L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S

Birmi steals a march over Mayor Gill
Gets Ludhiana rural ticket
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
It was disappointment all the way for the city Mayor, Mr Nahar Singh Gill, a Congress contender for the Ludhiana Rural Assembly, when the party high command named Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi, sitting MLA, as the candidate for the ensuing elections.

Though the party had not released Mr Birmi's name in the list released yesterday, he hit the road in his segment to garner votes from the residents in the morning today. He claimed that the Chief Minister and the PPCC president had asked him to start campaigning as he was the final candidate.

The outcome however, did not go well with the city Mayor who was keeping his fingers crossed till the last minute. ‘‘I am pained at the party's decision. I really worked very hard to be a candidate. After all, I have been a loyal Congressman. My loyalty should have been awarded,” he remarked with dejection writ large on his face.

He said he had not left any stone unturned to keep in touch with the people of the area. The balming factor was that the Congress considered the proven candidates and no new faces.

The Mayor said he would announce his next course of action in the coming days. He would decide whether he would like to continue with the Congress or behave as a rebel. ‘‘It is too early to say anything. Let the events unfold itself first.” he said.

Mr Gill had been very active in the segments during the past one year. Starting from organising Sangat Darshans to taking out a road show, the Mayor had done it all. And he stood a fair chance due to his proximity with Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, PPCC chief. Moreover, Mr Birmi was expelled from the post of the Parliamentary Secretary some months ago and Mr Dullo was seen making statements against him.

Celebrations were the order of the day at Mr Birmi's Sarbaha Nagar residence. The list was released in the evening but supporters broke into revelry in the morning. Expressing his happiness Mr Birmi said he already knew he would be the next candidate.

But with the Mayor being angry with the party's decision, it seems the fight would not be that easy for Mr Birmi. With Mr Hira Singh Gabria, SAD candidate, contesting against him, Mr Birmi would really have to work hard to retain his membership.



Garcha, Mangewal melt, join campaign
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana January 18
SAD candidate from Payal Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal today heaved a sigh of relief with two senior party leaders, Mr Mann Singh Garcha and Mr Harnek Singh Mangewal joining his campaign in presence of party president Parkash Singh Badal.

Mr Garcha, Mr Mangewal, along with Mr Jagjivanpal Singh Gill, were also the claimants from Payal. So far they had maintained a distance from Mr Grewal and were not joining his campaign.

However, Mr Badal personally influenced the two senior leaders to work for Mr Grewal. He reportedly told them that Mr Grewal was the choice of the party and it was every worker's duty to ensure his victory. He said not getting ticket was not the end of everything as the party leaders had great scope in the organisation and also in the government.

Mr Garcha and Mr Mangewal assured their full support to Mr Grewal. They promised Mr Badal that they would ensure that the party nominee was elected from Payal by a record margin. They also clarified that they had nothing personal against anybody and had staked the claim for the ticket like everybody else.

Addressing the rally, Mr Badal accused the Congress of sabotaging the interests of the state in general and farmers in particular. He alleged that the farmers were robbed off their land and it was given to multinational companies at the throwaway prices. He promised that once his party formed the government in the state, the agriculture would get the top priority.

He urged the rank and file of the party to unite and work for the victory. “It will not be anybody’s personal victory, but that of the party and of each worker”, he said, while appealing to those, who had not joined the campaign so far to come forward in this crucial time. He said, the party “cannot and will not” ignore the contribution of workers and leaders at any cost. Mr Grewal expressed gratitude to the party leaders and workers for encouraging him.



Cong stays away from interaction with industrialists
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
Congress leaders stayed away from the much talked of interaction organised by the local industry to discuss issues concerning them with various parties here last evening. In their interaction, leaders from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party detailed the course of action they would adopt to deal with problems of industry in the state and promised to adopt industry-friendly policies.

The situation at the meeting, conducted by the Apex Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was quite interesting as industrialists asserted themselves and made Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, SAD candidate from Payal, Mr Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, MP, Mr Harish Rai Dhanda, SAD candidate from Ludhiana west, and Mr Harish Bedi (BJP) from Ludhiana east listen to their woes for more than two hours.

Despite the fact that most industrialists turned up an hour late from the scheduled time, the leaders gave them a patient hearing.

Listing the issues, Mr P.D. Sharma apprised political leaders of difficulties that trade and industry had to face to make their voice heard, poor power supply in the state, delay in VAT refunds, provisions pertaining to electricity theft and 66 kv scheme.

"Power generation is our priority," Mr M.I.S. Grewal, told industrialists. Detailing industry-related issues listed in the party's manifesto, he added, "while forming industrial boards, we would make sure that the representative is from among you and not a bureaucrat or a politician."

Stating that industry is on priority list of SAD-BJP, Mr Dhillon said:"We cannot afford to ignore industry and realise that if we focus only on one segment like agriculture, the coming generations would not forgive us."

When industrialists condemned sops being given to agriculture, Mr Grewal asked them to realise the need for balance in economy."We cannot make promises that are false. All segments, industry as well as agriculture, have to be taken care of." The leaders also promised that they would end discrepancies in electricity tariffs for different segments.

The meeting, that was attended by industrialists from over 30 different associations, was a much-awaited event. Several times during the meeting, industrialists expressed their anger when they were given little time to narrate their woes. For Mr Dhillon, the situation became difficult when he tried to leave for another meeting and the same was resented by industrialists. Calming the participants, he stayed till the meeting lasted.

While a section of industrialists, Congress supporters, justified absence of Congress leadership from the meeting on account of their being busy due to decision on allotment of tickets, many condemned the party for remaining absent from the scenario.

“We had been looking forward to this meeting for the last several days. We were keen on knowing opinions of both parties in tackling industry-related problems. Sadly, only BJP and SAD candidates were present,” commented an industrialist



Smuggling brings down liquor price
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
With Bacchus lovers all set to be drenched in high spirits during the elections, intense liquor price war is on in the district. Liquor is being smuggled in the town from Chandigarh where it is available at low rates.

Candidates of various parties have contributed to the price war by bargaining with local vend owners citing the rate of the smuggled liquor. They have already started sending and offering cases of liquor to journalists and officials in hope of reaping rich dividends.

After maintaining the high rates compared to the price of liquor in the Union Territory last year, several vend owners in Ludhiana have been forced to scale down the prices and make it available to candidates of various parties.

The vends normally require a permit from the Excise Department for selling boxes of bottles. But many have started selling the product under the table at reduced prices to prevent the candidates from buying huge stocks from smugglers. Informed sources revealed that the licenced vends would otherwise suffer huge losses as the smugglers would walk away with selling most of the quantity at lower prices.

According to sources, the the candidates with their limitations regarding showing the expenses also encourage buying the booty unaccounted either from the smugglers or the liquor vends and are stocking it up. No vend owner was willing to be quoted fearing the Excise Department.

It remains to be seen how the state Election Department and the state Excise Department would check the illegal activity. Punjab has the infamous distinction of being one of the highest liquor consuming state in the country and the high quantity of liquor that flows in the run up to the elections is an open secret.

The sources revealed that the prices may further go down as only major vend owners have curtailed the prices.

The Tribune has learnt the different whole sale rates per box of various brands from reliable sources. These rates speak for themselves about the huge disparity between the smuggled liquor from Chandigarh and the rates here.



Sigma Heart owners booked for cheating
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
The police has booked Dr Amardeep Singh and his wife Sumit Singh, owners of Sigma Heart Centre, Gurdev Nagar, for cheating and conspiracy on the complaint of the Indian Security Service, Dholewal, whose security guards were not allegedly paid dues for working at the hospital.

According to an FIR, complainant Jagraj Singh, proprietor of the security services, has alleged that they had provided security guards to the hospital owned by the two accused, who did not pay their salaries.

Later, on persistent reminders, the accused gave him a cheque for Rs 17,500, which had bounced. The security service then moved an application to the police as the accused had allegedly refused to pay the due amount.

The accused have been booked under Sections 406, 420 and 120-B of the IPC.



Poll: No fair deal for fair sex
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
Though women are being encouraged to remain active and contest poll from the panchayat to Parliament level, regional and national parties have not shown any interest to put up women candidates in Assembly elections here.

None of the parties has fielded a woman candidate. All candidates announced by different parties in all 12 Assembly segments in the district are males.

This has created quite a heartburn among women contenders, who were lobbying hard for Congress ticket but were rejected at the last minute. Though they are not willing to come on record and prefer to maintain a ‘‘party loyalist’’ image, they express disappointment, stating that they were left out as they were women.

They say that they had worked for the party from the grassroots level and were hoping that they would be considered for the Assembly elections but the outcome has dashed their ambitions to the ground.

‘‘Despite Ms Sonia Gandhi being at the helm of affairs, we are left to feel that it is all a male-dominated system. It is very difficult to approach senior leaders. And if we manage to meet them, it fails to make an impact. ’’ said a contender.

Ms Amrit Varsha Rampal, a local councillor and Ms Jasvinder Kaur, a lawyer, were seeking ticket from West constituency. Dr Manjit Kaur, SMO of the Civil Hospital, who happens to be a daughter of former President of India, Giani Zail Singh, was also seeking candidature from the Rural segment. But their applications were turned down.

Ms Rampal had sought ticket on the basis of development done by her in the ward as a councillor.

Ms Jasvinder Kaur was also being supported by a number of organisations and communities. Her husband, Mr Amarjit Singh Tikka, a senior Congress leader, also enjoys good support in the area. Dr Manjit Kaur had even announced to resign from her post if she was named the candidate.

‘‘The way we were asked to stake our claim for the candidature, we were sure that our party was looking for some female faces. But the way we were treated at the end has left us shattered. I do not think there is any future for women in this party. ’’ said a contender, who did not find her name on the final list.

Another claimant said she was told by high-ups to fill her application. ‘‘I was quite sure that I would ne named. But things did not go my way. Nobody wanted to give tickets to women from the city although Ludhiana women have proved their mettle in all fields. ’’ she said.



Tempers flare over removal of banners
Mahesh Sharma
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, January 18
The incident of removal and tearing banners of the SAD-BJP candidate from Kilaraipur has triggered anger among activists and supporters of the nominee.

Accusing Congress nominee of intimidating residents of the area to remove banners and flags of all other parties from their buildings, the SAD candidate sought the intervention of officials of the Election Commission and the district administration in the case.

However, Mr Jasbir Singh Khangura, Congress nominee, denied the charges and retaliated by blaming the complainant of trying to win public sympathy by getting the banners torn by his own men.

Referring to information received from party activists, Mr Khangura alleged: "Rather they have damaged and removed our banners from Dangon, Shahpur and Nangal villages."

In a communication addressed to the Chief Election Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner, Ludhiana, SAD nominee Jagdish Singh Garcha accused Mr Jasbir Singh Khangura and his supporters of violating the election code by intimidating activists of SAD and the public against canvassing in the rival’s favour.

"Frustrated over the change of loyalties of certain former Congress activists to our party, they, instead of facing the situation, started threatening them of dire consequences in case they continued supporting me.

The Congress nominee got a large number of our banners and hoardings removed and damaged by their henchmen tonight," alleged Mr Garcha. Hoardings put up at the farmhouse of Major Singh of Chhapar village and one near Jagera Bridge were later erected by the candidate and his supporters.



Gosain undergoes angioplasty

Ludhiana, January 18
Former Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker and BJP candidate from Ludhiana (East) Satpal Gosain reportedly suffered a mild heart attack a couple of days ago. He was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Hero DMC Heart Centre following complaints of chest pain.

It was learnt that the angioplasty was performed on the BJP leader yesterday. He was understood to be responding well to the treatment and was likely to be discharged in a couple of days.

His family members, however, refused to speak. They claimed that Mr Gosain was busy in organisational work. They claimed, he was hale and hearty and was already into the campaign and was regularly meeting people. Even the doctors in the Hero DMC Heart Centre remained "not available" throughout the day.

The doctors reportedly advised him the angioplasty that has fast recovery. Mr Gosain is a diabetic. — TNS



Tata launches stretch limousine
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 18
Tata Motors launched Indigo XL, a stretch limousine, in the city today. According to the company, the car combines luxury and comfort at the price of a sedan.

"It is equipped with all features one finds in limousines”, said a company official.

The company will start production at the new plant, set up with Fiat Autos in Ranjangaon, in the coming six months. An investment of Rs 4,000 crore has been made for the plant.

The official said the car is bigger and offers more legroom in comparison to even luxury segment cars. It offers features like two air- conditioners, chiller and headrest- mounted LCD screens. Priced at Rs 6.71 lakh (ex-showroom Ludhiana) for its petrol version and Rs 7.38 lakh for the diesel version, the car is available in four colours.



Biz Clip

Promotional campaign

Ludhiana: Kirtilals have launched a 'Dazzle And Drive' campaign under which its customers would be entitled to a lucky draw. In a press note issued here on Thursday, the company said it would give a bumper prize of 15 cars for winners in its stores in Ludhiana, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kochi and Vijaywada. — TNS



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