L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S


50 per cent voters turn up
Polling low in urban areas
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 10
The turnout in urban areas was much lower than in rural areas of the constituency today. According to rough estimates, the turnout in the constituency was around 50 per cent. In some urban areas, the turnout was as low as 30 per cent, while in rural areas, it went up to 60 to 65 per cent.

In the early morning, queues of voters were witnessed outside polling booths in urban areas, but as the day progressed, the flow dwindled. At some polling booths, the polling staff had to wait for voters for quite long durations. The intense heat was believed to be one of the factors for the low turnout. Besides, a number of people had gone for a outing due to the extended weekend.

In stark contrast, the turnout in rural areas remained high. At some places, like Garhi Fazil village in the Ludhiana (Rural) Assembly segment, the percentage of votes polled was said to be as high as 70. But on an average, the poll percentage in the rural areas was put at around 65 per cent.

The low turnout in urban areas was certainly not good news for the Congress as it claims maximum support from urban voters. The SAD-BJP alliance was also not happy as most of the BJP supporters are from urban areas.

Barring the incident at Sohali village in the Kila Raipur Assembly segment, where a SAD leader was shot dead outside a polling booth, the polling passed off peacefully in the rest of the constituency. The shooting in Sahauli village was not related to the polling as the incident was described to be the result of a personal enmity between the victim and the accused.

In other parts of the constituency, there were complaints from Akali and BJP workers against Congress workers. Ashwani Kharbanda, a BJP activist from the Field Ganj area, alleged that he was manhandled and intimidated by the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary, Mr Pappi Prashar.

Senior BJP leader and former Deputy Speaker, Mr Satpal Gosain, has filed a complaint to the election observer in this regard. He also alleged that the sitting Congress MLA from here, Mr Surinder Dawer, was accompanied by musclemen in the area.

Mr Bawal Grewal, another supporter of Akali-BJP candidate Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, was allegedly manhandled on the Shahpur road.

In the Ludhiana (East) segment, there was tension for sometime outside the residence of Mr Gosain at Kidwai Nagar, as his supporters and those of his rival, Mr Dawer, tried to make it a show of strength. Although tempers ran high for quite some time, both groups retreated, thus averting a major clash. 



Many denied right to vote
Kuldip Bhatia

Ludhiana, May 10
If the sun was merciless as voters queued up to exercise their franchise at the city polling booths, bungling by officials today was no less in making city residents miserable. In many localities mass discrepancies in the electoral rolls, coupled with confusion over the polling booths, frustrated voters.

While the turnout in the urban segments of this Lok Sabha constituency was more or less around the level of the last elections, complaints of discrepancies in voter lists, like missing names, particulars not matching the voter identity cards or even wrong gender of the voter, were received from many places.

A large number of voters who reached their respective polling booths had to return disappointed as their names could not be found on the lists. Mr Sunil Dutt and his wife Karuna in Ludhiana North, Mr Chetan, a share broker and resident of Sarabha Nagar, along with his wife, and many others were denied their right to vote. A prominent city industrialist and resident of Model Town, who had voted in the last assembly and parliamentary elections, also found his name missing from the list today.

For Mr Anil Chopra, a resident of Daresi Road, and his son Aditya, it was all the more frustrating because by the time they arrived at polling booth No. 23 in the Ludhiana North assembly segment, others had already cast their votes. Mr Chopra wondered how bogus votes could be allowed to be cast by the supervisory staff when proper proof of identity was needed to be produced by the voters.

Bogus-voting allegations at many places by polling agents of main political parties apart, a cross-section of voters maintained that the instructions of the Election Commission of India on the necessity of a valid proof of identity had not been scrupulously followed. At many places, voters were not asked to produce any proof while at other places the polling staff turned away even genuine voters for minor variations in the voter ID card or other proofs of identity produced by them.

The shifting of a few polling booths in the urban segment of Ludhiana Rural and Ludhiana West constituencies, even though notified in the Press by the administration well in advance, also added to the confusion. Unaware of the shifting, a large number of voters reached locations announced earlier, only to be told about the shift.

The scorching heat played its part too. A sizeable number of voters were said to have decided against casting their vote on account of it being “too much of a hassle.”

In certain segments like Ludhiana West, the number of polling booths was reduced, but this hardly led to any overcrowding, given the moderate turnout in the city.



Bitter experience for Thrike, Rajguru Nagar voters
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 10
Around 1,200 voters of Rajguru Nagar and Thrike village, who had gone to various polling booths to cast their ballot in the morning, were in for a rude shock when they found their names missing from the voters’ list. Interestingly, these voters possessed voters’ cards of the areas that fell under the polling booths.

While this happened in many polling booths both in the city and villages, maximum number of voters who had to return without exercising their franchise were from this area alone. Some leaders of the area even alleged that some leaders had deliberately got the names struck from the voters’ list.

Mr Gurdeep Singh, a resident of Rajguru Nagar, said they would organise a dharna outside the office of the Returning Officer tomorrow. He said he had cast his ballot at this booth during previous elections and that his name had always been included in the voters’ list.

“I know why this has been done. Had I known that they were going to do this to us, we would have made sure that our names were included in the list,” he said. Mr Jagtar Singh of the same colony said: “We have got the voters’ cards but we have been told to go back. We will write to the Election Commission to get the polling in this booth cancelled,” he argued.

Mr Nirmal Singh and Ms Jaswinder Kaur, both residents of Kot Mangal Singh, said they were not allowed to cast their vote for similar reasons. Showing their voters’ cards, both said they were disgusted with the system, which had not allowed them to vote.

“We had cancelled all our engagements to cast our ballot but when we reached the polling booth, polling staff told us that we could not vote as our names were not in the list. Then I met the Tehsildar (elections), who asked me to meet the ADC (D), Mr Sumer Singh Gurjar. I later met him at Guru Nanak Stadium. He told me that I could only vote next time, as nothing could be done about it,” said Mr Nirmal Singh.

For Ms Jaswinder Kaur of Dehlon village, the experience turned to be a bitter one too. When she reached the polling booth to cast her vote, her name in the list indicated that she had already cast her vote.

“I have come for the first time and my vote has already been cast,” she said, while showing her fingers that bore no mark of ink. “How can they allow anyone to franchise my right without seeing the voters’ card?” she added.

Similarly, two other women in Dhapei village had to return without casting their ballots. Numerous reports of such incidents were received from other villages too.


Minister, too, returns disappointed
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, May 10
The Punjab Minister of State for Printing and Stationery, Mr Rakesh Pandey, and his entire family had to forgo their voting rights today as their names were missing in the voter lists. Alleging large scale discrepancies in the electoral rolls, Mr Pandey told Ludhiana Tribune that names of all residents of two blocks of Udham Singh Nagar, the locality where he resides, were missing from the voter lists for the Ludhiana West Assembly segment.

He said the same was the case with the Hathi Complex, the residential colony of the PAU employees, and the residential areas of Prem Nagar, Gobind Nagar and Maharaj Nagar around PAU campus in the same assembly segments.



Men decide, women vote
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 10
While women voters exercised their franchise, the decision on whom to cast the vote for was in most cases taken by male members of their families, especially in the rural areas.

While they turned up with enthusiasm at the various polling booths in the constituency, they did not vote for the candidate of their own choice, for choosing was the “privilege of the men folk.”

“Eh taan mard pardhaan samaj hai, sanu hun ki pata kis nu vote deni hai te kis nu nahi (this is a male-dominated society; we women don’t know who should we vote for),” said Ms Amarjit Kaur, a woman of Dhapei village.

Reactions of most of the women in the rural areas were similar, though they turned up in large numbers to cast their vote. Surprisingly, none of them resented the lack of independence to make their choice. Instead, they said they were always busy with household chores and did not find time to keep themselves informed on politics.

“My husband and father-in-law have been attending various meetings. Our entire family would vote for the candidate they decide on. There is no question of protesting against this practice,” said Ms Karnail Kaur, a voter of Barundi village.

Another woman, Gurjant Kaur, said even in her parents’ house it was not the right of women to choose the candidate. “We have learnt to live with this fact. The decision-making is in the hands of men. We take orders from them,” she said.

Men too asserted that women did not understand the intricacies of politics. “They do not understand what is the difference between the Lok Sabha and the Vidhan Sabha. How can they choose a leader? We just tell them to press the button in front of a particular symbol and they follow the advice. There is nothing wrong with this; they have so many other responsibilities to take care of,” said Mr Darshan Singh, an elderly villager.



Liquor speaks for parties in villages
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 10
Liquor flowed freely and poppy husk was distributed to woo voters in the countryside in this district today. Though the District Magistrate, Mr Anurag Verma, had ordered the closure of liquor shops in view of the Lok Sabha elections, liquor was being sold clandestinely.

While most of the liquor shops remained closed in the city today, those situated in the interiors of the district kept selling liquor underhand even though their shutters were down.

The ahatas, particularly those near the canals, did brisk business. A Tribune team visited a number of villages and found that despite the ban, it was not very difficult to buy any brand of liquor. The only problem for the buyers was that they had to shell out extra money for it.

Supporters of a few candidates were seen offering liquor openly and voters were making the most of it. Packets of poppy husk were also being distributed to attract voters, especially those belonging to the poor strata of society. When reminded that it was illegal to offer liquor, the supporters said, “We
are celebrating the victory of our candidate. We already know that he is going to win. Hence we are partying.”

Caring the least for the ban, a large number of villagers could be seen under the influence of liquor. Party workers were especially assigned the duty of pleasing voters by offering liquor.

The “parties” were being organised near polling booths. Invitations were also being sent for “grand” parties in the evening.

As villagers made merry, owners of liquor shops were more than ready to supply from the backdoors. While the shops may have apparently been closed, their salespersons were always at hand, appearing the moment they saw a potential customer. At a liquor shop situated near the canal passing by Siarhh village, the salesmen could be seen lying on cots placed under trees nearby. The moment they spotted prospective buyers, they would get up at once.

Inquiries from villagers in Dehlon, Dhapei, Jhammat and Sarabha revealed that last night was the costliest for the candidates as they had to virtually flood the villages with liquor.

A number of empty liquor bottles, spoils of the night, were being
used for supplying water to voters and electoral staff at various polling stations today.

The District Magistrate had two days ago ordered the closure of all liquor shops on May 9 and 10 under Section 54 of the Punjab Excise Act.



Polling station sans stalls of parties
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, May 10
Polling in Jalwana village falling in the Sangrur parliamentary constituency was marked by the absence of stalls of political parties near the polling station.
No banners or posters of any candidate were seen either near the polling station or anywhere else in the village.

Though various candidates, including Mr Arvind Khanna (Congress), Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa (SAD), Mr Simranjit Singh Mann of the Akali Dal (Amritsar) and Mr Sukhdev Singh Bari (Left Front) had provided election material to their representatives, packets remained intact as the representatives sat at one table just to facilitate voters in finding their vote number.

Polling staff had to persuade supporters of various candidates to send polling agents inside the polling station.

Mr Jaspal Singh, Sarpanch, said the villagers were united when it was a question of development of the village. “Our village is one of the most developed villages of the state. And that too without any special grant from the state government.

The village has received grants from NRIs with the efforts of the Sarpanch and his brother, Mr G K Singh, a bureaucrat. It has 923 voters. 



Indifference, mood of the day
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, May 10
Indifference was the prevailing mood today in the Ludhiana parliamentary constituency. The total voter turnout is estimated to be about 50 per cent.
The lack of interest had never been so pronounced in the past, as it was this time. There was hardly any traditional activity to indicate that polling was going on. However, more than the lack of visible signs it was the total lack of interest on the part of the voters that was a cause of concern for the political parties and their candidates forcing them to adopt a door-to-door campaign to persuade the voters to vote for them.

Disgruntlement with politicians for false promises is being attributed as the main reason for people’s indifference.

“Other than those who read newspapers, there are few people who even know the names of all candidates in the poll fray”, says Mr Ranjit Singh, supporter of Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, Lok Bhalai Party nominee. As a result, the candidates had deputed their supporters to go to each house in the areas of their influence to ask them to vote.

As a direct outcome, the ruling alliance as well as others had drastically changed their poll strategies in the previous days. It was small corner meetings as opposed to big party rallies. During his visit to Ludhiana City, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh addressed public meetings and even participated in a road show in favour of Congress nominee Manish Tewari.

Today, as the sun blazed only the faithful trudged to the polling station to cast their ballot. Faced with a low turnout, the candidates had to resort to sending text messages on the mobile network reminding the voters to cast their vote before 5 pm.

The low turnout was also marked by the strict adherence to the poll code and the supervision of the election observers. The towns and villages in the district bore a near normal look. But what were missing in this election time were the banners, posters, buntings, etc.

The only people associated with the politicians were the only ones who had some commercial interest or political compulsions, said a voter.

What further dampened the spirits was the large-scale dissidence among political parties. This disillusioned the common man. “Clearly the politicians are fighting for their own selfish interest. None of them is a nationalist or a statesman. They are merely petty politicians who would perpetuate corruption for personal gains”, says Mr Ravinder Singh, school lecturer, who sees degradation in moral values among politicians as the main reason for this aloofness among voters.

The gap between the politicians and the voters has widened significantly over the years with the former becoming inaccessible once elected. Supporting this theory, Mr Gurdev Singh, a businessman says “once elected it is almost impossible to reach the MLA or minister for some work. The only access to them is though their touts who do nothing without charging for the work, so why should anyone waste time in a futile exercise like poll”.

This was a cause for concern for the political parties and their candidates as they feel that had adversely affected voter turnout today.

The vigil of the electoral observers and some deaths from illicit liquor has further dampened the already low spirits among the electorate. Besides, the absence of any clear wave had also made the political parties and candidates cautious in spending their money, making the election scene dull.



Fawn succumbs to injuries

Ludhiana, May 10
A month-old female fawn, which had been injured by stray dogs on the “hadda rodi” of Laddowal village yesterday and was under treatment at Barewal, died today. The carcass has been handed over to the Wildlife Department.

The fawn had a fractured limb and its bones had been mended with nails. The animal had been under shock and was not accepting food. However, it was consuming water at short intervals.

A security officer of Central Seed Farm at Laddowal, Mr R.S. Dhillon, had brought the fawn home after a farm labourer had rescued him from dogs yesterday. The officer gave it first aid and informed Dr Sandeep K. Jain, a member of the Animal Welfare Board, Ministry of Environment and Forests, and president of the People for Animals, Ludhiana.

Mr Jain informed Mr Sunil Kumar, Divisional Forest Officer, about the incident and called Dr Harbans Dalla from Veterinary Hospital, Barewal, and Dr Jaswant Singh, Veterinary Officer, to Laddowal Seed Farm.

Dr Dalla had taken the responsibility of treatment of the fawn on a request of forest officials. He had consulted Dr Prabhjot Singh, a veterinary surgery specialist, who had examined the case and advised further treatment.

After treatment, the fawn was brought to the Kadian forest range, where Dr Daljit Singh, Block Forest Officer, and Mr Pritpal, Forest Guard, took charge of the animal. However, the animal did not survive. OC



Pistol seized, one arrested

Sahnewal, May 10
The Focal Point police claims to have arrested a man who was carrying a .315 bore country-made pistol and three cartridges. The arrested man was coming from Gobindgarh village and was nabbed at a naka on the main road near Jugiana village today. The alleged accused has been identified as Raju, son of Darshan Singh. He belongs to Jugiana village, 3 km from Sahnewal. A case was yet to be registered. OC



Man ends life

Doraha, May 10
A married man of Buani village, near Doraha, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself. Balbir Singh, son of Laksham Singh, was reportedly in a disturbed state of mind for quite sometime. He had married twice and had four children. Monetary problems and pressures of looking after a large family, had made him start taking drugs. His body has been sent for post-mortem examination. A case under Section 174 of CRPC has been registered.— OC


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