C H A N D I G A R H   S T O R I E S


Voter’s Day today
5.26 lakh voters to decide fate of 17 candidates; 2,400 personnel put on poll duty; 409 polling stations set up; EVMs with two balloting units to be used
A.S. Prashar
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
The 5.26-lakh strong electorate of the Union Territory of Chandigarh will go to the polls tomorrow to elect their representative to the Lok Sabha for the next five years.

Although there are 17 candidates in the field for the prestigious seat, the main contest is confined to Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, the sitting Congress MP who is seeking re-election, Mr Satya Pal Jain of the BJP, and Mr Harmohan Dhawan, former Union Minister who is contesting as a candidate of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) led by the Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala.

Barring a few minor incidents, the campaigning over the past few weeks was peaceful, though at times it turned acrimonious, with candidates levelling all sorts of allegations and attributing various acts of omission and commission to each other.

Candidates threw in everything they had in the electioneering — holding rallies, organising street corner meetings, visiting labour colonies, touring villages, distributing leaflets, party banners, hosting press meets, undertaking padayatras and taking out car and scooter rallies.

Party leaders also came to the aid of their candidates. While the Congress chief, Ms Sonia Gandhi, addressed a large rally in the city in support of the party nominee, Mr Bansal in Sector 34, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, the BJP chief, Mr Venkaiah Naidu, Mr Arun Jaitley, Mr Shanta Kumar, Mr Prem Kumar Dhumal, Mr Rajnath Singh, to name only a few, addressed poll meetings in support of the BJP nominee, Mr Satya Pal Jain. Mr Chautala and former J and K Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, addressed a rally in support of Mr Harmohan Dhawan who also drafted Bollywood star, Mahima Chaudhary, to campaign for him for a day.

Interestingly, while the BJP sought votes in the name of the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, "India Shining" and "Feel Good" factor, which is said to pervade the country, the Congress wooed voters for the sake of Ms Sonia Gandhi and the sacrifices she and her family had made over the years for the sake of the country's freedom, unity and integrity. Local issues like problems of water and sewerage, uncontrolled growth in the periphery of Chandigarh, leasehold system, resettlement of labour colonies generally took a back seat.

Factionalism affected both the BJP and the Congress. Failure of the local unit of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief, Mr Gurpartap Singh Riar, to support the BJP despite an all-India alliance between the two parties, hung like a millstone around the neck of Mr Jain. Although certain SAD leaders like Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, Mr Tota Singh and Bibi Jagir Kaur, addressed rallies in the city in support of Mr Jain, Mr Riar himself steadfastly refused to do so. There were also reports of certain RSS workers campaigning against Mr Jain.

The Congress too suffered the mortification of factionalism when the CTCC chief, Mr B. B. Bahl, openly opposed the decision of Mr Pawan Bansal to readmit Mr Devinder Babla and his wife, who is a councillor of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation, into the party fold. In fact, throughout the election campaign Mr Bahl refused to share stage with Mr Babla at rallies in support of Mr Bansal. However, the most unexpected development in the poll scene of Chandigarh was the entry of Mr Harmohan Dhawan as an INLD candidate. In the last elections held in 1999, Mr Dhawan had joined the Congress party and was instrumental in ensuring the victory of Mr Bansal by a margin of about 5,000 votes. His presence as a candidate in the contest this time has added an element of uncertainty for both candidates. Mr Dhawan is known to command influence in labour colonies and villages besides rehri markets. He also has support among the Sikhs who are being asked by the local SAD chief, Mr Riar to vote for him.

Therefore, it remains to be seen how many votes he can garner which would have otherwise gone to the BJP and the Congress.

Meanwhile, 409 poll stations have been set up in the UT for tomorrow's polling. Eight hundred and eighteen electronic voting machines have been installed there to enable the voters to exercise their right to franchise. Nearly 2, 400 police personnel including para military forces have been deployed to ensure free and fair poll.



Where have 58,000 UT voters vanished?
Sanjeev Singh Bariana
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
Where have more than 58,000 voters of the city vanished from the list of electorate this time as compared to the official figures of 1999 poll? The final voters list this year has names of 5,26,168 voters. The official list of 1999 had 5,84,656 voters.

The number of voters has gone down not only in the colonies, as was the general perception, but also in various sectors of the city. In fact, the biggest shift in the number of voters in the city areas.

Sources said the city component of the total area had 3.35 lakh voters during the 1999 poll. This time the figure was approximately 3.02 lakh. The colonies had about 1.48 lakh voters in 1999 and this time the number was about 1.5 lakh. In villages, the number was around 92,000 in the last parliamentary elections. This time, the total was around 73,000, they added.

Mr Satya Pal Jain, BJP candidate, said the fault lay with the election office. The onus also lay with the party offices of various political parties in the city which could have followed up the voter lists in advance. A senior official of the UT Administration said during the revision of voter lists, a large number of ‘bogus voters” were found and their names were deleted.

Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, Congress candidate, said,” The figure of 58,000 was too big to have been deleted. It puts a question mark on the voter list revision process. The list makes it seem as if the number of residents in the city had gone down remarkably. People have voters cards, but their name do not figure in the voter list. The fall in number is unlikely to have an impact on the final result, as they do not refer to any particular area or community.

Mr Arun Kumar, Deputy Commissioner, confirmed the official figure of 5.26 lakh. “The number is far more decent than that of a census in 2001 when the number of voters had fallen to about 4.9 lakh. The revision had been done following numerous complaints of bogus voting. The figure of 4.9 lakh voters was far below the earlier figure and there were demands for a revision”.

The Deputy Commissioner said a door-to-door survey was conducted for the revision of voter lists. “We found that a large number of voters had got fake ration cards made. This is an important document when they apply for houses under various schemes. We conducted summary revision each year. Special camps were set up in schools to register voters. All claims had been settled.” 



Stage set for smooth polling in Ropar constituency
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, May 9
The last minute preparations are on at the 1,306 polling stations in the Ropar Lok Sabha constituency where over 13 lakh voters are expected to cast their vote tomorrow. Thousands of electronic voting machines (EVMs) have been dispatched to these stations along with the staff deployed for election duty.

Assistant Returning Officers (AROs) of the various Assembly segments in the constituency addressed the polling parties before these were sent off. Trucks were used to ferry the election material and election parties from the head quarters to the polling stations. The working of the EVMs has been checked twice and those with snags have been replaced. A mock election voting drill will be carried out at the polling stations tomorrow morning before the actual voting begins at 7 am. The voting continue till 5 pm.

Out of the total electorate of 13,39,553 in Ropar, the largest number of voters are in the Kharar Assembly constituency. This constituency also has the largest component of urban voters, most of these concentrated in Mohali. Out of the approximate number of 2.1 lakh voters in Kharar, more than 1.2 lakh are urbanites. Mohali township has 69 polling stations and 62,723 male and 50,659 female voters. Another 103 polling stations are located in the villages with two polling stations each in every village. The SDM, Mohali, Mr M.L. Sharma, is the Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) for this segment. ‘‘As per police reports there are 36 sensitive polling stations here but as far as we are concerned, every thing is peaceful,’’ said Mr Sharma. Mr Man Singh Manehra, the BSP candidate for these election from this constituency will be casting his vote at a Kharar polling station.

Morinda has over 1.4 lakh voters with a majority of voters concentrated in villages. Morinda has 135 polling stations. Mr S.S. Gill, the SDM, Kharar, will be the ARO for this segment. ‘‘Every thing is in place. We have 44 sensitive booths but otherwise all is peaceful,’’ said Mr Gill.

The Chamkaur Sahib segment has 1.7 lakh voters, almost all of whom are living in villages. ‘‘116 polling stations have been established and I have received reports that all is well. We had 19 sensitive booths but these are quite and there is nothing to worry about.’’ said Mr Daljit Singh, SDM, Ropar, who is the ARO for Chamkaur Sahib segment.

As many as 123 polling stations are in place at Samrala where over 1.1 lakh voters are expected to cast their votes. Arrangements for another 1.5 lakh voters are in place at Nabha. ‘‘Out of the 150 polling stations that have been set up, 47 are sensitive but everything is in order and things are going as planned,’’ said Mr Balraj Singh Sekhon, SDM and ARO, Nabha.

Mr J.P. Mittal, SDM Khanna, also the ARO, said 150 booths are in place and there are 1.4 lakh voters. The two main candidates in the fray, Mr Sukhdev Singh Libra and Mr Shamsher Singh Libra will be casting their vote at Khanna.

Over 1.6 lakh voters are expected to cast their votes at Amloh. ‘‘There are 39 sensitive booths here out of a total of 162. But there is no news of any problem at all,’’ said Mr Sandeep Hans, SDM, Amloh, and ARO. The office of the ARO too has been shifted from Amloh to Mandi Gobindgarh to keep a better watch on the voting process tomorrow.

‘‘All poll parties have reached their destination safely with the EVMs. The election supervisors have reported that the machines have been checked and are functioning properly,’’ said Mr. Darshan Singh Sandhu, SDM, Fatehgarh Sahib, as many as 14 polling booths are sensitive here out of the total 146 where over 1.3 lakh voters are expected to vote. Over 1.43 lakh voters are expected to vote at the 142 polling stations in Dhuri.



It’s blame game a day before
Tribune News Service

Satya Pal JainChandigarh, May 9
All three prominent candidates in fray for the local parliamentary seat today accused one another of indulging in unfair practices during the polling period.
The matter was raised at three different press conferences of these candidates.

Mr Harmohan Dhawan, INLD candidate, was left out of the “firing range” of allegations by Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal (Congress) and Mr Satya Pal Jain (BJP).

However, Mr Dhawan charged both of his rivals with indulging in unfair practices, including liquor distribution.

Mr Bansal and Mr Jain denied involvement of their party Harmohan Dhawan members in any unfair practice and at the same time charged the rivals of indulging in the same practice.

Mr Dhawan said, “I will request the Chandigarh Police to be extra cautious in ensuring a check on distribution of liquor and other objectionable material.”

Mr Bansal said the Election Office had sided with Mr Jain during the election campaign. “When we complained of the BJP indulging in unfair practices and distributing stepney covers, no action was taken. But an FIR was registered against the Mayor for attesting ration cards of the needy.

This is an illegal act and we will take the matter to the court after the elections”, he said.

Pawan Kumar BansalMr Jain and Mr Bansal maintained that each one of them had addressed more than 700 meetings individually and travelled to every nook and corner of the city in connection with the poll campaign.

All three candidates are sure of their success in the election. Mr Bansal feels he has performed exceptionally well during his tenure in Parliament, particularly with respect to expenditure of his share of the MPLAD fund. Mr Jain feels the NDA-BJP combine is most likely to form the government at the Centre, so he will be the best choice to voice the concerns of the city.

Mr Dhawan said both his rivals had failed miserably in addressing various issues that had remained on their agenda from the past more than 13 years.



2,400 cops for poll duty in city
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, May 9
The Chandigarh police has made complete security arrangements to ensure free and fair voting tomorrow. Besides, four companies of CRPF, a strong posse of over 2,400 personnel of the police under the supervision of 11 DSPs has been deputed for the smooth flow of the voting process.

There are reports that despite an all out effort of the Crime Branch of the police to keep a check on the supply of liquor, alcohol bottles and pouches have reached various colonies of the city. It is learnt that representatives of various political parties had smuggled liquor into the colonies much before the vends were ordered to pull down shutters last evening.

On the other hand the police claimed there was no case of sale, supply and consumption of liquor on public places and the ban had been imposed strictly. As many as 13 raiding parties headed by Inspector K.I.P. Singh have been formed to check cases of liquor supply. According to reports, the police was specially checking vehicles bearing banners, flags and posters of the various political parties for liquor. When the reports last came in raids were continuing in the various colonies and other sensitive areas of the city. The police had also raided the houses and interrogated 215 notorious liquor smugglers.

Meanwhile, the electronic voting machines (EVMs) were dispatched to the 165 polling stations. After the voting ends at 5 pm tomorrow, the EVMs will be sealed and sent to the four counting stations.

A Sub Inspector or Assistant Sub Inspector will be the in charge of a polling station. On each polling booth, a head constable, two constables and a home guard volunteer will remain posted. Special police pickets being set up across the city are being managed by the CRPF personnel. As many as 11 DSPs are supervising the entire security arrangements for the polling process. Besides, a police team has been kept in reserve.

As many as 66 polling stations out of a total of 48 have been declared sensitive and the police has made adequate arrangements to handle any unpleasant situation, sources said.



14 booths of Banur segment 
declared hypersensitive 
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, May 9
Out of 147 polling booths in the Banur segment of the Patiala parliamentary constituency, 14 have been declared hypersensitive while 42 sensitive.
Mr Deepak Raj Garg, Assistant Returning Officer-cum-SDM, Dera Bassi, said 97 buildings were being used for the polling purposes and 300 employees had been put on duty in these booths. As many as 12 supervisors have also been appointed. One supervisor would look after 12 to 13 polling booths.

Mr Garg said every polling booth had been provided an electronic voting machine (EVM) while 15 EVMs had been kept in reserve. In the Banur segment, 40 per cent of the election staff had been deployed from Samrala tehsil. As many as 1,60,007 voters, including 11,40 new ones, would exercise their franchise tomorrow, he said. He said no political party had alleged any violation of the Model Code of Conduct so far.



Intelligentsia urged to shun political apathy
Tribune News Service

Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association president, Dr Anmol Rattan Sidhu
Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association president, Dr Anmol Rattan Sidhu (centre) at a conference in Chandigarh on Sunday. — A Tribune photograph

Chandigarh, May 9
The Intellectuals Association of Chandigarh today asked the city literati to shun political apathy and come forward to cleanse the system by voting against “bad elements”. At a conference organised today, the speakers urged the residents to reject regional political parties and candidates seeking votes in the name of religion.

They claimed that the intelligentsia had alienated itself from the election and nation-building process. As a result, less than 40 per cent of the city residents were moulding the country’s destiny by casting votes. On the other hand, the villagers eagerly participated in the process, which was evident from the fact that 70 per cent of them exercised their franchise.

The speakers included Justice P.K. Palli, who was the chief guest, Dr Anmol Rattan Sidhu, president of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association, Mr G.K. Chatrath, a former president of the High Court Bar Association, and Dr S.N. Singla, a former principal of Government College for Men, Sector 11.



Sikhs urged to vote for BJP
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, May 9
An emergency meeting of the Executive Committee of the World Sikh Intellectual Council was held today under the Chairmanship of Prof Baldev Singh Balluana.
The council decided at the meeting to support Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Central Chemical and Fertiliser Minister who is the SAD candidate from the Sangrur Lok Sabha seat.

Issuing a press note, Prof Balluana said the council had made an appeal to Sikh voters of Chandigarh to vote for the BJP candidate, Mr Satya Pal Jain, who has the backing of SAD (Badal).



Poll staff debarred from casting vote, says Ganeshi Lal
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, May 9
The president of the state unit of the BJP, Prof Ganeshi Lal, today alleged that the presiding and polling officers in Ambala and Karnal Parliamentary constituencies were being “debarred”from casting their votes at the instance of the ruling INLD.

In a statement issued here, he alleged that certain officers had not been issued authorisation letters by the state government.

Meanwhile, a senior leader of the BJP, Mr Habilas Jindal, alleged that the INLD workers had uprooted its tent and burnt the party flags in the Doon zone of the district last evening.

Prof Ganeshi Lal, while condemning the incident, appealed to the  Election Commission authorities to ensure that such incidents were not repeated.



Paid holiday for commercial establishments today
Our Correspondent

Chandigarh, May 9
The Labour Department, UT Chandigarh, has decided that all shops and commercial establishments will observe May 10, the day of polling as paid holiday under provisions of the Shop Act.
According to a press note issued by Mr Arun Kumar, Labour Commissioner, UT, Chandigarh, this has been done to facilitate the workers to cast their votes. Mr Kumar added that all factories and other industrial establishments will also remain closed on Monday.



Army officer faces court martial
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
A senior Army officer is being tried by a General Court Martial (GCM) for alleged acts of corruption and misuse of official machinery for personal gains while commanding his unit.

According to sources, the Officer Commanding of a Pioneer Company stationed in Chandigarh, Lieut-Col J.P. Singh, is facing several charges of intent to defraud and acts prejudicial to good order and military discipline under Sections 52 and 63 of the Army Act.

The GCM, convened under the directions of the Leh-based Headquarters 14 Corps, is under progress here. Sources add that the officer has pleaded not guilty to the charges levied against him.

The officer has been charged with misappropriating telephone bills to the tune of about Rs. 20,000. Sources said that he showed his private STD calls to be official and charged the amounts spent by him on such calls to unit funds.

The officer is also alleged to have claimed travel allowance for official trips despite having used a service vehicle. Other charges include misuse of government transport and changing entries in vehicles' car diary, which carry the log of the vehicles' movements.

Sources revealed that a court of inquiry was initiated into the mater earlier following a complaint by an officer of the same unit about a year ago. The complaint was made at a time when Army authorities were investigating into allegations of large- scale irregularities in the supply of vegetables to Leh. The supplies were being forwarded through N-Area here, where the Pioneer Company in question is based.

Investigation at that time had indicated the possible involvement of a brigadier then posted at Leh and some armymen based here, sources said. The investigation too was initiated on a complaint received by the Army.

As a welfare measure, a civilian shop to sell fresh vegetables had been set up at Leh, the supply for which was made from N-Area through local purchase. The vegetables were meant for sale and were not part of the authorised ration supply to troops.

Sources said that the vegetables, which were also obtained through contractors at places other than Chandigarh, were despatched to Leh in service vehicles and aircraft whereas it was the responsibility of the contractors to have them delivered at Leh through their own means. Sources added that while the cargo was ferried in service transport, the transport charges to Leh were debited to the Army. The matter is said to be still under investigation.



Enthusiastic response to celebrations at British Library
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 9
A number of events today marked the second phase of the 10-day-long fourth anniversary celebrations at British Library. Events ranging from “Family Chess” and “Eve’s Special” were the highlights of the day. The events saw enthusiastic participation by members of all ages.

The celebrations commenced with a fancy dress competition, titled “Do what you like”, for children within the age group of 4 to 6 years. A debate was held on “Television is the main reason for the decline of reading habit today”.

A unique event titled “Family Chess” was also organised where children and grandparents tested their mental capacities. Next, was the extempore contest, where the members aged between 18 and 35 years were asked to speak on a topic given to them on the spot.

The “Eve’s Special” contest saw eight teams of mothers and daughters participate in a fun-filled activity. The daughters participating in this event were to be more than 18 years of age.

According to Mr Sushant Banerjee, Manager, British Library, “The Library is overwhelmed with the response that its members have given to these celebrations”. The academic sponsor of the celebrations is Chitkara International School.



Scuffle in market over bid to cut council railing
Our Correspondent

Mohali, May 9
There was a scuffle between two shopkeepers in the Phase V market here this evening over a bid to illegally cut through a metal railing in front of shops for facilitating the entry of customers.

Mr Hari Chand, who runs a department store, had directed a welder to cut and make a gap in the railing fixed by the Municipal Council in front of the shops. As the welder began his work, Mr Varinder Kumar, a kiryana store owner, raised an objection. Hot words were exchanged between the two shopkeepers and a scuffle ensued in which the shirt of Virender Kumar was torn.

Mr Hari Chand told this correspondent that the railings provided in the market in front of shops had already been cut at various points by other shopkeepers for easier access to customers to their respective establishments.



Kidnapping case registered
Tribune News Service

Mohali, May 9
The police here registered a case of kidnapping against a Chandigarh resident on a complaint of a resident of Nangal.
According to the police, Mr Harish Sharma, a Nangal town-resident complained that his 28-year-old sister went missing from Mohali on April 30 and has not been found since. He informed the police that she was working with Forest Corporation Limited as a steno-typist in Chandigarh and travelled every day to Chandigarh from Nangal for her job.

On April 30, she had told her brother that she would be going to the Punjab School Education Board for some work before she goes to the office but never reached her office. Sources added that she had visited the Board that day and went missing from there.

Mr Harish Sharma alleged that Sandeep, a resident of Sector 40, Chandigarh, could have kidnapped Indu, as he had been following her for many years now. He wanted to marry her when she was unmarried but even after her marriage, he had not stopped pestering her. He had allegedly also threatened her through telephone calls. 



Industrialists allege harassment by PSIEC
Our Correspondent

Dera Bassi, May 9
Members of the Dera Bassi Industrial Focal Point Association, Mubarikpur, have alleged that they were being harassed by the Punjab State Industrial Export Corporation (PSIEC), which had been ignoring their problems for the past more than 12 years.

At a press conference held here today, office-bearers of the association alleged that the PSIEC had failed to comply with the notification of the Punjab Government and enhanced water and sewerage charges. However, the Department of Local Government, Punjab, had decided to keep the notification in abeyance with immediate effect.

A meeting of the association with the Managing Director of the PSIEC was allegedly cancelled by him at the eleventh hour.

Mr R.C. Kalia, general secretary of the association, alleged that the PSIEC had ignored the Focal Point area after the association opposed the imposition of maintenance charges (Rs 6 per square yard per annum) on industrial units. They said the industrialists had been facing an acute shortage of water since January. The association also submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister on January 30 in this regard, he said.

The association demanded that either the Focal Point be handed over to the Dera Bassi Municipal Council or it should be excluded from the civic body limits. The industrialists have been paying lakhs to the civic body as octroi but no development works had been undertaken in the Focal Point area, the association alleged.


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