P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


SAD complains to EC on yatra expenditure
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
With Punjab getting into the election mode, political parties have started monitoring the situation to ensure that the Congress does not exploit its position in power.

The chairman of the Punjab and Haryana Bar Council, Mr Harish Rai Dhanda, has written a four-page letter to the Election Commission of India pointing to the "Congress spending huge public money on advertisements and the Chief Minister’s Vikas Yatra”.

The complaint has been sent on behalf of the legal wing of the Shiromani Akali Dal ,of which Mr Dhanda is the president. In the letter to the Chief Election Commissioner of India, Mr N. Gopalaswami, copies of which have been sent to the Election Commissioners, Mr Navin B. Chawla and Dr S.Y. Quraishi, Mr Dhanda has pointed out that even though the Model Code of Conduct has not yet been implemented, the state government cannot be allowed to spend huge public money on a party’s election campaign.

Seeking immediate intervention to stop the “misuse” of public money, the complaint has asked the commission to seek an explanation from the Chief Minister, the Chief Secretary, the Finance Secretary and the Director, Public Relations, with regard to the spending on the advertisements and the Vikas Yatra.

The complaint, signed by Mr Dhanda and the legal wing secretary-general, Mr Iqbal Singh Gill, has accused Chief Minister Amarinder Singh of not being accessible to the public during the past five years of Congress rule, but with the elections round the corner, the Congress has adopted a novel way of spending public money on the party campaign by releasing advertisements. He has pointed out that a complaint in this regard was pending before the commission. A Shiromani Akali Dal MP, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, had at a meeting apprised the commission of the spending on the advertisements, the complaint reads.

It has been further alleged that officials of the government departments concerned were reluctant to release money for the construction of the special bus that was used for the Vikas Yatra, but were coerced into releasing it. Further, he has accused the government machinery of conducting “pre-dominantly an election campaign”

The complaint especially takes exception to the photographs printed in newspapers with the caption “Lacs of Punjabis join the Vikas Yatra of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh”, which it says was paid for by the government. “This amounts to self- glorification of the Chief Minister with a clear eye on the forthcoming elections.”


Cong rally a ‘tamasha’, says Sukhbir
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
The Shiromani Akali Dal, today alleged that yesterday’s Ludhiana-rally of the Congress was “a Rs 25 crore tamasha”. The SAD, general secretary, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, said here today the non-seriousness was evident from the fact that despite the rally being named as “Vikas Yatra”, none of the leaders present there spoke a word about development.

The key issues of the people of Punjab like the farmers indebtedness, unemployment, price rise, traders’ and industrialists’ problems failed to find a place in the agenda for future.

Mr Badal claimed that his party had definite information on how black money totaling Rs 25 crore had been used”. The rally itself remained a public nuisance, failing to attract the common man. He claimed: “Even after misuse of government machinery and money, the crowds failed even to fill the space earmarked for it and the whole show fell far short of SAD’s Chandigarh rally which had actually sent shock waves in Congress camp.”

Mr Badal said his party had reduced the Chief Minister to a mere copy cat. “Even to organize rallies and plan media advertisements, the Chief Minister and his team have to rely on the inspired ideas of an enthused SAD”. Amarinder is so haunted by the SAD success that he is finding it impossible to do anything more than copying us, claimed Mr Badal.

About the Chief Minister remarks about the relevance of Children’s day to Akali leaders, Mr Badal said he found nothing wrong with the Congress choosing November 14 for its rally, “because none of the leaders displayed a mental level beyond that of a 10 year old.”


Cong to hold parallel rally with SAD
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 15
The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today announced a parallel rally of his party to match the one the Shiromani Akali Dal has planned on December 8 at Moga. The Congress will hold its rally at Badal village, the native place of SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

Capt Amarinder Singh today said “December 8 is the birthday of Badal and we will celebrate it in his village in style.” Another huge show would be held to match the one at Ludhiana, he said.

So far leading political parties in the state have by and large refrained from holding rallies on the same day to counter each other or to express themselves. The only exception is made for religious congregations on historic annual melas when leading parties hold parallel congregations to address the gathering.

This will be the second such rally of the Congress in the Badal backyard within the last 12 months. The last one was held in December last year at Lambi village.

Also the Chief Minister announced the next two phases of Vikas Yatra. The second phase will be from November 22 to 24 and will start from Attari on the Indo-Pak border. This will largely cover the Majha area.

The third phase will be from December 10 to 12 and will be in the Doaba area covering Hoshiarpur and Jalandhar.

He said he would like the yatra to reach its peak in February as the elections might be held during the third or the fourth week of February.

The Chief Minister made a candid confession, “I had never expected such a turnout or response during the yatra or at the rally.”

When asked about his relationship with the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee chief, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, the Chief Minister said it was a matter of perception.

“Mr Dullo feels that people should be taken in the Congress selectively, whereas I believe people who want to join the Congress or those who left the party and are coming back now should be taken in,” he added.

“Since the party is looking at the winning prospects of candidates, we have to get winners and not look at their backgrounds,” the Chief Minister added.


Navjot, BJP chief in ‘verbal duel’
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 15
An unsavoury situation arose at the Rajasansi International Airport when Mr Navjot Sidhu, a member of Parliament from Amritsar, and Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, state BJP chief, entered into a verbal duel after seeing off the national party president, Mr Rajnath Singh, here yesterday evening.

Eyewitnesses who pleaded anonymity, said the trouble arose due to some sarcastic remarks passed by Mr Khanna when Mr Sidhu was driving the vehicle that took Mr Rajnath Singh to the airport . However, after the send-off, Mr Sidhu asked Mr Khanna as to why he had passed such remarks in the presence of the national president. On this, both the BJP leaders exchanged hot words.

However, both Mr Khanna and Mr Sidhu denied having entered into any verbal duel. To a pointed question, Mr Sidhu clarified that he did not touch Mr Khanna physically as was being alleged by some eyewitnesses. When questioned about details of the incident, Mr Sidhu said he would not say anything since he never discussed party issues in the public.

He said it was something between two brothers which could not be shared. After repeated queries, Mr Sidhu said: “ Ask Mr Khanna.” He said he always held Mr Khanna in high esteem as he was the state party president. Similarly, Mr Khanna claimed that nothing had happened.

However, eyewitnesses said certain senior leaders, including Mr Bakshi Ram Arora, district BJP president, sided with Mr Sidhu at the time of the verbal duel .

It is believed that the move of the party high command to entrust Mr Sidhu with the responsibility of managing the poll campaign during the forthcoming assembly elections, had strained the relations between the party stalwarts.


Punjab rattan award installed
Vidhu Vinod Chopra first recipient
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, November 15
The Government of Punjab has installed Sunil Dutt Punjab Rattan Award for Punjabis excelling in different fields. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh. The first such award will be given to Vidhu Vinod Chopra, director, “Lage Raho Munna Bhai”, a Hindi feature film, at a function to be organised in Amritsar tomorrow.

Mr Raj Kumar Verka, parliamentary secretary, said this while addressing a press conference here today. He went on to say that the Punjab Government has also decided to install a Sunil Dutt film fare award. Every year artistes who excel in Punjabi films will get seven awards, carrying a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh, for various categories like cameraman, director and writers. Artistes who make Hindi films pertaining to Punjab would also be considered for this award.

The award will be distributed at a youth festival organised at B.B.K. College for Women tomorrow. During the festival a contest would also be organised on songs of the films done by Sunil Dutt.

Baba Ramdev, Priya Dutt, daughter of the late Sunil Dutt, and Mr R.L. Bhatia, Governor of Kerala, would grace the occasion. According to Mr Raj Kumar, an all-religion prayer will also be organised at the circuit house for the welfare of Sanjay Dutt, who is facing a trial in the Bombay blasts case.


SI shoots father-in-law
Tribune News Service

Malout, November 15
A sub-inspector (SI) posted as additional SHO at the Sadar police station in Abohar reportedly shot his father-in-law Kundan Singh to death and injured two other members of his in-laws’ family in the wee hours here today.

Paramjeet Kaur said she got married to SI Ravi Kumar at a gurdwara in Ambala six months back. Though she claimed to possess a CD and photographs of her marriage, she could not produce the same before the media persons.

She alleged that when she became pregnant, her husband started pressurising her to abort her foetus, to which she and her family members were opposed. Sources said there was tension between the two parties over the matter for the past few days.

Ravi Kumar reached Paramjeet’s home here early in the morning and allegedly shot Kundan Singh at pointblank range when he opened the door, killing him on the spot. Sources said when his son Jaswinder Singh came out, he too received gunshots in his chest, shoulder and back, while his wife Gurmail Kaur was allegedly shot at on a hand.

On hearing gunshots from the household, some neighbours converged on the spot.

Sensing trouble, Ravi Kumar allegedly fled the scene.

Both the injured were admitted to Adesh Hospital in Muktsar where their condition was reported to be stable.

A case has been registered against Ravi Kumar under Sections 302 and 307 of the IPC and the Arms Act.

Meanwhile, sources said Ravi Kumar was married earlier and had a daughter from the wedlock before he entered into a relationship with Paramjeet Kaur, though it was not clear whether he divorced his first wife or not.

When contacted, Malout DSP Manjeet Inder Singh Bal said Ravi Kumar was on a month-long leave and a police party had been dispatched to Abohar to nab him.


New merit list to be prepared for teachers
Kulwinder Sangha

Mohali, November 15
Thousands of aspirants turned up at the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) here today even as the merit list prepared for the selection of teachers went haywire as a letter from Punjab University, Chandigarh, was received for addition of internal assessment marks.

A protest was organised by some of the candidates in the evening alleging that their documents were not being scrutinised by the authorities concerned on the pretext that they were not eligible for the posts. The protesters raised slogans against the Punjab Government. They alleged that the eligibility criteria of the department was not proper as certain candidates, especially those holding degrees of bachelors of physical education, were not being considered. The SDM reached the spot as the situation got tense.

C-DAC is taking care of the recruitment of teachers under various categories for the Punjab Government. Candidates were called for scrutiny of their academic, experience and date of birth certificates.

Candidates who had done their B.Ed from the Panjab University were on the losing end as far as getting a job of a teacher was concerned because their internal assessment marks had not been added to the grand total contrary to what had been done by other universities. A merit list was prepared by the authorities concerned on the basis of the grand total given in the certificates of students from different universities.

According to sources, the Registrar of Panjab University had yesterday written a letter to the Secretary, Department of School Education, Punjab, stating that students who had passed their B.Ed examination from Panjab University had been awarded degrees on the basis of their external assessment marks only. Some candidates, who had applied for jobs, had pointed out that candidates from other universities had been awarded degrees on the basis of internal as well as external assessment and their percentage was being taken into account by the department concerned.

The Registrar further said in the letter that the Panjab University had also shown internal assessment marks in their certificates and the percentage of marks may be calculated at par with the candidates from other universities for employment.

Mr J.S.Bhatia, Director, C-DAC, said that the merit list would have to be prepared all over again as the inclusion of internal assessment marks would make a lot difference. The data would have to be processed all over again.

The area around C-DAC was thronged by a large number of persons. Long queues of aspirants were also seen at the entry gate of the C-DAC. The main gate was closed and entry was allowed only after checking whether the candidate had marks above the cut off percentage.

The police had put up barricades to restrict the entry of unwanted persons near the C-DAC area.


Hectic activity ahead of SGPC chief’s election
KS Chawla

Ludhiana, November 15
Ahead of the election of the SGPC chief scheduled to be held on November 25, hectic activities have started in Akali circles. Supporters of Mr Avtar Singh Makkar, present incumbent, have become very active to ensure his re-election.

Mr Avtar Singh Makkar was selected to head the SGPC last year by Mr Parkash Singh Badal to check the influence of the Sarna brothers on the urban Sikhs in Punjab and Delhi. In fact, the urban, committed Akalis had become vulnerable to the influence of Mr Paramjit Singh Sarna who was then heading the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee and had taken the golden ‘palki’ to Nankana Sahib.

Mr Avtar Singh Makkar at that time was the vice-president of the Shiromani Akali Dal and a member of the Political Affairs Committee of the dal and he was mostly considered a local Akali leader of Ludhiana. Under such circumstances, he was expected to play a major role in maintaining his position as president of the SGPC. He did get the opportunity in the wake of celebrations of centenaries scheduled for the year of his tenure. But mostly these functions were mired in controversies. The Sarna brothers, meanwhile continue to play their role to ward off the influence of Mr Badal from Delhi Akali politics. Besides, Mr Makkar has been known for rolling back most of the decisions that he took in administrative matters in the SGPC. His statements that he will create discipline in the establishment and also weed out corruption from the gurdwara administration came to have little meaning. It is rumoured that Mr Badal and his son, Sukhbir, are not satisfied with his performance. But the Badals, too, have very little choice as the entire SGPC House is packed with persons having political ambitions. They have little to do with the gurdwara administration. Moreover, the decision taken by Mr Badal during the tenure of Bibi Jagir Kaur to allow discretionary fund and to allow a say to members of the SGPC in local gurdwaras falling in their constituencies has given them some authority which has resulted in largescale corruption at all levels in the SGPC. If Mr Makkar has proved unequal to his task, it is not his fault. In fact, the system has failed him which has degenerated due to the reasons which are beyond the control of Mr Makkar.

There are a few names among members of the SGPC of whom Mr Badal can think of if he chooses to replace Mr Makkar. They are Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, Bibi Kiranjot Kaur and Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi. Among the three, two have already served as president of the religious body. Only Mr Jagdev Singh Talwandi did take strong decisions to bring fiscal discipline because he acted independently like Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

From the Akali Dal (Badal), the only name that commands some respect is that of Bibi Kiranjot Kaur. She is the grand-daughter of veteran Akali leader Master Tara Singh whose mystique still reigns over the minds of the committed Akalis. She is well-educated and knows her limitations in administrative intricacies. She has observed everything closely as general secretary of the SGPC as well. She also meets the argument of placating the urban Sikh voters. Another name that can crop up is that of Mr Sukhdev Singh Bhaur, a one-time close confidant of Mr Tohra. Sources in the SGPC say that he is close to Mr Badal these days and is keeping a low profile.

On the other hand, the splinter Akali factions who have formed the Panthic Morcha and have launched the Gurdwara Reform Movement II, are quite active this time. They have left the task of formulating the strategy to Mr Simranjit Singh Mann. The Morcha claims the support of 35 members of the SGPC. The Panthic Morcha is contemplating organising a parallel general house at Amritsar on November 25 and set up a shadow SGPC. This is being done to free the SGPC from the clutches of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, says Prof Jagmohan Singh, general secretary of the Akali Dal (Amritsar) and a spokesman of the Morcha.

Prof Jagmohan Singh claims that the Panthic Morcha has succeeded in bringing awareness among the Sikhs about the misuse of gurdwara funds by the Badal faction for political purposes and the need to introduce reforms in the SGPC. The SGPC must be freed from the present ‘mahants’, he emphasises.


BJP rally for Sangrur seat unfortunate: Dhindsa
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, November 15
The rally to be held on November 18 here by the BJP to show its strength in the Sangrur Assembly constituency at this stage is ”unfortunate” and not a good sign for the SAD-BJP alliance as discussions were going on between the two alliance partners to decide the constituencies and number of seats to be contested by the parties in the ensuing Punjab Assembly elections.

Talking to The Tribune today, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, secretary general of SAD, said such steps by the BJP could have an adverse effect during the elections on both parties. Due to certain statements and actions of the BJP leaders after one meeting, no other meeting of the SAD-BJP coordination committee could be held.

Yesterday, the Sangrur district unit of the BJP had staked its claim on the Sangrur Assembly seat and decided to hold a rally on November 18 here to show its strength and compel the SAD leadership to give the Sangrur Assembly seat to the BJP.

Mr Dhindsa also disclosed that the BJP leadership had also urged the SAD leadership to take the Rajpura and Garhshankar Assembly seats from it and had sought two other seats in lieu of these seats in the state.

With regard to the merger of the SAD (Longowal), led by Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra, Mr Dhindsa said talks were on with the SAD (Longowal) in this direction.

Mr Dhindsa also said the meeting of the SAD manifesto committee would be convened in the end of this month.


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