M A I N   N E W S

Rival platforms at Maghi Mela

Choose between Indian, foreign PM is SAD-BJP slogan
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 13
A galaxy of leaders of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and the BJP, descended on this town on the occasion of Maghi Mela. They set the agenda for the next Lok Sabha elections, urging the people to decide whether they wanted an Indian Prime Minister or a foreigner to decide their fate for the next five years.

Union Agriculture Minister Raj Nath Singh and former Chief Minister and SAD President, Parkash Singh Badal pointed out that the choice of Prime Minister would also decide the future of the country.

While Mr Badal declared that an Indian Prime Minister or a foreign prime minister would be the main poll plank, Union Labour Minister Sahib Singh Verma said the nation would have to face shame if Ms Gandhi became the prime minister. Mr Badal said the performance of the Vajpayee government in the past five years, the performance of the SAD-BJP combine government from 1997 to 2002 and the atrocities being committed by the Congress government led by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in Punjab would also figure in the poll-related issues.

The SAD-BJP organised a joint rally to mark the occasion of the supreme sacrifices made by the 40 Muktas (liberated ones) during the last battle of Guru Gobind Singh with the Mughals at the Khidrana-ki-Dhab (now Muktsar). Those who attended the conference included Union Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Mr Zora Singh Mann (MP), Mr Manpreet Singh Badal, MLA, former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur and Capt Kanwaljit Singh.

Mr Verma promised that if they helped the SAD-BJP alliance to win all the 13 seats of Punjab and one seat of Chandigarh in the next Lok Sabha elections, the Congress government led by Capt Amarinder Singh would be out of power the very next day.

Mr Raj Nath Singh unfolded the poll agenda of BJP-led NDA government partially by announcing that the government had decided to reduce the rate of interest to 8.5 per cent on loans being taken by farmers for their agriculture related activities.

He also declared that apart from it, the Central government had also decided to introduce farmers’ minimum income insurance scheme in which farmers would be ensured minimum income. An electronic channel would also be launched for farmers from January 21. Kisan call centres would be set up all over the country from where they could dial toll-free numbers to get the latest information and knowledge on agriculture activities.

Dubbing Capt Amarinder Singh as a “bad” descendent of the Patiala dynasty, Mr Singh alleged that Capt Amarinder Singh had categorically refused to implement the farmers’ minimum income insurance scheme in Punjab for which the Central government decided to contribute 75 per cent of the premium and 50 per cent of the premium for other farmers. He declared that the moment, Mr Vajpayee again becomes Prime Minister after the next Lok Sabha elections, this scheme would be implemented in toto in Punjab.

Mr Badal said the Congress government had always meted out a step-motherly treatment to Punjabis in social, economic, religious and political fields. During the past two years, the people of Punjab had come to know about the misgovernance of Capt Amarinder Singh, who had failed to implement even one of the promises made in the party’s election manifesto.

Mr Sukhbir Badal while lauding the role of Akali workers and Punjabis for standing by the SAD (B) in its hour of crisis, appealed to the people to boycott all functions of the Congress government. He promised that all the problems of the people would be solved the day Mr Parkash Singh Badal became Chief Minister again. He said the Akalis knew it better how to handle Capt Amarinder Singh, who was in the habit of committing atrocities on innocents.


CM promises 24-hr power as rebels boycott rally
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 13
Accusing the previous SAD-BJP government of neglecting the development of the state, while addressing Congress supporters at the Maghi Mela here today, the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today announced a grant of Rs 3.5 crore for undertaking public works in Muktsar. Setting the pace for the forthcoming elections, Amarinder Singh urged party workers to gear up for the electoral contest.

While the state party president, Mr H.S. Hanspal, Member of Parliament, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, and a number of legislators and party leaders were present, the dissidents, including Deputy Chief Minister designate, Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, were conspicuous by their absence.

Stating that he had taken up development works in the state on a large scale, the Chief Minister said all 12,700 villages in the state would have 24-hour power supply by June 30. He said 875 km of roads in the state were being doubled lane and as many as 42 overbridges were being constructed to ensure smooth flow of traffic.

Claiming that he had fulfilled his promise of uprooting corruption in the state, the Chief Minister said targeting low-level officers was not the only solution to combat corruption.

Attacking former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Badal for amassing personal wealth at the cost of common man, Capt Amarinder Singh said while Badals had celebrated their release from jail on getting bail, the case against them was yet to come up in the court.

Stating that the Akali government has spent only Rs 10 crore out of the Rs 100 crore grant given by the centre for the Khalsa Heritage Project, the CM said the onus was now on him to get the work completed.

Earlier, Mr Hanspal said while Badal claimed that he stood for Sikhism, he had not taken a single step to promote Sikhism during his reign. He said the Badal government did not even take up the work of completing the beautification of the Golden Temple Complex, even though 75 per cent of the work was already complete when he assumed power.

He also maintained that the National Democratic Alliance at the Centre was unlikely to continue in the future, alleging that the government was taking decisions at the behest of certain powers.

Projecting his party as the “third alternative”, president of the Lok Bhalai Party, Mr B.S. Ramoowalia, in a separate gathering, said his party would contest forthcoming elections from Ludhiana, Sangrur, Patiala, Bathinda, Faridkot and Tarn Taran. He also invited people from all classes, including Dalits and backwards, to join him.

Urging the government to frame clear-cut, rational and logical industrial policies to boost the economic health of the state, he demanded fast rural development, efficient primary health services and better educational facilities. Regretting that high income resources in the state like agriculture, transport and recruitment into the defence forces have dried up, he demanded that the government advance loans to farmers at very low rates of interests, grant high mean support prices and waive pending amounts.

Mr Ramoowalia also gave a call to usher in social reforms by urging people to rise against evils in society, which included costly marriage ceremonies, dowry, drug abuse and superstitious rituals.

Urging the gathering to take the forthcoming Parliamentary elections seriously, the President of the Akali Dal (Amritsar), Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, stressed that only “good” people with a proven background should be sent to Parliament. He said his party would contest the forthcoming elections from Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, Faridkot, Sangrur, Bathinda, Ropar and Philaur.

Stating that his offer for Panthic unity still stands, he maintained that the Congress and the BJP should be kept away from the Panth. Pointing out that the BJP had still not abandoned its Hindutva agenda, he flayed concessions given by the Central Government to certain people in Punjab.

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