Poll Schedule

Poll Schedule - 2004

Poll Quotes


Sun 4 11 18
Mon 5 12
Tue 6 13
Wed 7 14
Thu 1 8 15
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E L E C T I O N S   2 0 0 4


Constituency Profile

BJP looking for another term
Udhampur, April 18
Once a stronghold of the Congress, Mr Chaman Lal Gupta of the BJP (Minister of State for Defence) is representing the Udhampur Lok Sabha seat since 1996.
Litmus test for Jagmeet
Ferozepore , April 18
The Ferozepore parliamentary constituency is locked in a multi-cornered contest for the Lok Sabha election-2004.
Going tough for Congress
Faridkot, April 18
The Congress decision to shift Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar from the Faridkot parliamentary constituency to Ferozepure may have taken the fizz out of the contest.
Industries’ closure main issue
Faridabad, April 18
Apathy on the part of the political class and the government has led to all-round stagnation in the Faridabad parliamentary constituency.

Key Constituency
Old colleagues take on Advani
Gandhinagar, April 18
Famous Sidhuism “Pitches are like wives: you never know which way they will turn”, is an apt description of Gujarat polity. Poll dynamics of politics is strange and this must be troubling none other than Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishan Advani who is seeking a third term from here.

State of Parties

National Conference
NC seeks forgiveness
Srinagar, April 18
The National Conference is facing the Lok Sabha elections in the state for the first time as an Opposition party. 
Anti-incumbency factor at play
Chandigarh, April 18
The anti-incumbency mood of people, coupled with the snapping of ties with the BJP, have put INLD of Haryana in a disadvantageous position for the Lok Sabha poll.
BSP breaks ‘caste ceiling’
Chandigarh, April 18
Punjab is one of the states where the percentage of Scheduled Castes is the highest — 33. They comprise people of the 34 castes recognised by the government. 
Vertically split in Haryana
Chandigarh, April 18
For the past several years, the Haryana Congress has been known more for its intense infighting than for any movement launched by it.

In graphics
Bhartiya Janata Party's performance in previous Lok Sabha polls
How to cast vote through electronic voting machine

APHC (G) Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani briefs Kashmiri Muslims about the poll boycott call in downtown Srinagar on Sunday. — Photo by Amin War



Constituency Profile: Udhampur
BJP looking for another term
Tribune News Service

Udhampur, April 18
Once a stronghold of the Congress, Mr Chaman Lal Gupta of the BJP (Minister of State for Defence) is representing the Udhampur Lok Sabha seat since 1996. He defeated the National Conference with a handsome margin in these elections as the Congress was relegated to the third position.

This is for the fourth consecutive term that Mr Gupta is again in the election fray and has covered almost all remote areas of the constituency that are terrorism affected.

However, this time the contest here has become very interesting with the Congress and the Panthers Party — partners in the Mufti-led coalition Government — facing each other in this constituency. While the Congress has fielded Mr Lal Singh, Health Minister, Mr Bhim Singh has fielded himself as the candidate of the Panthers Party.

With the aggressive campaign launched by Mr Lal Singh, Congress poll managers were hopeful of recapturing the seat it had been losing since 1996. The Congress had managed to retain the seat even during the Janata Party wave that swept the country during the 1977 poll.

While Mr Lal Singh, who represents the Basohli segment of the Udhampur Lok Sabha constituency, was trying his luck here for the first time, Mr Bhim Singh is contesting for the fifth time. He lost badly in the 1984, 1989, 1996 and 1998 elections. He tried his luck from the Jammu constituency during the byelection in 2002, but was humbled badly.

The contest in this constituency is expected to be multi-cornered as the National Conference has named Mr Najib Surawardhy as its candidate. He had lost the Assembly elections in 2002 when he was Minister of State for Home in the state government.

The constituency has the history of not betraying its leader. Dr Karan Singh represented the constituency for three terms by winning the elections in 1971, 1977 and 1980. Thereafter, Mr Girdhari Lal Dogra, father-in-law of BJP leader Arun Jaitley, won the elections in 1984 and Mr Dharam Paul (Congress) in 1989. The turnaround came in 1996 when for the first time the seat went to BJP candidate Chaman Lal Gupta, who has been holding it since then. Interestingly, the National Conference has been occupying the second place since 1996 and the Congress has been relegated to the third position.

The Udhampur constituency, the second largest in the state, sprawls over an area of 18,932 sq.km covering the districts of Kathua, Udhampur and Doda with 17 Assembly segments. It starts from neighbourhood of the Pathankot area (Punjab) and touches the Pangi area of Chamba in Himachal.

The main town of Udhampur was so far connected by road only, but work on the Jammu-Udhampur rail line has been completed and the first passenger train was expected to run on this section by the end of this month.

Many areas in Doda and Udhampur districts in the constituency are militant infested and the fear of attack by ultras haunts residents of the hamlets on the hills. An election rally of the Congress was targeted by terrorists at Banihal recently in which one person lost his life and 25 were injured.

The constituency has a total electorate of 13,48,721 of which 6,31,880 are woman. As many as 1,657 polling booths will be set up in this constituency for polling on May 10. Almost all booths are sensitive or hyper-sensitive. 


Constituency Profile: Ferozepore
Litmus test for Jagmeet
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore , April 18
The Ferozepore parliamentary constituency is locked in a multi-cornered contest for the Lok Sabha election-2004. It would be a litmus test for Congress nominee Jagmeet Singh Brar, who has shifted base from Faridkot this time.

Spread over 5784.76 sq. km, this border constituency is the largest constituency in the state.

Its political factfile states that it cannot be called the stronghold of any party. The Shiromani Akali Dal has won the seat thrice, the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) twice each, and Akali Dal (Mann) has also wrested the seat once in the eight parliamentary elections held after the delimitation of constituencies since 1977.

Apart from the local issues and the preference for the Congress or the Akali Dal, the constituency would witness the voters’ response to the fresh peace drive between Indian and Pakistan. A big chunk of the 13 lakh-odd voters of the constituency is directly affected by the nature of relations with Pakistan. Peace is always welcome for these people and any party stressing on this plank may get a better response.

The impact of infighting among leaders of the same party and just ‘on paper’ support extended to the candidates by local leaders and MLAs is also being keenly analysed here.

Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, sitting MP of the Congress from the Faridkot constituency is fighting the ‘outsider’ tag as well as the burrowing done by some local leaders in the political foundation he is trying to lay in this constituency.

Mr Brar is brushing aside this tag on the argument that he had contested, albeit unsuccessfully, the 1989 Lok Sabha elections from this constituency. He is banking on his oratorical skills and personal influence.

In Mr Zora Singh Mann, SAD (Badal) nominee Jagmeet Brar is facing a strong candidate, who returned victorious in the last two Lok Sabha elections. He is harping on the good work done during his two tenures and especially the sanctioning of the Abohar-Fazilka rail line. He had defeated BSP-Congress candidate Mohan Singh Phalianwala in 1998 and Hans Raj Jossan of Congress in 1999.

Mr Mann is fighting on the Badal plank and the alleged repressive actions of the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government against the Akalis in the state.

Mr Inderjit Singh Zira, a disgruntled Akali leader annoyed at not being given ticket by the SAD(Badal), has announced that he would be contesting the elections as an Independent candidate. He could well prove to be the stumbling block for the official SAD candidate, Mr Mann.

Having a strong following in the Zira Assembly constituency, Mr Inderjit Singh Zira would cause a major dent in Mr Mann’s prospects as each vote casted in his favour would cause a division of Akali votes and help the Congress.

The mood of the Rai Sikh community, having predominance in the region, is also a major factor in the constituency. And the Bahujan Samaj Party candidate, Mr Mohan Singh Phallianwala, is putting his stakes mainly on the support of this community.

He had won the 1992 and 1996 Lok Sabha elections by defeating strong candidates of the Congress like Santokh Singh Randhawa and Sunil Jakhar, son of senior Congress leader Balram Jakhar.

Mr Dhian Singh Mand, contesting the elections on SAD(Amritsar) ticket, is striving to repeat his performance in the 1989 Lok Sabha election when he defeated Mr Jagmeet Brar, late Chowdhry Devi Lal, Mr Mohan Singh Phailianwala and Mr Surjit Kumar. He has spent over seven years in jail during what he describes as a ‘Panthic struggle’.

There are nine Assembly segments in this constituency, of which six are with the Congress.

The voter turnout has been pretty good in constituency with more than 60 per cent electorate casting their votes in all elections, barring 1991, since 1980.

Mr Balram Jakhar has won with the biggest margin so far. He had defeated Iqbal Singh of the Congress-M by 1.94 lakh votes.


Constituency Profile: Faridkot
Going tough for Congress
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, April 18
The Congress decision to shift Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar from the Faridkot parliamentary constituency to Ferozepure may have taken the fizz out of the contest, his replacement, Ms Karan Brar, is finding the going tough.

Being a second largest parliamentary constituency of the state spread over 5681. 64 sq kilometres with more than 12.5 lakh voters, Faridkot has been a pocket-borough of the Akalis. Of the nine assembly segments, eight were won by the Akalis while one went to Independent candidate Sukhdarshan Singh. In fact, political heavyweights like Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Mr Tota Singh, Mr Manpreet Badal and Mr Gurdev Badal were returned to the assembly from this belt.

Although Mr Gurlal Singh, a candidate fielded by the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), is also in the fray, political pundits say that the fight would be between Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, SAD General Secretary, and Ms Karan Brar, a political greenhorn who is a daughter-in-law of former Chief Minister, Harcharan Singh Brar.

The fact that the Brar family remained in political wilderness after the last Assembly elections is proving to be a major hurdle for Ms Brar in mobilising party workers and leaders in the assembly segments of the three districts of Moga, Faridkot and Muktsar.

The alienation of the Brar family, trifurcation of the district by Mr Brar, lack of development works in the area, inadequate medicare facilities despite the presence of a medical college and hospital and an acute shortage of potable water are the factors that could tilt the scales in favour of the junior Badal, who is promising that these problems would be solved if he is elected.

Political observers, however, say that Ms Brar has a strong foothold in the Muktsar and Moga assembly segments since these areas were upgraded as districts by her father-in-law, Mr Harcharan Brar. It is pertinent to mention that the former CM had lost to an Independent candidate, Mr Sukhdarshan Singh Madahar, from Muktsar during the previous assembly elections. An advantage for Ms Brar is that she is not facing any opposition within the party which was divided on the issue of the renomination of Mr Jagmeet Brar.

In its campaign against Ms Brar, the SAD has been pointing out that the Brars are a house divided since Mr H S Brar was not supporting his daughter-in-law by campaigning in her favour. This has been refuted by her with the plea that he had not been keeping good health and was under medical supervision at Chandigarh.

While the junior Badal has completed his first round of campaining in the Assembly segments, Ms Brar started her campaign some days ago. With three weeks to go for voting, covering all segments extensively will be a challenge for her. She will also have to ensure that other members of her family are by her side during this crucial period to counter the Akali barbs.

Mr Sukhbir Badal is harping on development and the accessibility factor which the Akalis allege is missing in the regime of Capt Amarinder Singh. The Congress candidate, Ms Karan Brar is wooing voters on the old Congress card — providing a corruption free and transparent administration.

So far, Mr Harcharan Singh Brar, his wife Gurbinder Kaur Brar and daughter Babli Brar have lost four parliamentary elections and one assembly election since 1987. During the last parliamentary elections in 1999, Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar had defeated Mr Sukhbir Badal by 5,148 votes. In 1998, Mr Badal had defeated Mr Brar and in 1996 it was the junior Badal again who defeated Ms Kamaljit Kaur of the Congress. In the 1992 elections, Mr Jagmeet Brar (Cong) was elected MP as the Shiromani Akali Dal had boycotted the elections. SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal had himself won the seat in 1977.

The nine Assembly segments in this constituency include Moga (Mr Tota Singh), Baghapurana (Mr Sadhu Singh Rajeana), Panjgrain (Mr Gurdev Singh Badal), Kotkapura (Mantar Singh), Faridkot (Mr Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon), Gidderbaha (Mr Manpreet Singh Badal), Malout (Ms Mukhtiar Kaur), Lambi (Parkash Singh Badal) and Muktsar (Mr Sukhdarshan Singh Madahar).


Constituency Profile: Faridabad
Industries’ closure main issue
Ravi S.Singh and Bijender Ahlawat

Faridabad, April 18
Apathy on the part of the political class and the government has led to all-round stagnation in the Faridabad parliamentary constituency. Faridabad city, which was once considered to be the mascot and flagship of the industrial enterprise of not only Haryana, but also North India, is at present limping and gasping for breath due to all-round neglect and squalor.

Although this Lok Sabha constituency is considered to be a stronghold of the Congress, BJP’s Ram Chander Bainda was consecutively returned thrice to Parliament from here in the 1996, 1998 and 1999 elections. On all three occasions, the Congress stood second.

The INLD, BJP, Congress and HVP are the main players in the state’s politics. Only the BJP and the INLD have declared their nominees. While the BJP’s sitting MP, Mr Bainda has been renominated, the INLD has fielded the state’s Minister for Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Mr Illiyas Mohammad. The BJP is ahead of its rivals in going with its election campaign.

Voters here feel that the same candidates, who have done little for their development in the past despite the poll promises, have put their hats in the ring.

This Lok Sabha constituency has nine Assembly segments, six falling in Faridabad district and three in Gurgaon district. While Faridabad, Mewla Maharajpur, Ballabgarh, Palwal, Hassanpur and Hathin fall in Faridabad district, Nuh, Taoru and Ferozepur Jhirka segments fall in Gurgaon district.

The segments falling in Gurgaon district, as well as Hathin, constitute the Mewat area of Haryana. It is dominated by Meo-Muslims and is considered the most backward region of the state. The entire parliamentary constituency has more than 15 lakh voters, with about 21 lakh population. Broadly, there are more than three lakh Muslim voters, and the rest are Hindus. This community-wise break-up has assumed importance in the past three consecutive General Elections. Within the Hindu spectrum, the Punjabis head the list constituting more than two lakh, followed by the Jats who hover around the two lakh figure. The Gujjars and Brahmins constitute more than one lakh voters each. The SCs/STs and other backward classes form more than three lakh of the bulk, the Rajputs, Vaish, Ahir together account for about two lakh votes. The Christians account for about 40,000 votes.

Many in this constituency feel disgusted as the growth in Faridabad city has come to a standstill in the past five years, though the bearish trend had started showing about 10 years back. This is despite the fact that some high-profile Congress leaders like former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal and Mr Avtar Singh Bhadana, a forerunner for Congress nomination, have represented the seat.

Regarding the sitting MP, Mr Bhadana, he is known as ‘mine mafia’, and many call him as “missing MP” due to his alleged lack of visibility in the constituency.

The villages in the Mewat area are a picture of filth, squalor, unemployment, lack of electricity and health care.


Key Constituency
Old colleagues take on Advani
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

Gandhinagar, April 18
Famous Sidhuism “Pitches are like wives: you never know which way they will turn”, is an apt description of Gujarat polity.
Poll dynamics of politics is strange and this must be troubling none other than Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishan Advani who is seeking a third term from here.

Mr Advani, who returned here yesterday after his month-long Bharat Uday Yatra, is confident of his victory but not sure of his victory margin as he is facing two of his Sangh colleagues.

He did not even bat an eyelid in 1999 when the Congress fielded former Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan as he registered a victory with a margin of 1,88,927 votes.

Though, he has a dozen rivals this time but two of them are an embarrassment to him as they are not only Sangh members but were in the BJP till yesterday.

Mr Gabhaji Thakore of the Congress was a member of the Keshubhai Patel ministry until October, 2001 when Mr Narendra Modi became head of the state. The other rival is Mr Vitthalbhai Pandya, father of late minister Haren Pandya who was gunned down in March last year. Pandya was the blue-eyed boy of the Mr Advani family in Gujarat as he was Mr Advani’s chief campaign manager.

Pandya came to Delhi some days before his killing and had met Mr Advani in his North Block office. He was denied the party ticket in the state Assembly elections and then he was eliminated.

Senior Pandya holds Mr Advani and state Chief Minister Narendra Modi responsible for the death of his son who had devoted his entire life for promoting the cause of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh.

Prominent BJP leaders, including former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, tried to dissuade the senior Pandya but he adamantly remained in the fray, perhaps hoping to attract some of the vote in his late son’s Assembly constituency of Ellis Bridge in Ahmedabad. Mr Thakore, on the other hand, is concentrating mainly in the rural areas of the constituency and the state capital of Gandhinagar where a number of issues have combined against the ruling BJP.

All but one of the seven Assembly segments that constitute the Gandhinagar parliamentary constituency are in Ahmedabad. It is, therefore, a predominantly urban constituency that has borne the brunt of the 2001 earthquake and then communal riots a year later. The electorate totals 21.11 lakh voters.

After the December, 2002 Assembly elections, a sharp political polarisation gradually waned but the ‘aftershocks’ like the Best Bakery case, continue to simmer.

But then Mr Advani is being seen here as the next Prime Minister and Gujarat’s pride will soar if he comes to occupy the Chair.


State of Parties: National Conference
NC seeks forgiveness
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, April 18
The National Conference is facing the Lok Sabha elections in the state for the first time as an Opposition party. The party suffered an electoral debacle in the Assembly elections held in 2002 after coming to power under its founder-leader, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, in 1977.

Party president Omar Abdullah, said the NC would once again present its case before the people, who had rejected the party in the last elections.

Banking upon its traditional vote bank, the National Conference leadership has been asking the voters to “forgive its mistakes” and vote for the party in the interest of Kashmir and Kashmiriyat. It has been criticising the “unfulfilled promises” of the coalition government in the state led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed since it came to power over 18 months ago.

The main issues that figure in the campaign include the failures of the coalition government in disbanding the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the police, checking the human rights violations, providing jobs to the educated youth and releasing all detainees and the financial constraints faced by the state.

The campaign also revolves around the improving Indo-Pak relations, particularly after the Prime Minister’s historic visit to Kashmir on April 18 last year, and extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan. The PDP-led coalition is also criticised over the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road via Uri.

Mr Omar Abdullah alleged that the PDP leaders, the Mufti and his daughter Mehbooba had exploited the people in the name of the Muzaffarabad road, adding that it had to be decided not by them but by the Governments of India and Pakistan. He also blamed the ruling coalition for manipulating the fate of the Permanent Residents (Disqualification) Bill 2004, that remained short of being passed by the Legislative Council.

Having secured an absolute majority by getting 60 seats in the 87-member House in the 1996 Assembly elections, the party got only 28 in the last Assembly elections held in 2002. It was for the first time that the party faced such a debacle in the Assembly elections. It secured over 30 per cent votes in the last elections.

The party remained in power in the state since 1975 following the Indira-Sheikh Abdullah Accord. It got a massive mandate led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1977. Following the Sheikh’s death, the heir apparent, Farooq Abdullah was sworn in as Chief Minister on September 8, 1982. The party, led by Farooq Abdullah, came to power in the subsequent elections held in 1983 and 1987. President’s rule was imposed on the state in early 1990 with the eruption of militancy.

The party returned to power again in 1996, when fresh elections were held.

Earlier, in 1996 the National Conference did not participate in the Lok Sabha elections on its demand of grant of greater autonomy to the state. However, later it participated in the Assembly elections on the main plank of autonomy. A resolution to this effect was passed by the state legislature in 2000, but it was rejected by the Central Government. The rejection of the autonomy resolution and continuance of the party in the NDA government at the Centre even after the “killings of Muslims” in Gujarat have been main points against the NC by its opponents.

Except for the 1996 Parliament elections when the NC did not participate, it has been the major shareholder of the Lok sabha seats from Jammu and Kashmir. All three seats of the Kashmir valley — Srinagar, Baramula and Anantnag — and those of Ladakh and Jammu were represented by the NC in the last Lok Sabha.


State of Parties: INLD
Anti-incumbency factor at play
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 18
The anti-incumbency mood of people, coupled with the snapping of ties with the BJP, have put the ruling Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) of Haryana in a disadvantageous position for the Lok Sabha poll.

One INLD minister recently quit the government and joined the BJP to fight the LS poll from Rajasthan. Cooperation Minister Kartar Singh Bhadana’s act has fuelled speculation about more defections from the INLD. But, now Mr Chautala has shown to be having an iron grip over the party.

The INLD government came to power in February 2000. Since then, Mr Chautala has not even once expanded his ministry of 11 members. With Mr Bhadana’s resignation, the strength of the ministry has now become 10.

The absolute power enjoyed by Mr Chautala and his two sons in the party have attracted a lot of criticism. There cannot be any doubt that the INLD is a family party. Apparently, there is no crack in the legislative wing of the party so far because the MLAs do not feel confident of standing on their own feet without the support of Mr Chautala.

The BJP, which switched support to the INLD when it realised that its tie-up with the Haryana Vikas Party was not going to pay off, had gained by its new alliance. The INLD-BJP combined won all 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 1999. The relations started souring over the issue of seat adjustment for the Assembly poll and continued to deteriorate steadily thereafter. It was called off unceremoniously after the dissolution of the last Lok Sabha. It is believed that had the INLD-BJP alliance continued, it could have given the INLD the advantage of the Vajpayee factor. The INLD, on the other hand, maintain that the BJP would expose how weak it was in Haryana by going to the LS poll all alone.

The anti-incumbency mood, which has always dogged ruling parties of Haryana at the fag end of their terms, is caused by local factors. In the case of the INLD, the most important local factor is believed to be its suppression of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) agitation. It is expected to have a bearing on at least two constituencies — Hisar and Rohtak. There are also other issues like anomalies in recruitment, including the teacher recruitment scam in which a CBI probe has been ordered, alleged bungling in money collected in the name of deposed Fiji premier Mahendra Chaudhary. But most important is the incidents of firing by the police upon villagers during the BKU agitation. Also that Chautala spent time and resources for deification of his father, the late Devi Lal will backfire on the INLD.


State of Parties: BSP
BSP breaks ‘caste ceiling’
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 18
Punjab is one of the states where the percentage of Scheduled Castes is the highest — 33. They comprise people of the 34 castes recognised by the government.
It was Punjab-born Kanshi Ram, who had thought of bringing the Scheduled Castes together to articulate their aspirations, political as well as socio-economic. He wanted to ensure for them a niche in society. His idea of organising this vast segment gave birth to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). This was in the mid-70s, when he had named the organisation, D-S4. This was to transform into the BSP in late 80s. Thus, the BSP may be young, yet it has made its presence felt on the political scene in the country.

The party has the elephant as its mascot and draws its strength and inspiration from the teachings of Dr B. R. Ambedkar. Such is its potency, it manages to remain in demand, when it comes to either forging poll alliances enabling a political party swell its votes or forming coalition governments. Besides the ‘old’ ladies like the Congress or BJP, even ‘young’ suitors are wont to woo the BSP, which has a vote kitty. Undoubtedly, the BSP leadership has perfected the art of extracting its own pound of political flesh even if means giving up political ethics.

In Punjab, the BSP has tied political knots and has had short-lived honeymoons with both the Akalis and the Congress. As such, its political fortunes dwindled, in terms of the number of seats, in the assembly or parliamentary elections. The party went to the polls in Punjab in 1999, as a divided house. It has rectified that mistake and all factions are united now.

The BSP is back in the election arena without tie-up with any party. For the first time, it has fielded candidates on all 13 seats, much to the consternation of the Congress.

Insiders say the BSP prefers a hung House to gain “bargaining power” and claim a share of the political pie. If earlier, Kanshi Ram had a stranglehold over the BSP, now Ms Mayawati calls the shots. The BSP is more active in Uttar Pradesh and only has pockets of influence in Punjab and Madhya Pradehsh.

A noteworthy factor in the present Lok Sabha elections in Punjab is that the BSP has decided to break the ‘caste ceiling’. It has fielded candidates from other castes and communities, and not just Scheduled Castes. The message is cogent and clear — it’s an effort to spread its net wide to seek larger political fortunes, though its base is primarily in the Doaba and Ferozepore.

Thus BSP has chosen a ‘bania’ trader in Sangrur, picked up a Saini in Hoshiarpur, a Ramgarhia in Ludhiana and a Pandit in Amritsar. In Gurdapsur, it has a Kashatir and in Ferozepore, a Rai-Sikh. In Patiala, there is a Kashyap. The rest are from its own community. How this strategy works out is important as much for the BSP’s political survival as for politics itself in Punjab. 


State of Parties: Congress
Vertically split in Haryana
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 18
For the past several years, the Haryana Congress has been known more for its intense infighting than for any movement launched by it. INLD President Om Prakash Cahutala’s dig at the Congress that it is divided into so many parties in the state that people are confused is not without a grain of truth.

Even a leader who wants to join the Congress has to think more than twice as to through which faction leader he should join the party. He is afraid of facing hostility from the leaders of other factions.

The Haryana Congress is virtually vertically split, with former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, heading the rival factions. Of course, two former party Presidents, Mr Birender Singh and Mr Shamsher Singh Surjewala, have their own factions. The infighting has been a trademark of the Congress. But in the past few years, perhaps because of the relatively weak high command, it has become virtually uncontrollable. This was evident when the party had to distribute the ticket for the Lok Sabha elections. Although the process of filing the nomination papers has begun, the party is not able to finalise all its candidates.

The selection of candidates has been marked with a drama of resignations. Many aspirants for the ticket threatened to quit the party if they were not obliged by the high command. Their blackmail tactics paid off. Interestingly, these tactics were successfully adopted by those who were relatively new in the party over the cost of those who were born and brought up in the party. The “new arrivals” were supported by their god fathers, who backed them to the hilt in order to score over their rivals in the party.

When the President of the Indian Yough Congress, Mr Randeep Singh Surjewala, quit the post in protest against the denial of the ticket from Hisar, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, AICC President, told him to make the sacrifice for the sake of the party. But she could not make similar appeals to others.

It is not that the high command did not try to stop the infighting. It made Mr Bhajan Lal and Mr Hooda swap their positions as the Leader of the Opposition and the party president. But the infighting was only further fuelled. It has become a joke in the state that the Congress leaders first want to eliminate each other before taking on Mr Chautala.

The grassroot-level worker is not only confused but also distressed at this state of affairs. When the Lok Sabha elections were announced, the party was a hot favourite and was expected to virtually monopolise the Lok Sabha seats. But as the party faced problems in the distribution of the ticket, its prospects dimmed, and now it may have to share the honours with other parties. Infighting has affected senior leaders too. A former Union Minister of State, Ms Selja, had to shift from Sirsa, the traditional seat of her family, to Ambala because she was afraid that her election may be sabotaged by supporters of Mr Bhajan Lal.




Section 144 in East Sikkim
Prohibitory orders under Section 144, CrPC, have been brought into force in East District of Sikkim with its headquarters in Gangtok, the capital town. The prohibitory orders have been clamped as a precautionary measure in view of the campaigning likely to gain momentum with the date of polling drawing nearer and rival political groups vying with each other to drum up support for themselves . — PTI