, was denied the ticket.

However, Mr Brahmpura and Mr Adeshpartap Singh Kairon, son of Mr Kairon, won the Naushehra Pannuan and Patti seats, respectively, by comfortable margins despite the opposition from each other’s groups. The SAD also denied party ticket to the sitting MLA from Beas, Mr Manmohan Singh Sathiala, and gave it to Mr Manjinder Singh Kang, Chairman, Forest Corporation. However, the latter lost to Congress candidate Jasbir Singh Dimpa.

The Congress also lost some seats due to bad decisions. The Congress gave party ticket to a lightweight, Mr Ravi Randhawa, from Ajnala by ignoring Mr Harpartap Singh Ajnala. The security deposit of Mr Randhawa was forfeited while Congress rebel Harpartap Singh lost to the Akali candidate, Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, by only 356 votes.

Similarly, the Congress fielded an outsider, Mr Sukhdev Singh Shehbazpuri, from Khadoor Sahib. He was defeated by a big margin of 22,716 votes. The Congress also lost the Rajasansi seat, where the party candidate was changed at the eleventh hour.


Badal to vacate CM’s house immediately
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
The outgoing Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, today decided to vacate his official residence immediately. He has offered to move to the official accommodation earmarked for the outgoing Chief Minister.

Since the earmarked house needs some repairs and renovation, Mr Parkash Singh Badal has desired that this house should be done up immediately so that he could move in without delay.

Meanwhile, Mr Harcharan Bains, Media Adviser to Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has put in his papers and requested the Chief Secretary, Mr N.K. Arora, that he should be relieved immediately.

Mr Bains had earlier worked with the previous Akali Dal Chief Minister, Mr Surjit Singh Barnala. He was also reportedly offered an Adviser’s job in the rank of a Cabinet Minister by Mr Beant Singh during the previous Congress government in the state. He has reportedly decided to continue his association with Mr Badal.


Detailed Assembly poll results

Tarn Taran
Harmeet Singh (Ind) 30,560 (W), Alwinderpal Singh (SAD), 24,341, Gurinder Singh Kairon (INC) 14, 204, Amrik Singh Varpal (LBP) 5,203, Swaran Kaur (BSP-A) 1,073, Bachan Singh (Ind) 22,324, and Manjit Singh (BSP) 785.

LAMBI: Parkash Singh Badal (SAD) 50,545 (W), Maheshinder Singh (Ind) 26,616, Gurnam Singh (INC) 12,800, Parveen Kumari Bagri (BSP) 2,063, Davinder Singh (Ind) 811, and Gurpreet Singh (Ind) 393.

LUDHIANA WEST: Harnam Dass Johar (INC) 36,006 (W), Avtar Singh Makkar (SAD) 19,406, Harish Rai Dhanda (Ind) 8,973, Rajinder Kaur Bulara (SAD-M) 2,249, Rabinder Singh Sohil (BSP) 1,032, Harminder Singh (Ind) 247, and Ashish Gupta (NCP) 210.

LUDHIANA EAST: Surinder Kumar Dawar (INC) 32,016 (W), Satpal Gosain (BJP) 18,767, Jeet Singh (SAD-M) 1,591, Jai Pal (BSP) 540, Parveen Kumar (SHS) 305, and Iqbal Singh Bhalla (Ind) 366.

SAMRALA: Amrik Singh (INC) 43,844 (W), Kirpal Singh (SAD) 36,478, Gurtejpal Singh (SAD-M) 3,039, Kulwant Kaur (BSP) 2,029, Kamaljit Puri (SHS) 825, and Swaran Kumar (NCP) 481.

FEROZEPORE: Sukhpal Singh (BJP) 34,995 (W), Balmukand Sharma (INC) 27,238, Hansa Singh (Ind) 9881, Ashwani Kumar (Ind) 9679, Puran (Ind) 2524, Dhan Singh (SAD-M) 1481, Surjit Singh (BSP) 1275, and Sada Nand (LJNSP) 1,019.

PAKKA KALAN: Gurjant Singh (CPI) 34,254 (W), Makhan Singh (SAD) 32477, Darshan Singh (SAD-M) 12,488, Jodha Singh (BSP) 1,856, Gulzar Singh (NCP) 1,394, Labh Singh (Ind) 1,240, Avtar Chamak (Ind) 1,152, and Sham Lal (Ind) 533.

Ludhiana Rural:

Malkit Singh Birmi (INC) 60,638 (W), Amrik Singh Aliwal (SAD) 30,535, Hira Singh Gabria (SAD-M) 30,305, Gurmail Singh (BSP) 18,787, Sunder Lal (CPI) (M-L) 655, Kartar Singh (LJS) 523, Paramjit Singh Sidhwan (LBP) 4754, Parminder Singh (Shiv Sena) 403, Rajinder Parshad (RJD) 158, Abdul Shakur Thind (Ind) 306, Sanjiv Kumar (Ind) 261, Jai Kumar (Ind) 233, Tarsem Singh Banga (Ind) 670, Bhupinder Yadav (Ind) 642, Mahak Singh (Ind) 625, and Vijay Mahajan (Ind) 975.

Kum Kalan: Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal (SAD) 45,026 (W), Ishar Singh (INC) 42,420, Inderjit Singh Advocate (BSP) 3,489), Harjinder Kumar Lakhu (SAD-M) 2,773, and Gurmail Singh Udhowal (RLD) 665.

Ludhiana North: Rakesh Pandey (INC) 39,167 (W), Pran Nath Bhatia (BJP) 16,295, Harbans Lal (Ind) 4,047, Om Parkash (BSP) 3,100, Pawan Kumar (SHS) 651, Tirlok Chand Bhagat (Ind) 593, and Bhim Sain (SP) 282.

Khanna: Harbans Kaur (INC) 41,578 (W), Satwinder Kaur Dhaliwal (SAD) 31,943, Ram Singh (BSP) 4,941, Randhir Singh Libra (SAD-M) 4,088, Balraj Singh (LBP) 1,642, Harnek Singh (Ind) 679, Bhajan Singh (Ind) 550, Amrik Singh (SHS) 228, and Gurdeep Singh (RLD) 177.

Jagraon: Bhag Singh Mallah (SAD) 32,136 (W), Darshan Singh Brar (Ind) 30,574, Jagjit Singh Lopon (LBP) 21,010, Paramjit Singh Sibia (INC) 6,312, Piara Singh (BSP) 1,101, and Darshan Singh (LJNSP) 841.

Raikot: Ranjit Singh Talwandi (SAD) 44,375 (W), Harmohinder Singh Pardhan (INC) 37,976, Avtar Singh Mullanpuri (LBP) 3,086, Balvinder Singh Bains (SAD-M) 2,483, Jagjit Singh (BSP) 1,226, and Jagjit Singh (Ind) 1,150.

Payal: Tej Parkash Singh (INC) 42,282 (W), Jagjiwan Pal Singh (SAD) 34,681, Kirpal Singh (SAD-M) 5,918, Hardev Singh (Ind) 1,976, and Nirmaljeet Kaur (BSP) 1,594.

Qila Raipur: Jagdish Singh Garcha (SAD) 36,849 (W), Gurdial Kaur Khangura (INC) 30,270, Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal (SAD-M) 8,385, Jarnail Singh (BSP) 7,163, Tarsem Lal Lodhan (Ind) 3,574, Kuldip Singh (Ind) 455, and Jasvir Singh (Ind) 373. (Results incomplete).


Tohra: no decision on trust motion
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 25
Even as the Sarb Hind Shiromani Akali Dal (SHSAD) has decided to do introspection in the wake of the “humiliating” defeat of Panthic Morcha candidates in the Assembly elections, Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, president of the party, has said his party has not yet decided to move a no-confidence motion against the SGPC President, Prof Kirpal Singh Badungar.

On the statement of Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, a senior leader of the Panthic Morcha, that a no-confidence motion would be moved against Prof Badungar, Mr Tohra said such a move could not be initiated during the budget session of the SGPC, scheduled to be held before March 31.

However, sources said the no-confidence motion could be moved with a 21-day notice. If the ruling party fails to convene the general house after the 21-day notice, the latter can be called with a notice of 15 days by members.

Though the Shiromani Akali Dal led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal has been defeated in the Assembly elections, Mr Badal has emerged as the “tallest” Akali leader while the security deposits of many Panthic Morcha candidates have been forfeited. If the aim of the Panthic Morcha was to topple the SAD-BJP combine government, then it has succeeded in its mission. However, the Panthic Morcha leadership has not been able to absolve itself of the charges that by default it has helped the Congress.

Bhai Ranjit Singh, a former Akal Takht Jathedar, Mr Tohra and Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, vice-president, SHSAD, have said that the alleged denigration of Akal Takht by the SAD led to its defeat.


Badal is SAD House leader
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
The elected Akali MLAs today unanimously elected Mr Parkash Singh Badal as the leader of the Legislative Party at a meeting held at the residence of the former Chief Minister.

The meeting expressed its full confidence in Mr Badal assuring him of full cooperation. The name of Mr Badal was proposed by Capt Kanwaljit Singh.

The MLAs discussed the campaign and the role of the media, particularly, the electronic media, and condemned it for its highly exaggerated and misleading reports based on so-called surveys and giving out false opinion and exit polls. The meeting saw such a media blitzkrieg as a ‘’conspiracy’’ sponsored by certain vested interests out to influence the free and fair elections. The Akali Dal would join hands with like-minded parties to seek remedies for such poll predictions in future.

The meeting passed a resolution expressing gratitude to the people for the wholehearted support. It was further resolved that the party would extend constructive cooperation to the Congress in its efforts to ameliorate the economic lot of the people by adopting a positive approach.


BSP’s performance below expectations
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 25
Despite a lot of hard work put in by Mr Kanshi Ram, the BSP’s performance, in terms of victory, largely remained below its expectations in the Doaba region in Punjab.

Among the 25 segments the BSP barely managed the Garhshankar Assembly segment in Hoshiarpur district, where it otherwise caused some damage to the Congress by cornering a section of the Dalit votes.

However, contrary to rumours and its projection, the BSP, registered its presence on six seats of Jalandhar district, but failed to erode the support base of the Congress to the extent of winning any seat, that too, despite the fact that it was for the first time that the BSP supremo had spent about a year-and-a-half in the Doaba region doing rallies and addressing gatherings.

Not only this, he has been going to the extent of claiming repeatedly that the BSP will form the next state government, and had been projecting Mr Ravi Inder Singh as the “next chief minister”.

A perusal of the poll outcome, revealed that though the BSP could not improve number of winners in the Doaba region, but it was able to increase its base and to effect the prospects of the Congress candidates in the Nawanshahr Assembly segment, where its candidate Ram Kishan managed 27,321, even as Mr Parkash Singh of the Congress managed a victory by cornering 32,667 votes. Similarly, the BSP figured at second place in Banga. In Jalandhar (south) BSP’s Pawan Tinu secured 21381 votes, though victory kissed Mohinder Singh Kaypee of the Congress, who defeated his nearest rival Chuni Lal of the BJP by 10,822 votes. Similarly, in Adampur, Sukhbir Singh Shalimar of the BSP came third. In Phillaur, though Chaudhary Santokh Singh of the Congress won, BSP’s Dev Raj was able to secure 21,026 votes.

In Nakodar BSP’s Harbhajan Singh secured 12,958 votes. Similarly, Avtar Singh Karimpuri of the BSP secured 18,444 votes at the Mahilpur seat, which, however, went to SAD’s Sohan Singh, who succeeded in getting 27,724 votes.

Party sources revealed that the BSP was expecting at least five of the 25 seats of the Doaba region, where it was of the view that it would be able to erode the base of the Congress, at least on 10 more seats. But the results have surprised the BSP leadership.

Political pundits were of the view that though the BSP improved its position on some seats, but Dalit voters generally chose the Congress and to some extent the BSP, but they had rejected both SAD and the BJP. Talking about the emerging trends, senior Congress and Dalit leader Mohinder Singh Kaypee said one of the factors was that the Dalits had come to know that the BSP had a “secret” understanding with the SAD-BJP. Similarly, Mr Tejinder Singh Bittu, President of the Jalandhar District Congress Committee, said Dalits were returning to the Congress fold as they had realised the “futility” of siding with the BSP.


Defeated candidate puts blame on EVMs
Our Correspondent

Sunam, February 25
Mrs Sonia Deepa Arora, a Congress candidate from Sunam, who was defeated by Mr Parminder Singh Dhindsa of the SAD in the recently held Assembly elections, today urged the Congress President, Ms Sonia Gandhi, to ask Capt Amarinder Singh president of the Punjab Congress and prospective Chief Minister of the state, to give her seat in his government as she was a representative of women in the Congress.

Talking to mediapersons here today, Ms Arora alleged that she doubted that electronic voting machines (EVMs) had been tampered with to benefit the candidate of the ruling party. She said this was the main reason of her defeat in the elections.

Ms Arora alleged that there were a large number of discrepancies in the voters’ list as several living persons had been shown dead in the list, besides a number of voters had been shown that they had shifted from their respective places of stay.

She said the Congress government would punish those government officials who had either not enrolled a large number of persons as voters though they were eligible for the same or enlisted ineligible persons as voters.

She said though she had faced a defeat in the Assembly elections, she would continue serving the residents of the Assembly constituency.


Cong to probe ‘false’ cases against scribes
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 25
Asserting that the freedom of the Press would be safeguarded by the Congress at all costs, the PPCC chief, Capt Amarinder Singh, said today that the Congress would order a thorough probe into “false” cases registered against mediapersons by the Punjab police during the SAD-BJP regime after his party took up the reins of the state government.

Expressing solidarity of his party with mediapersons, Capt Amarinder Singh said over the phone that it was unfortunate that the police had registered numerous FIRs against journalists under the pressure of the SAD-BJP combine government.

In Jalandhar, a number of false cases had been slapped on journalists who had highlighted issues like pollution, corruption and the nexus between criminals and the police, he said.

Earlier, local journalists held an emergency meeting at the Circuit House here today to discuss the emerging trend among a section of the police force to book mediapersons on the basis of “frivolous and baseless” complaints of “unscrupulous” elements without any verification.

In a resolution, the Jalandhar-based mediapersons asserted that they would continue to raise issues concerning the society, irrespective of the attitude of the police. They also sought the intervention of the Punjab DGP in the matter and urged him to direct the Jalandhar police to refrain from such acts of victimisation of mediapersons.


Cong paid price for ignoring Rai Sikhs
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 25
The Congress has paid the price for ignoring the Rai Sikh community while giving party ticket for the Assembly elections. Members of the community have been cultivating land near the international border for the past many years. A majority of them have given up illicit distillation of liquor and become followers of the Radha Soami sect. A large number of Rai Sikh deras have come up on the Ferozepore-Abohar road during the past few years. Their main complaint is that the state government has not transferred to them the ownership rights of the land occupied by them.

The Congress had enlisted the community in the category of backward classes but denied party ticket to its representatives in the recent elections. Consequently, the state executive of the Rai Sikh community, at a meeting held before the filing of nominations, resolved to oppose all Congress candidates.

The decision proved fatal for Congress candidate Bal Mukand Sharma in the Ferozepore City constituency. A candidate from the community polled about 9,000 votes, while other Rai Sikhs reportedly supported the BJP candidate in the constituency. Mr Sharma lost the elections for the first time in the past 25 years.

The community fielded two candidates each in Jalalabad West and Guruharsahai constituencies , causing the division of votes between the Rai Sikh candidates.


Abducted girl’s kin allege police inaction
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, February 25
Even as a departmental inquiry has been initiated against Rajinder Kumar, a former in charge of the Civil Lines police chowki, for allegedly delaying the registration of an FIR of the abduction of a four-year-girl, Rajni, on November 24, 2001, the parents of the child have accused that the police was not making serious efforts to search for their daughter.

While talking to mediapersons, the parents of Rajni, Hari Nath and Prem Bhai who have been running from pillar to post in search of their daughter today alleged that the police was hand in glove with the culprits.

Hari Nath alleged that the police wanted to save the culprits which is why an FIR mentioning abduction was not registered for months.

It may be mentioned that Rajni was allegedly abducted on November 24, 2001, from a slum area of the city. The police allegedly told her parents that their complaint had been written as per their version. But the FIR lodged on December 10, 2001, said that though Rajni had been missing, her parents did not suspect anybody.

Her parents allege that despite stating clearly that their daughter had been abducted by Bhaiya Lal of Rajgarh district, his name was not mentioned in the FIR lodged in December.

Even the FIR registered on February 22, 2002, though mentioned that the girl had been abducted, was not as per their version.

Meanwhile, an NGO Insaaf International, has decided to take up the issue as its members feel the abduction was part of a racket involving selling of girls for flesh trade.

General secretary of the NGO, Dr Vineeta Gupta, said that if the accused Bhaiya Lal was arrested many more cases would come to light.

When contacted, the SSP, Kapil Dev said that a CIA team led by an inspector had been sent to the residence of the accused in Rajgarh district. He added that if a police official was found guilty a departmental inquiry would be initiated against him.


Govt urged to reintroduce octroi
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, February 25
Members of the Punjab Nagar Palika Karamchari Sangthan at a meeting held here today urged the new government to reintroduce octroi in the state.

According to the general secretary of the sangathan, Mr Kulwant Singh Saini, due to the abolition of octroi, income of municipal corporations and councils in the state had been adversely affected. Development work in the urban areas had come to a standstill and the staff deployed at octroi posts not been adjusted till date, he said.

Mr Ravinder Thakur, district president of the sangthan, added that the SAD-BJP combine was defeated due to its anti-employee policies.


Flower show draws crowds
Our Correspondent

Mansa, February 25
A flower show was organised here today by the Green-watch Environment Society on the premises of the local Summer Field Public High School. It attracted thousands of people from the district and nearby areas. A large variety of flowers were displayed in a splendid array at the show.

On the occasion, a cultural programme was presented by children. Mr Gora Lal Goyal, president of the society, said the flower show would be organised every year by the society. The following participants won prizes in different events:

Baby show: Palak (1) Cheenu Bansal (2), and Maniderjit (3). Fancy dress: Meenakshi (1), Cheenu Bansal (2), and Maniderjit (3). Solo dance (juniors): Mandierjit Singh (1), Cheenu Bansal 2), and Inshna Yadev (3). Solo dance: (seniors): Narinder Kaur (1), Raju (2), and Simarjit Singh (3). Solo dance (open category): Ramandeep Walia (1), Veneet Bansal (2), and Sonu (3).

Best smile: Priya. Best laughter: Gurvinder Kaur. Mr Mansa: Saurabh Sapra. Five personalities of the district were awarded the Green-watch Achievement Award.


Beopar Mandal happy over SAD-BJP defeat
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 25
The Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal is jubilant over the defeat of senior SAD and BJP leaders in the Assembly elections.

The state president, Mr Madan Lal Kapoor, said top priority of the trade community was to teach a lesson to the alliance for backtracking from the promises made in the 1997 Assembly elections. Industries and Local Bodies Minister Balramji Dass Tondon was responsible for not abolishing octroi for over 50 months of the SAD BJP rule in Punjab. Instead of simplifying the sales tax structure the government had created the number of complications by allowing Enforcement Wing to lay nakas on all roads in the state. The officials allegedly added less revenue in the state exchequer and minted more money for their families, he alleged.


Scribes seek graft?
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 25
Mr Vikas Paratap, Deputy Commissioner, opened the sub office of Hind Samachar group at Sirhind town today. Many speakers alleged that mediapersons sought money for favorable coverage during the Assembly elections.

Mr Kirpal Singh Libra, a Panthic Morcha candidate, stated that the payments made to mediapersons during the elections were more that other election expenses. Even Simranjit Singh Mann had alleged that mediapersons had demanded huge sums of money to cover the campaign of his son.

Mr Mr Chetan Sharda, News Editor, Hind Samachar group, assured that the group would take stern action against any of its correspondent found indulging in corruption. He urged the people to send anonymous complaints in this connection.


Docs told to use masks
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 25
Mr Vikas Partap, Deputy Commissioner, today issued instructions to all senior medical officers to advise all health employees to use masks while approaching the patients. He appealed to public to keep their surroundings clean.


Hailstorm damages wheat crop
Tribune News Service

Talwandi Sabo February 25
Heavy downpour coupled with a hailstorm, which lashed the region badly, damaged the standing wheat crop and left the farmers of about 10 villages, who are already reeling under heavy debts, in the lurch.

Farmers of Kotli Khurd, the worst-affected village, today met the Subdivisional Magistrate, Mr Gurpal Singh Chahal, and showed him the damaged crop and hailstorms. In a representation to Mr Chahal, the farmers pointed out that heavy downpour and hailstorm had damaged their crop badly. They said due to the hailstorm their crops were destroyed completely and they would not be able to reap another crop till the next season.

The affected villages include Kotli Khurd, Rajgarh Kubbe and Kamaloo Swaitch of district Bathinda and Kaloh, Daliayee Wala, Moosa, Autian Wala and Mandiwadian villages of Mansa district. Mr Chahal directed the revenue officials to visit the spot and assess the damage to the crop.

Though Mr H.S. Bhatti, Chief Agriculture Officer, was not available for comments, one of the employees said untimely rains damaged the wheat crop badly as it was near ripening. He denied having any knowledge about the hailstorm lashing the Talwandi Sabo region last night.

Mr Ram Karan Singh, district president, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lakhowal), demanded that special ‘girdawari’ should be made and adequate compensation should be given to the farmers at the earliest. He said the farmers were yet to come to terms with life as they had earlier suffered losses in cotton season also. He demanded minimum compensation of Rs 20,000 per acre.

As the state government has failed to implement crop insurance scheme for the farmers, they land in trouble almost every year — either due to the vagaries of nature or due to some other hazards like fire incidents due to electrical short circuits from high tension wires carrying electricity through the fields.

When contacted over phone, the Deputy Commissioner, Mr R. Venkatratnam, said the farmers would be helped as per the directions of the state government and prevalent rules and regulations. He said revenue officials had been directed to assess the damage to the crop.


Fertilisers can spell disaster: experts
Our Correspondent

Mansa, February 25
Dr D.S. Joshi, Principal of International Youth Medical College, while addressing farmers at Makha village in the district today warned them of ‘disastrous consequences’ by 2009 if they did not check the use of chemical fertilisers and insecticides. These were the main cause of an increase in the number of blood cancer cases, he said.

Punjab Agriculture Department, in collaboration with agriculture scientists of Bathinda, also conducted a survey of wheat fields in the village.

The team of experts, after a survey of a field where chemical fertilisers had been excessively used found that most of the plants had 15 to 18 branches and the field was expected to produce 26 to 28 quintals of wheat per acre. The scientists, however, said that excessive use of chemical fertilisers not only spoils the quality of the produce but also affects the soil adversely.

On inspection of a field where biological manure had been used, the team found that each plant had only 5 to 9 branches. The produce from this field was expected to be 10 to 12 quintals per acre but the quality of wheat expected to be better.

Dr Ram Singh Agriculture Development Officer, exhorted the farmers to make use of biological manure prepared with the advise of scientists to increase production and strength of the soil.

Dr Ranjit Singh, Agriculture Development Officer, advised farmers to keep written record of the health of the soil and warned that reckless use of chemical fertilisers would adversely affect their produce.


Lobbying for AG’s post starts
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 25
Intense lobbying for the post of the Advocate General has started in Punjab. With the change of guard at the political level in the state, the present incumbent, Mr Hardev Singh Mattewal, is expected to demit office in a day or so.

Informed sources said that, Mr Shamsher Singh Shergill, a former Additional Advocate General, practising in the Punjab and Haryana High Court for the past 28 years, is among the top contenders for the post. He has been associated with legal matters of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee for the past several years.

He is also Chairman of the Legal Cell of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee. He also has been a member of the Board of Studies in the Department of Law of the Panjab University.

Meanwhile, a group of advocates has demanded that the new Advocate General should be from Punjab as he is supposed to deal in days to come with several important cases like the SYL canal issue pending before the Supreme Court.


Fake travel agents, cops arrested
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, February 25
The district police has booked two inspectors of the Punjab police for allegedly running a human trafficking racket in connivance with two travel agents, Gagan Bakshi and Halminder Singh. The travel agents were arrested yesterday but the inspectors were still at large.

Mr L.K. Yadav, SP, said yesterday that SHO of Labra police station Harjinder Singh and Inspector Gian Singh had been booked under Sections 216 and 120B of the IPC, while the agents were arrested under Sections 406 and 420 of the IPC.

Mr Yadav said fake US visa slips and 41 passports had been seized from the travel agents office. Gagan Bakshi, who had been befooling people in the name of sending them abroad used stay at the residences of these inspectors during his visit to the city. He further said one Didar Singh Bhandal of Mota Singh Nagar was also booked in the same case. “We have already suspended Harjinder Singh and efforts are on to nab the culprits,” Mr Yadav added.


Body of youth found
Our Correspondent

Kharar, February 25
The police recovered the dead body of a youth aged about 38 years in Khanpur village in the Kharar municipal limits today.

According to information received from the police, the youth was identified as Mr Om Parkash of nearby Rurki village. According to the police, the mother of the deceased has informed the police that her son left the house at about 3 p.m. yesterday, but he did not return home. They looked for him at night but they could not find any clue, and she was informed by the police today about his body. The police has handed over the body after post mortem and has started investigations.


Probe VC’s conduct, Capt urged
Our Correspondent

Patiala, February 25
The Forum for Educational Action and Reform (FEAR) in its meeting held here today, pleaded with Capt Amarinder Singh to initiate an inquiry against the Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia.

The forum in its review report has alleged that the Vice-Chancellor has made the university campus an “unsafe place” for girl students. It also says that the Vice-Chancellor has introduced posts like Dean, Foreign Collaboration and Dean, Human Resource Development unheard of in any university in India. The forum had promised full cooperation if a time-bound inquiry is initiated against the Vice-Chancellor.

Meanwhile, the teaching and non-teaching staff of the university gathered on a joint platform today to form a joint action committee (JAC) which is scheduled to hold a gate rally on the campus tomorrow to press for the removal of the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia.

The Vice-Chancellor is slated to appear in a local court tomorrow in connection with an FIR registered against him by a varsity girl student accusing him of harassment as well as making lewd gestures at her.

The JAC convener and co-convener, Mr U.C. Singh and Mr Sukhwant Singh, respectively, said the situation on the campus had been deteriorating ever since Dr Ahluwalia took over. The JAC has demanded the immediate removal of the Vice-Chancellor. Several students unions, including the ABVP, SFI and AISSF, besides the Teachers United Front and Non-Teaching Employees Union will participate in the rally tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Dr N.S. Atri faction of the Punjabi University Teachers Association (PUTA), in a letter to the Governor, Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd), had demanded that in view of the FIR filed against Dr Ahluwalia, he should be immediately sent on leave on moral and ethical grounds and an inquiry be initiated against him.

Requesting for an early action in this regard, Dr Atri said it would rebuild the ‘shattered’ confidence among the student community, especially the girls.


Globalisation of education emphasised
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 25
Earning foreign exchange is not the sole objective of foreign and Indian universities. This was stated by Mr S.P. Gaur, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource Development, while inaugurating a three-day round-table conference on “internationalisation of higher education” at Guru Nanak Dev University here today.

The occasion, which was hosted by the varsity, was sponsored by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), New Delhi. Dr V.K. Patil, president of the A.I.U., presided over while Dr S.P. Singh, Vice-Chancellor, welcomed the delegates.

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