P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


AICC elicits MPs’ views
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 13
The AICC screening committee, tasked with shortlisting the Congress nominees for next month’s Assembly elections in Punjab, had an extended meeting yesterday and specially took the suggestions of members of Parliament from the state on the strategy and criteria for zeroing in on the candidates.

These MPs met the screening committee separately and expressed their views considering the various lobbies at work seeking to push the candidature of their nominees.

Armed with a broad consensus, the screening committee discussed the issues at hand with Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh and PPCC Chief Shamsher Singh Dullo.

There was an element of confusion initially as the PPCC had not come forward with a panel of names for each of the 117 constituencies in the border state. After much vacillation and the DCC chiefs having failed to shortlist a panel of names from their areas, the PPCC received applications directly. On its part the PPCC was scheduled to meet in Chandigarh on January 9 to finalise the panels but could not do so as the scene had shifted to the national Capital.

Then, there were complaints that the party leadership had not deliberated with all the sections in the organisation.

This compelled the screening committee to enlarge its ambit of consultations by also inviting the Congress MPs from Punjab.

They included Rana Gurjit Singh, Preneet Kaur, M.S. Gill, Dharam Pal Sabharwal, Union Minister of State Ashwani Kumar and Jagmeet Singh Brar.

With Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Dullo accompanied by Jagmeet Singh Brar having dashed off to Muktsar today for the Magi festival, the AICC screening committee, comprising Mohsina Kidwai, Union minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Janardhan Dwivedi and Santosh Bagrodia, is now expected to meet again on January 16 when the panel of names for each of the constituency in Punjab will be gone through with a toothcomb.

It is only after the AICC screening committee for Punjab completes its work that the party’s Central Election Committee will step in to give the seal of approval for the Congress nominees.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Bhavan in the Capital is virtually under siege. Punjab ministers, MLAs and other ticket aspirants are knocking at the doors of various party leaders and trying to have an interface with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

PPCC vice-president and veteran trade union leader M.M. Singh Cheema called on Mrs Gandhi this afternoon and apprised her of the general political situation in Punjab. While expressing confidence that the Congress would be able to retain power in Punjab as the SAD was bereft of any issues, the AICC member urged the Congress president to assiduously shun people with a known criminal record. Such elements should not be encouraged or given a party ticket to contest the Assembly elections.

Mr Cheema also stressed that the party high command should adhere strictly to the principle of nominating one member per family rather than having multiple members of the same family in the electoral fray.

He also apprised Mrs Gandhi of the Srihargobindpur constituency and expressed happiness that the Congress would be going it alone this time without an alliance with the CPI (M).


CM: We will wipe out Badals
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 13
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, here today stated that the Congress would go for the political kill of the Badals and ensure that their political existence was wiped out in Punjab in the coming Assembly elections.

The Chief Minister arrived at the conference venue for Maghi Mela accompanied by former Congress MP from Faridkot Jagmeet Brar and President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee Shamsher Singh Dullo. He expressed amity with Mr Brar, claiming that they would be working together to ensure the success of the Congress candidates.

Mr Brar also expressed similar feeling while addressing the gathering. It was after two years that both leaders shared a stage at the Maghi Mela.

Lashing out at SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal and his son Sukhbir Singh Badal, Capt Amarinder Singh said the father-son-duo were in a state of fear with the Assembly elections just around the corner. They had no political agenda to seek the mandate.

Rubbishing the allegations levelled by Mr Sukhbir Badal against Punjab DGP S. S. Virk, the Chief Minister said there was no violation of service rules as approval for the mega project had been sought by DGP's elder brother. Any citizen could do so, he added.

Mr Dullo said the list of the Congress aspirants for ticket had been scrutinised and the final list would be released in a day or so. He said winning chances of a candidate had been the sole criterion for giving ticket.


Muktsar killings: 7-day remand for accused

Muktsar, January 13
Mukesh Kumar who was nabbed by the Muktsar police yesterday on charges of murdering five Bawaria children, was remanded to seven-day police custody by a local court this evening.

Mukesh Kumar, hailing from Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh, was produced in the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate today as the sole accused in the case.

The police also claimed that Mukesh Kumar had not only committed rape and murder of four kids whose decomposed bodies were found in an abandoned rice mill, but had also lead the police to the body of another child identified as seven-year-old Sarita, whom he had murdered in September 2006.

Muktsar police today got the post mortem of Sarita conducted at the Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital. Samples for the DNA test were also taken. — OC


Out of father’s shadow
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 13
Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, a shy politician until recently, has emerged as a different kind of rabble-rouser on the state's political scene.

For years, he grew politically under the shadow of his father, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, a man with infinite patience.

However, he has now moved beyond his father’s shadow and virtually calls the shots in the SAD. In fact, he has started overshadowing his father. He has decided most of the SAD candidates for the Assembly elections.

The fact that the Faridkot SAD MLA, Mr Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon, was forced to give an advertisement in newspapers regarding his loyalty to Mr Sukhbir Singh speaks volumes about the latter’s grip over the party.

For the past two weeks, Mr Dhillon has been kept waiting for renomination as the party candidate from Faridkot.

Mr Dhillon is the only sitting MLA to face such an awkward situation. Doubts had cropped up in Mr Sukhbir Singh's mind about Mr Dhillon's loyalty and hence the clarification by him, said sources.

"All moves against Chief Minister Amarinder Singh regarding the elections have been planned and executed at the level of Mr Sukhbir Singh," said the sources.

There was a strong feeling that Mr Sukhbir Singh's emergence to the top in the SAD will not be digested by senior SAD leaders. Though there is resentment, yet no one has spoken against him openly. His moving to the centrestage of the SAD has been largely accepted, barring one or two leaders.

Perhaps unwittingly, Capt Amarinder Singh has contributed to make Mr Sukhbir Singh what he is today. Capt Amarinder Singh provoked the junior Badal several times to make statements against him (Capt).

Taking on the Chief Minister in a hard-hitting manner added a dimension to the political and personal profile of the junior Badal.

Mr Sukhbir Singh has established control over the party in a systematic manner with the tacit support of his father.

Playing a master stroke, Mr Sukhbir Singh inducted sons of senior Akali leaders into the youth wing of the party.

"Since all Akali leaders, like those in other parties, are keen on brightening the political prospects of their wards, Mr Sukhbir Singh took full advantage of this weakness and wasted no time in accommodating their sons in the youth wing," said a political observer. 


Freed, Sidhu plays the hero
Warns ‘hankari’ Raja ‘hun mein aagya han’
Chander Parkash and Ravi Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 13
Attired in clothes he wore when he entered the jail 36 hours ago, former Amritsar MP Navjot Singh Sidhu walked out of the Patiala Central Jail a free man this afternoon after his lawyers completed formalities in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate.

A special courier brought the Supreme court bail documents at midnight, but Mr Sidhu had to wait till this morning to make his exit from the jail. His lawyers submitted a bail bond of Rs 25,000 and a surety of the like amount in the court.

There were boisterous scenes outside the jail premises since morning once it became known that Mr Sidhu and co-charged in the case Rupinder Sandhu would be able to walk out today itself.

There were rumours since yesterday that the MP would have to wait till Monday to come out of the jail since documents pertaining to his bail would be available only on Monday morning.

Hundreds of BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) workers assembled in the court premises in the morning in anticipation of the big news. The media-savvy Sidhu, sensing an opportunity for a scathing attack on Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, launched a fiery speech, much to the delight of the crowd.

Atop a jeep, Mr Sidhu, was at his theatrical best. Playing to the gallery, for once he discarded ‘Sidhuism' and attacked the CM in chaste Punjabi. Thanking those present for support, he called Capt Amarinder Singh as an " hankari raja " (proud king).

" Meri gardan cut javegi, par mera sir is hankari raje age nahin jhukega." With his biting sarcasm, Mr Sidhu was successful in taking the crowd along. He said he " respected the judgement of the court but could neither respect the CM, nor submit to his whims and fancies.”

He doled out figures pertaining to the agricultural growth rate and economy of Punjab and challenged the CM to a debate on any issue.

"Main Punjab de mukh mantri nu challenge kardan han ki oh mere nal kise vi TV channel de samne Punjab de maslean te debate kare.” (I challenge the Punjab CM to have a debate with me an any issue relating to Punjab).

He made clear that he would campaign for BJP and SAD candidates all over Punjab in an attempt to " show the CM his place".

His tone got sharper with every word uttered. "Oye Raje, apne te hankar na kar, hun mein aagya han."

After the speech, he went to Gurudwara Dukhniwaran sahib where he was given with a siropa. His wife Dr (Mrs) Navjot Sidhu, daughter Rabia and son Karan were at the gurdwara to receive him.

He visited Kali Mata Mandir before leaving for Amritsar. A cavalcade of 50-odd vehicles trailed his car.

Among the local politicians present outside the jail complex were SAD candidate from Patiala Surjit Singh Kohli, SAD general secretary Balwinder Singh Saifdipur, Samana MLA Surjit Singh Rakhra, SAD Patiala unit president Indermohan Singh Bajaj and BJP Patiala unit president Anil Bajaj.


Virtual revolt in SAD
Ticket refusal to Ladal
Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 13
SAD President Parkash Singh Badal’s announcement to grant party ticket to SAD patron Sant Ajit Singh from Anandpur Sahib Assembly constituency led to a virtual revolt here today by party workers.

They were upset over the party chief ignoring former minister of the state Tara Singh Ladal, who was a strong contender for the party ticket from the constituency. Expressing resentment over the grant of party ticket to Sant, Ladal too gave two days’ time to Badal to review his decision otherwise he “would consider his loyalists’ demand to contest elections as an Independent candidate”.

The decision of Badal to field Sant Ajit Singh from Anandpur Sahib came as a surprise to the Akalis leaders here as Sant was not considered to be in the race for the party ticket. However, Sant Ajit Singh had been openly opposing the candidature of Ladal for the party ticket following differences while claiming ticket for his confidant.

Ladal was considered to be a strong contender for the ticket as he had won Assembly elections twice from this Assembly constituency earlier while he lost to Congress MLA Ramesh Dutt Sharma, in last Assembly elections.


SAD harps on police atrocities
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Muktsar, January 13
The Shiromani Akali Dal today again highlighted the already set agenda for the elections, promising highly subsidised atta and pulses, filling of all vacancies within six months of coming to power and also a health insurance scheme for farmers, among a slew of other things, at a rally here today.

The SAD leaders also tried to touch an emotional chord by reminding the audience of police atrocities on farmers and the unemployed youth. Some senior leaders lashed out at the Congress calling it "anti farmer" and a party under whose regime corruption had touched new heights.

Party chief Parkash Singh Badal said the Congress had done no good for the state during its five-year rule and the electorate would ensure that they did not come back to power. Party general secretary Sukhbir Badal said Capt Amarinder Singh had gone all out to target Mr Parkash Singh Badal. He claimed the Congress had failed on all fronts and all sections of society were unhappy under the present rule.


Rajpura: Khurana’s exit deepens suspense
Our Correspondent

Rajpura, January 13
With the Congress high command delaying the release of even the first list of party nominees, the race for ticket from the Rajpura Assembly constituency has intensified. The entry of Mr Raj Khurana, sitting Congress MLA, into the BJP fold has only deepened the suspense about the prospective Congress candidate from the prestigious constituency in Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s home district.

The SAD-BJP alliance has fielded Mr Khurana from this constituency.

In fact, if Congress sources are to be believed, several candidates are in the reckoning for the ticket. Mr Hardyal Singh Kamboj, administrative member of the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB), Mr Gurnam Singh Saidkheri, general secretary of the legal cell of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), and Mr Sharanjit Singh Jogipur, Markfed Director, are being considered the front-runners for the ticket.

The other claimants include Mr Narinder Shastri, president, Block Congress, Mr Rajinder Raja, president of the local Municipal Council, and Mr Mahinder Pappu, president of the local Improvement Trust. A top functionary of the Punjab Youth Congress is also reportedly in the race for the ticket.

And the possibility of an “outsider” being nominated by the party high command couldn’t be ruled out, a senior leader said. Since a number of sitting MLAs are likely to “lose” their constituencies, many “outsiders” are eyeing the ticket from this segment.


Shambhu on poll tandav
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 13
Shambhu Singh is bitterly angry. Let down by the Congress for which he claims to have given his blood and sweat, he now wants to get the party defeated from Ludhiana (rural).

He is contesting from here on the Jan Morcha (led by former Prime Minister V.P.Singh) ticket. Hailing from Patna, Shambhu Singh , like thousands others, arrived here as a migrant labourer decades ago.

Over a period, he worked his way to success and is now believed to be worth crores. He is into money-lending business which has landed him in trouble also. He is facing several criminal charges as well.

Talking to TNS, Shambhu Singh said that migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar had contributed in great measure to the phenomenal growth of Punjab, and Ludhiana in particular.

"Still we are not held in esteem.”

Shambhu Singh decided to float his party when he did not get any support by the Congress at the December 3, 2006 rally. "We needed politival backing. The Jan Morcha contacted us and assured its support", he said. Given the party ticket on January 8, 2007, by Mr V.P.Singh, Shambhu Singh seems to be confident to meet the challenge ahead.

Claiming he would get over one lakh votes from those who had migrated from Purvanchal, Shambhu Singh said he would work for the development of migrants in Punjab. "Till now, migrants have been held responsible for thefts and robberies in Punjab, but now they will get due respect", he said.

He said he would ensure minimum wages to the migrant population in this industrial town, which no previous government had ever tried to provide. Migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, living here for the many past decades, had no ration or voters cards. He said they were humiliated everywhere. "But fundamental rights will be given to them soon", he said.

He said the party would start its campaign on January 21, with a ‘Mazdoor Chetna’ rally at Dussehra Ground, Jamalpur, at which party leaders V.P.Singh and Raj Babbar would boost the morale of Purvanchalis.


For change, Independents on young minds
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 13
Disenchanted by political giants contesting Assembly elections on promises alone, many electors across the state, particularly youngsters, are this time dabbling with the idea of exercising their franchise in favour of change through Independent candidates.

So far Independent candidates have not been the hot favourites in the state. In the previous Assembly elections held in 2002, just nine Independents managed to emerge victorious from different parts of the state.

Political gurus say most people have till now desisted from casting their ballot in favour of Independents. For, the electors believe the number of returned Independent candidates will never be enough to form a government.

As such, contestants fighting without the party ticket will never have much say in the affairs. This is not all. People believe the possibility of Independent candidates being lured by political parties seeking a majority in case of a hung Assembly can never be ruled out.

Yet a number of people this time are considering the possibility of breaking free from the practice of stamping the symbols of celebrated political parties on the ballot papers, or staying away from the poll process.

“Till now I have maintained my distance from the democratic process of electing people’s representatives because I staunchly believe one party candidate is worse than the other,” says Salil Arora, a student in Amritsar . “But in 2007, I do not want to be involved in bringing the wrong person to power by not casting my vote. So, I am polling for an Independent candidate.”

But why an Independent contestant instead of party candidate? “Well, over the years successive governments have done nothing much to bring about a change in the socio-economic character of the state,” he says. “All political parties talk of generating employment and development, but the situation more or less remains the same”.

Teaching in a Ludhiana school, Neha Mongia agrees. She says nothing much has changed even with the coming of mega commercial and residential projects in the state. “Most computer giants and other information technology-related companies are getting trained manpower from outside. For the local Punjabis, it’s still job hunting!”

She believes the Independent candidate will at least do “something” to develop his constituency for coming back to power in the next Assembly elections.

Abohar-based businessman Shiraz Ahuja’s family has “traditionally” been voting for a political party. But now he is not very sure if the decision has been right. “Over the years I have observed that all major political parties spend the first three years in taking decisions that are more in personal than public interests.


Hoardings mock poll code
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 13
Big hoardings with pictures of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ms Sonia Gandhi, and Capt Amarinder Singh, promising development in the border state dot the main road, eclipsing the city landmarks, in gross violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

Even the entrance gate to the city has not been spared. The ‘Welcome’ board stands covered with a hoarding of the government, boasting of development works.

Low-rung leaders, including councillors, have installed hoardings with their own pictures in every nook and corner. Interestingly, some of these hoardings have pictures of leaders declared ‘dus numberi’ in police records.

These boards have come up through the local Municipal Corporation and Improvement Trust, despite the ban imposed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Though Mr Jugal Kishore Sharma, MLA and Chairman of the Improvement Trust, claims that he had ordered removal of all hoardings, yet a big one still 'greets' the voters at India Gate. Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, a former secretary, said he would write to the Chief Election Commission for appropriate action against the officials concerned who had 'deliberately' violated the election code and HC guidelines .

The ruling party has not spared government buildings either.

The High Court had banned such hoardings on rail tracks and roads within the Municipal Corporation limits as it distracted commuters, putting their lives at risk and causing accidents. The hoardings have been painted, courtesy various banks, leading jewellers and other business houses.

Interestingly, the MC allowed private persons to erect bus stop shelters, even as there is no local bus service. These private parties allegedly took huge amounts from companies for publicity of their products.

The municipal corporation has allowed installation of unipoles for putting up hoardings . These have gobbled up pavements and traffic islands in the city.


BKU (Lakhowal) to back SAD
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 13
The BKU led by Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal has resolved to support Mr Gurtej Singh Ghuriana, a SAD candidate from the Balluana (reserve) constituency.

This was announced by Mr Harpal Singh, president of the district unit of the BKU, at a rally organised at Bhagu village on the Abohar-Hanumangarh road yesterday evening.

Mr Gurdas Singh Badal, a former Lok Sabha MP, was also present on the occasion.

This comes as a major jolt to the Congress, which was yet to start its campaign.


Land mafia gets active
Our Correspondent

Abohar, January 13
With electioneering gaining momentum, land mafia has become active in the region.

Dr Om Parkash Mutneja, a resident of Radha Soami Colony, Hanumangarh road, who had lost his wife while spearheading a drive against land grabbers, today faxed a complaint to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh saying that armed members of the land mafia tried to grab a prime piece of land of his daughter’s in-laws near the colony.

The alleged gangsters came in a car with red light atop it and a sticker of “MLA” on the front glass pane. They stacked bricks on the boundary of the piece of land.


Cong victory in Patiala predicted
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 13
Mr Gopal Singla, general secretary of the District Congress Committee (Urban), claimed here yesterday that the Congress would win the coming Assembly elections with a big margin from Patiala.

“Voters of Patiala are very wise and well aware of the development works and other important decisions taken in the interest of the state by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh during the last five years, including relief to farmers, availability of electricity, bringing the economy of state on line,” he said. He added that the people would vote in favour of the Congress as they were satisfied with the present government and were aware of the projects and programmes in hand which would definitely benefit all sections of society in the coming times.


Poll Bol

Uma Bharti BJS will support SAD in case of a hung House

“In case of a hung Assembly, the Bharatiya Jan Shakti will support the Shiromani Akali Dal to form government in the state and won’t support the Congress due to ideological differences.” — Uma Bharti, president of the BJS

SAD, BJP bhai bhai

“The relation of the SAD and the BJP is like that of an elder brother and younger brother. So, there are no differences among these two brothers. If there are any, they will sort it out like brothers.” — Parkash Singh Badal, president of the SAD

Just tall claims

''People are fed up with the tall claims of the SAD to woo voters. The Akalis do not have any political agenda to pursue their election campaign.'' — Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister


Canadian companies prefer ex-servicemen, says chief of consultancy firm
Surinder Bhardwaj

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 13
The latest offer of World Wide Immigration Consultancy Services, (WWICS), to provide overseas job opportunities to ex-servicemen in the country has received tremendous response, particularly in Punjab, with 779 job orders being offered for premier Canadian companies, said Lt Col B. S. Sandhu, (retd), Chief Managing Director, WWICS.

While addressing a press conference after a seminar dedicated to global work opportunities for ex-servicemen at the Canadian Institute For International Studies, village Jalbehra, in the district today, Lt Col Sandhu said that WWICS is seeking hundreds of workers and professionals for various categories to cater to requirements by Canadian companies and for this it is looking mainly for ex-servicemen, who are known for their passion for work and discipline.

The jobs are for different categories. Mechanical trades like diesel mechanics, auto mechanics and agricultural equipment mechanics are in great demand. Hospitality professionals and general labour is also in great demand and with Punjab being a centre of human resource, Canadian firms are keen on Indians in general and Punjabis, in particular.

An application of a retired defence personnel will take approximately 2 to 4 months to mature which is very quick as far as immigration to Canada is concerned. It is not only ex-servicemen from this part of the country who can avail of this opportunity, but their relatives and family as well.

The seminar, which was attended by a large number of retired defence personnel was addressed by Lt Col Sandhu, Lt Gen K. S. Mann and Col G.S. Sidhu.


Man kills wife after greeting her on Lohri

Patiala, January 13
A man allegedly shot dead his estranged wife near her house here after greeting her "Happy Lohri" today.

Saudagar Singh of Sunam married Pallavi in February last year, but after two months his wife returned to her parents' house, the police said.

Pallavi was going out for shopping with her mother when her husband came up from behind and exchanged Lohri greetings with her, the police said while quoting eyewitnesses. Singh then allegedly pulled out a pistol from his pocket and fired three shots at her - one in the head and two in the chest - and drove off in his car, leaving Pallavi dead and her mother crying hysterically.

A case has been registered and the police has launched a hunt for Saudagar. — PTI


Yamini emerges winner in poetry recitation
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 13
A poetry recitation competition was held at Bir Dasaundhi Ram Community Centre, Model Town, by the Senior Citizens Welfare Association, here yesterday. Twelve schools from Patiala participated in the competition. Yamini Verma of Class IX of Bhupindra International Public School won the competition. She recited the poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ written by the famous poet Robert Frost, who was a lover of nature. Amantej Kaur recited a Punjabi poem ‘Aaj Akhan Waris Shah Nu’ written by the eminent Punjabi poetess late Ms Amrita Pritam showing the sufferings of women after the Partition, which was appreciated by one and all.


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