P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Virk should be sacked, says SAD
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 20
The Shiromani Akali Dal today welcomed the Election Commission's decision to transfer Punjab's Director-General of Police, Mr S.S. Virk, saying the party stand demanding his removal had been vindicated. The SAD demanded Mr Virk's sack and prosecution, saying that the highest electoral authority in the country had found him guilty of “corrupt practices and misuse of office.”

He is guilty of corrupt practices and misuse of office.

— SAD president

These are small upheavals in a long career.

— DGP S. S. Virk

The SAD, in a complaint to the Election Commission, had alleged that Mr Virk had been functioning as an "agent" of the ruling Congress and could go to "any extent to favour his political masters".

The EC had cleared the decks for criminal proceedings against Mr Virk under the Prevention of Corruption Act as “ favours had been accepted as a consideration for services rendered and proposed to be rendered to the Congress during the elections,” said Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

The SAD secretary general and former Union Minister Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa also welcomed the EC decision.

The Director-General of Police, Mr S.S. Virk, today said " I respect the order of the Election Commission of India" and added he had no plans to proceed on leave. Mr Virk was talking to mediapersons here.

“These are small upheavals in a long career," he philosophised. "As a public servant I am just doing my duty and beyond this, I have nothing to comment."

To a question, he said " the Punjab Police is capable of holding a free and fair poll.” He declined comment if his transfer was “politically motivated.”

Round one goes to Akalis

Chandigarh, January 20
The Shiromani Akali Dal is jubilant claiming to have scored a point in round one of the electoral bout against the ruling Congress, especially Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, by knocking out the state police chief, Mr S.S. Virk. The Election Commission had said that all policing work related to holding of elections should be taken away from the Director-General of Police.

The police nominates one of its senior officers, generally in the rank of Additional Director-General, for close liaison with the Election Commission, besides overseeing cases pertaining to violation of the People’s Representation Act, but overall control remains with the DGP.

The state has already nominated Mr S.M. Sharma, ADGP, to oversee election related complaints. Without supervisory control over holding of elections, Mr Virk would have been reduced to a “dummy” head of the force.

— Prabhjot Singh


Won’t allow things to get dirty: CEO
Maneesh Chhibber

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 20
The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Punjab, Mr Sundram Krishna, today asserted that the poll officers were keeping a close watch on the ongoing election campaign for the Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections and no political party would be allowed to turn the campaign dirty.

“While our reports are that it will be a very bitter election, we will certainly step in if things turn too dirty. We are committed to ensuring that elections are free, fair and clean. Under no circumstances will we allow anybody to vitiate the atmosphere,” Mr Krishna told The Tribune here.

Flanked by the Additional CEO, Mr Babu Lal, Mr Krishna, who recently returned to his cadre state of Punjab after almost 15 years in various departments at the Centre, also said special instructions have been issued to the poll observers and other staff to scan all speeches that will be delivered on various media by politicians.

Asked about the complaints that have been received so far by the election authority, Mr Sundram said the number of complaints was not too large. “But, as polling date draws nearer, the number will certainly go up. But, we have already told the District Election Officers and the returning officers to deal with all complaints speedily.

“Though many complaints are frivolous in nature, we don’t ignore them without verifying them,” he said.

Asked about the reports regarding missing names of voters in the electoral rolls, Mr Krishna said nothing was being left to chance. He said revision of electoral rolls was a continuous process and wherever there were complaints, the same were being handled by the officers.

“We want each and every voter to vote and no eligible voter to be left out because his or her name was missing from the voters’ list. We have also fixed a target of getting at least 95 per cent voters to get photo identity cards,” Mr Krishna said.


EC okays four Information Commissioners
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 20
Decks have been cleared for four Information Commissioners, who were appointed last month by the Punjab Government, for assuming the charge of the office. Informed sources today said the Election Commission had informed the State Government that it had no objection on the issue.

The Information Commissioners are Lieut-Gen P.K. Grover (retd), Mr Kulbir Singh, Chief Engineer (retd), Mr P.P.S. Gill, Additional Director, Communication, Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, and Mrs Ravi Singh. Sources said they would take oath either on January 22 or later. The Punjab Governor, Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd), is away to Goa and is set to return here on January 22.

Mrs S.K. Aulakh, Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, who retired last month, was also sent for appointment as Information Commissioner to the Punjab Governor. However, as he had retired as Chief Commissioner on December 31 and the election code of conduct was enforced on December 29, her appointment could not be cleared.


Parties playing politics with ‘siropa’
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, January 20
Peeved over the misuse of the practice of presenting ‘siropa’ (religious robe of honour) by leaders of almost all political parties of the state, office-bearers of local Sikh organisations have urged the chiefs of the SGPC and Akal Takht to impose restrictions so that the sanctity of the practice was maintained.

Reacting to reports regarding presentation of saffron robes to a large number of commoners at meetings and rallies of almost all political parties of the state, Mr Darshan Singh Giani, chairman, Baba Budha Gurmat Parchar Trust, alleged that the leaders had been misusing the practice for their narrow gains whereas it was started to recognise outstanding service by individuals having faith in the tenets of Sikhism.

“Unfortunately the most revered practice is being used to lure people for personal and political gains. There have been instances when the presentation of ‘siropas’ to certain dignitaries created unnecessary controversy at some religious places,” said Mr Darshan Singh claiming that he had shown concern over the issue in letters written to the president of the SGPC and the Jathedar of Akal Takht.

According to Mr Jagdev Singh Ghaloti, an office-bearer of the Sukhmani Sewa Society, the misuse of the practice had diluted the significance of a sacred symbol. “Though ‘siropas’ being presented at select religious places carry the same religious importance, those being presented to commoners at political stages has certainly degraded it’s importance and it is treated as a mere piece of cloth,” said Mr Ghaloti in anguish adding that the authorities in apex Sikh bodies had been ignoring appeals made by the organisation in the past. He accused the organisers of ignoring ‘Maryada’ while presenting robes. “Very rarely do the recipients cover their heads. At times it looks as if the recipients are begging for ‘siropas,” rued Mr Ghaloti.


Captain owns just Rs 15,000
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 20
In an affidavit submitted to the Returning Officer, the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today declared that he possessed Rs 15,000 in cash, besides Rs 20,000 as ‘karta” of Hindu undivided family.

As per his declaration, his total amount in banks, financial institutions and non-banking financial companies is Rs 903,360.

He said he owned bonds, debentures and shares of companies worth Rs 4,759,600 and Rs 1,785,550 as ‘karta’ of the HUF.

The Chief Minister has also stated that he owned 65,000 sq ft land near Hardwar worth Rs 13.80 lakh, 119 kanals and 9 marlas in Kharar tehsil worth Rs 11.25 lakh, 9 bighas and 9 biswas worth Rs 80,000 in Bhalawag village in Himachal Pradesh.


Nominations: Number rises to 70
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 20
As many as 41 candidates filed their nominations today. With this, a total of 70 candidates have filed their papers.

Among those who filed nominations are Mr Amarjit Singh, Manjit Kaur, Mr Tarsem Singh, Mr Ashu, Ms Sukhwant Kaur, Mr Lakha Singh, Mr Manjit Singh, Mr Mahan Singh, Mr Balbir Singh, Mr Amar Nath, Mr Sohan Singh Thunder, Ms Balbir Kaur, Ms Mohinder Kaur, Mr Chaudhary Ram, Ms Nimta Chaudhary, Mr Ravinder Pal Singh, Mr Jatinder Pal, Mr Parkash Singh, Mr Sukhdev Singh, Mrs Ishwar Kaur, Mr Amrik Singh, Mr Pawan Shastri, Mr Rajesh Kumar, Mr Bhagwant Singh, Mr Jodh Singh, Mr Baldev Singh, Mr Maganjit Singh, Mr Baba Dutt, Mr Rattan Lal, Mr Udhey Chand, Mr Joginder Sing, Mr Krishan Kaur, Mr Kushal Deep Singh Dhillon, Ms Amanjot Kaur, Avtar Singh Brar, Mr Jagdeep Singh Naka, Ms Anuradha Singh, Mr Gurjant Singh, Mr Rajwinder Singh Rana.


His claim: His father’s Bunny
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 20
For someone who is facing his first election, Mr Jasjit Singh Bunny is a confident campaigner. This 36-year-old Masters in Advertising and Communication has been associated closely with the election campaigns of his father, Captain Kanwaljit Singh. in the past.

As the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate from Kharar and a greenhorn for the area, Jasjit is understandably keeping his father close to him. Himself a candidate from Banur, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, is instead campaigning for his son accompanying him from one village to another doling promises and gathering support.

As one trails the father-son-duo moving in a small cavalcade of half a dozen cars through the dusty and sleepy villages of Kharar, it’s obvious Jasjit is banking heavily on his father’s stature in the party. “The people of Punjab have decided that the SAD will form the next government. Mr Parkash Singh Badal will be the new Chief Minister of Punjab by March, 2007. Capt Kanwaljit Singh will be the Finance Minister.

“I plan to use my proximity with these two great leaders to get Kharar its full share of the pie,” he openly tells the residents of Abhaypur village, near here.

But, while the quite grace of Capt Kanwaljit Singh and the overwhelming presence of Rajbir Singh Padiala, whose parents have been leaders of the area, leave an indelible impression on the people Jasjit meets. His own image remains of a foreign-bred ‘kakji’ politician.

As one watches the reserved, soft spoken, mild-mannered Jasjit move among his voters, it is difficult to imagine him wade easily through the hurly burly of Punjab politics. Clad in an off-white kurta and churidaar payjama, complete with a black jacket, he shook hands, warmly hugged those he knew, folded his hands and asked for support.

Affable and sophisticated he seemed to be, making friends wherever he went. But voters? For someone who has spent 10 years in one of the most happening advertising agency in New Delhi, churning out Pepsi and Reebok ads, to behave like a typical politician is, maybe, asking for too much.

His strongest point, however, comes shining forth when he speaks about Punjab. Passionate to the core about his role as a politician who wants to serve the people, Jasjit lists out his priorities for the state. “Education, technology and agriculture. Combine this with the enterprising streak among the Punjabis and you will have a state compared to none in India,” he says.

“The state is in shambles. The Congress government has failed to reach the villages. This area is begging for attention. But, no one seems to have cared. There is an immediate need for creating job opportunities for the educated youth.

“Development of the service and the IT sector is the only solution. We need to put disposable income in the hands of our people,” he tells his electorate as they crowd around him.


Mrs Dullo silenced
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 20
From an excited contender for re-election to a silenced wife, Harbans Kaur Dullo has resigned to her fate, at least for the moment. Till a fortnight ago, she was a firebrand MLA, confident of taking on her husband and Punjab Pradesh Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo in the race for ticket. “If he has staked a claim to the ticket, let us see who wins it,” she had said, adding that in no circumstances would she allow Mr Dullo to oust her from Khanna.

But as things would have it, the ticket went to Mr Dullo who lost his last parliamentary election from Ropar and not to Ms Dullo who won her first Assembly seat by a margin of about 10,000 votes. In the 2002 Assembly elections, she defeated her nearest rival - Ms Satwinder Dhaliwal of the SAD (B) by polling 41,578 votes as against her rival’s 31,943.

And yet, lady luck did not smile on the lady who, until a while ago, was her husband’s principal rebel. But, today she sounds more reconciled than rebellious, as was evident when she admitted (though with a degree of doubt) that she would campaign for her husband. “Right now I am spending time with my family. My daughter is visiting from abroad,” said the woman who had been so sure of her political standing that she had declared: “I will contest elections against all odds.”

The fire in Ms Dullo’s tone burns no more, but the undercurrent of anguish remains. Only she puts her pain across with grace lest the Congress High Command gets offended. Of the High Command, she said: “Parents make mistakes but that does not mean the child leaves the family.”

Continuing her emotional spill, Ms Dullo said she had made several sacrifices for her family. “This is yet anther one,” she told The Tribune today, blaming the turn of events on destiny.


Battle from streets to courts, and back
Rajmeet Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 20
With elections round the corner, the battle of wits between Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Parkash Singh Badal has spilled over from courtrooms to the streets .

The bete noires, who have been fighting a legal battle over defamatory advertisements by the Congress against the Shiromani Akali Dal in the 2002 elections, are at it again - taking the people for a ride.

The politicians are using rhetoric to drag their opponents to courts over charges of corruption, misuse of official position and amassing disproportionate assets----the issues on which the political opponents are already engaged in a legal battle for the last five years.

“Filing cases has not served any purpose . It is waste of time of the courts and causes convenience to the public. Most of the time, the VVIP politicians take exemptions from personal appearance and the cases linger on for years”, feels secretary of the District Bar Association KS Lamba.

In the two separate cases of defamation filed by Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Sukhbir Badal against Capt Amarinder Singh, the defendants were summoned in 2005, more than three years after the cases were filed. Both cases are still at the stage of recording preliminary evidence.

Even if the cases are heard at regular intervals, it will take another two years, say legal luminaries.

In another defamation case filed in 2002 by Mr R.L. Bhardwaj, Chairman of the State Planning Commission, against Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Mr Sukhbir Badal, Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar and Mr N.S. Minhas, the defendants are yet to be summoned.

By filing cases, politicians are able to garner the support and sympathy of voters. It helps them to compensate the loss in their political career inflicted by the opponents. The issue is kept alive by the media, especially electronic.

Take another case - a civil suit filed in 2003 by SAD leader Gurmeet Singh Matharoo against the Congress party for failing to fulfill its 2002 poll promise on Congress MLAs declaring assets.

While the court has initiated ex-parte proceedings against 64 MLAs of the Congress in Punjab for not appearing before the court in a civil suit filed by the SAD leader, MLAs Kewal Krishan, Jagjit Chaudhary, J.S. Randhawa, Santokh Chaudhary and Sardul Singh, who appeared before the court are yet to file reply.


Ropar bridge may turn out to be main poll issue
Kiran Deep

Tribune News Service

Ropar, January 20
Hundreds of commuters are helpless and put their lives to risk while passing through the 125-year-old bridge over the Sirhind canal, which is the main link of Ropar city with National Highway-21 every day here. Over 50,000 people in the city, which falls in Anandpur Sahib Assembly constituency, travel on the bridge daily. The bridge has outlived its life and can collapse any time. Similar is the condition of the bridge over the Bhakra canal that connects Ropar with Morinda.

The main issue for the people of Ropar is to build new bridge with wide spaces over the Sirhind canal, keeping in view increased vehicular traffic flow. The bridge was built in 1882.The dilapidated condition of the bridge is quite evident from potholes and cracks.

The residents were aggrieved with the fact none of the political parties has taken the issue seriously. Other problems which residents raised were that they were sore with the carving out of Mohali as separate district from Ropar. They demanded addition of more subdivisions and grant of divisional headquarter status to Ropar district as compensation and setting up of Industrial units to generate employment for locals.

Poor health care facility is cause for concern for residents. In addition to proper attention to patients, they were complaining that none of the government hospitals in the district have city scan facility.

The cost of treatment in private hospitals has increased manifold. The residents also complain that congested internal roads become cause of accidents.


No development work in Kharar: Kanwaljit
Our Correspondent

Mohali, January 20
A former Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, has said the Kharar constituency will be developed like Banur after the formation of the SAD-BJP combine government in the state.

Addressing a series of meetings in Motemajra, Nagari, Geegemajra, Meedemajra, Gudana, Bathlana, Saneta, Dhirpur, Dhelpur, Gobindgarh, Shampur, Raipur, Maujpur, Bharatpur, Chandiala, Patran, Gidderpur, Soimajra, Saidpur and Sawara villages, he said development during the past years in Banur was known to the public, and after forming the government in the state by the SAD, he would ensure that the same was done in this area.

He said during the past five years nobody had cared for the development of the area and the candidate of the Congress, whose government was in power during the period, failed to do anything worthwhile for the whole constituency. He claimed that an anti-incumbency wave was strong in Punjab. Mr Jasjit Singh, SAD candidate, said these elections were a direct contest.

Mr Rajbir Singh Padiala said the Congress had failed to maintain the earlier development works carried out by the Akalis.

Meanwhile, campaigning in the Kharar Assembly segment has picked up with the family members of the SAD-BJP combine candidate, Mr Jasjit Singh, having joined in. A sister of Capt. Kanwaljit Singh and aunt of Mr Jasjit Singh, Ms Harpreet Kaur Gill, and the wife of Mr Jasjit Singh, Ms Sanjit Kaur, today held a door-to-door canvassing in Sector 69. Later, both held a meeting in Kumbhra.


SAD’s Kang says cops coercing voters
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 20
Fearing threat to the life Mr Manjinder Singh Kang, former Chairman of the Forest Corporation and SAD candidate from Beas has demanded paramilitary forces for election in the Beas Assembly constituency.

Mr Kang, talking to the media here today, alleged that policemen in mufti were coercing the people to vote for the Congress. He alleged he had received a threat on the phone that money had been paid to eliminate him.

He said he had met the DGP in this regard on December 26. He alleged hundreds of armed musclemen of the Congress were seen in the area after sunset coercing the voters and removing posters and banners of the SAD.

The former Forest Chairman alleged that an SP-ranked officer of the Punjab Police and brother of the sitting MLA, was threatening his supporters. He said though the SP was transferred to Chandigarh a few months ago, this remained on paper alone as he was often seen in the constituency. He alleged that the entire official machinery was backing the Congress candidate as no official dared to disobey the dictates of Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa.

He said about 5,000 names were deleted from the list of the voters who were Akali supporters and 4,000 bogus new votes have been added into the rolls.

When contacted Mr Kuldeep Singh Chandi, SDM Baba Bakala, said the voters’ list had been prepared after proper verification and denied the allegations and described these as baseless.


Parallel economy
PR agencies do it all for candidates
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 20
Candidates doling out promises is a routine during any elections. One segment that offers promises to candidates itself is public relations agencies that are all geared up to win the race of bagging as many accounts as they can. The agencies have begun contacting contestants for various seats, directly as well as through references.

The Assembly elections are set to witness a large number of PR and image building agencies try their luck for handling political accounts. Unlike earlier trend, when it was mostly Delhi-based companies that managed this department for political parties, now there are a lot of region-based agencies that have come up. Candidates, who are getting increasingly conscious of their image in media, too, are quite keen on hiring their services.

“It was common for Delhi-based companies to handle centralised PR activities and events like celebrity participation in campaigns, etc, for political parties. While we handled political accounts in Haryana, in Punjab the trend is picking up and we are expecting to bag a few accounts”, said Mr P.K. Khurana of Quik Relations, a Chandigarh-based firm.

Hiring an agency is different from appointing media advisers and these companies offer an array of services, ranging from media interactions, organising press conferences, meetings to preparing technical presentations and giving their professional advise to candidates on how to conduct themselves and deal with tactical queries from media.

Talk to them of the kind of clientele they are expecting and they say: “It is mostly first timers and Independents who are likely to hire our services. Candidates who get a ticket from a new constituency also express keenness to hire our services. In case of established politicians, awareness is increasing about the importance of hiring professionals, but the trend is yet to catch up."

And expenses vary. “It could be anything starting from a few thousand rupees to lakhs”, revealed another PR professional, who did not wished to be named. “The candidates do not directly spend money. Many times it is other parties too which are involved”, she said.

A rise in number of publications and news channels would also increase demand for professionals in public relations. The activity is likely to get vigorous in the coming week or so when these agencies would get functional.

In small towns, most candidates appoint one or two people as their media advisers who are not essentially professionals but are known to have good relations with media. A media adviser for a Ludhiana-based candidate said: “We have hired college students to write about campaigns.”


LS ticket: Dullo bats for Majha
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 20
If Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), has his way, then the Amritsar Lok Sabha ticket should go to a ‘Majhail.’

Called by the party high command for consultations in New Delhi on Monday, Mr Dullo is expected to press for a senior leader from the Majha belt to contest the Lok Sabha byelection from the holy city.

Mr Dullo, sources reveal, is putting all his stakes on Mr Lakhmir Singh Randhawa, a former Punjab minister and senior vice-president of the PPCC.

Mr Randhawa has been party in charge for Amritsar district for the past some years. He had applied for the Batala ticket, but it was given to sitting MLA Ashwani Sekhri, a son-in-law of Kerala Governor Raghunandan Lal Bhatia.

Recommendations of the PPCC chief notwithstanding, others in the race for ticket include Finance Minister Surinder Singla and firebrand leader and former MP Jagmeet Singh Brar. They have been lobbying hard, claiming support of the Chief Minister and other groups. Mayor of Amritsar Sunil Datti, too, hopes to get ticket.

Unable to control growing dissension over distribution of ticket, the party high command finds itself in a piquant situation. Giving ticket to a senior Congress leader of Majha may placate the workers of the region to some extent.

Giving ticket to an outsider, the Congress workers and leaders feel, may act as a catalyst for further fragmentation of the party in the region, which, after Mr Partap Singh Kairon, could not produce an able substitute for him.

“No one can prevent a revolt if someone from Malwa or from New Delhi is imposed on us for the Amritsar Lok Sabha byelection,” says a senior PPCC leader.

“Except for the chief, no other office-bearer of the PPCC has been considered good enough to get the party ticket for the Assembly elections. Claims of Mr Parminder Singh and Mr J.S. Jarkhar, both general secretaries, and Mr Lakhmir Singh Randhawa were overlooked in the two lists.

“Now is the time for the party to make amends and nominate a Sikh Majhail for the Amritsar Lok Sabha byelection,” he adds, maintaining that except for three Assembly segments, this parliamentary constituency is predominantly of rural Sikh voters. That is why two of the former BJP MPs who were returned by this constituency, Mr Dya Singh Sodhi and Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, are Sikhs. Even when there was a Janata wave, it returned Mr Kirpal Singh.


Preneet Kaur harps on development
Pradeep Sharma

Tribune News Service

Rajpura, January 20
Assembly segments bordering Chandigarh are finally warming up to the campaigning for the Punjab elections. With the last date for the filing of nominations, January 25, drawing close, the electioneering is picking up in the areas.

Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, who is the Congress candidate from the Ghanaur constituency, today roped in the Patiala MP and wife of the Chief Minister, Ms Preneet Kaur, for opening his main election office at Ghanaur. As expected the “Maharani” harped on the development plank to garner support for the minister.

Lambasting the SAD leadership, Ms Preneet Kaur alleged that though the Akalis had been criticising the Punjab Government’s policies, yet some of the policies had found mention in the newspaper advertisements issued by the party. The Congress had fulfilled a majority of the pre-2002 poll promises, she asserted.

Urging the electorate to vote for development, the MP claimed that only the Congress led by Capt Amarinder Singh could take the state forward on the development path. She warned the rebel Congress candidate, Mr Madan Lal, to withdraw from the contest failing which the party would expel him.

Mr Randhawa, Mr H.S. Barsat, political secretary to the Chief Minister, and Mr Jasbir Singh, a former minister, alleged that the Akalis were going the polls without any concrete issue.

Meanwhile, Mr Karnail Singh Panjauli, joint candidate of the Dal Khalsa, the Shiromani Akali Dal (1920) and the SAD (Amritsar) from the Rajpura segment, today formally kicked off his campaign by opening the election office here.

Accusing the rival candidates of influencing the voters through the distribution of liquor and drugs, Mr Panjauli called upon the voters to reject such candidates.

Even as the election scene had hotted up in Rajpura and Ghanaur, the campaigning remained a low-key affair in the Banur segment with the SAD-BJP candidate, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, preferring to spend more time in the Kharar segment from where his son, Mr Jasjit Singh Bunny, is locked in a tough contest against the Congress candidate, Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu.

The Congress candidate from Banur, Mr Rakesh Sharma, who emerged as party high command’s choice ahead of senior leaders - Mr Deepinder Dhillon and Ms Seelam Sohi - is yet to formally commence his campaign.

The other candidates are fine tuning their strategies for the February 13 poll and mainly focusing on corner meetings.


Hoshiarpur: Cracks appear in BJP
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, January 20
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has announced its candidates for a majority of the constituencies it is contesting from, the unusual delay in naming the Hoshiarpur candidate has given credence to reports of severe factionalism in the party here.

Mr Tikshan Sood, the sitting MLA from here, is understood to have severe differences with the state BJP president and local MP, Mr Avinash Rai Khanna. Mr Khanna reportedly does not want Mr Sood to get the party nomination for a third time. However, Mr Sood denied that he had any differences with the party president. He claimed that he was "fully confident" of getting the ticket this time also. At the same time he was not able to explain the unusual delay on the part of the party to nominate him as the candidate from Hoshiarpur.

The confidence of Mr Sood notwithstanding, many of his supporters are quite apprehensive that Mr Sood might not get the party ticket this time. They are believed to have asked Mr Sood to contest as an Independent in case he is denied the ticket.

On the other hand, Mr Khanna evaded a direct reply to a question on whether Mr Sood was being nominated from Hoshiarpur or not. He told The Tribune that he had no differences with Mr Sood. On the delay, he said Hoshiarpur was not the only constituency where a decision regarding the candidate was awaited.

Meanwhile, the Congress candidate, Mr Charanjit Singh Channy, may have started his campaign early, but is unlikely to benefit much because of the delay on the part of the BJP. Mr Channy has left many ticket aspirants like Mr Sham Sunder, president of the Market Committee, Hoshiarpur, disappointed.

Mr Sham Sunder is now learnt to be bargaining with the BJP for the party ticket amid reports that Mr Sood may not get the BJP nomination.


BSP goes upper caste
Dharmendra Joshi

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 20
Once known for openly speaking against upper castes at its rallies, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has allocated over one-third tickets to persons belonging to these castes for the forthcoming Assembly elections.

As many as 37 of the 105 BSP candidates declared so far are from upper castes, including the Brahmin, Jat, Khatri and Rajput communities. It is for the first time that the BSP has fielded such a large number of upper caste candidates in Punjab elections.

The candidates announced in the second list are: Gurdev Singh (Ghanaur), Prem Kumar (Sunam), Baljeet Singh (Lehra), Gurdas Ram (Sultanpur), Tilak Raj (Bholath), Amarjeet Singh (Samrala), Krishan Lal Singla (Kot Kapura), Gian Singh (Koom Kalan), Kapil Batra (Jalandhar Cantt), Bachan Lal Bhagat (Jalandhar North), Swaran Singh (Valtoha), Jasbir Singh (Patti), Sukhwant Kaur (Attari), Thekedar Bhajan Singh (Verka), Joginder Singh (Raja Sansi), Hardev Singh (Sri Hargobindpur), Ashok Arora (Rajpura), Khairati Lal Kapoor (Ludhiana West), Pandit Arjun Singh (Amritsar Central), Natha Singh (Majitha), Kulwant Singh Rana (Kapurthala), Bhagwan Singh Sahjara (Dirba), Malkit Singh (Barnala), Kulwant Singh Kaul (Raikot), Karnail Singh (Dhanaula), Ujjagar Singh (Dasuya), Lekh Raj (Noormahal), Vinod Kumar (Nawanshahr), Jasbir Singh (Beas), Rajkumar Sharma (Nangal), Bharpoor Singh (Rampura) and Gurchet Singh Garcha (Payal).


Bhattal confidant Dirba joins SAD
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 20
The Congress today suffered a major setback in the Dirba Assembly constituency when Mr Gurcharan Singh Dirba, a close confidant of Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, Punjab, and two-time Congress MLA from Dirba, joined the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in the presence of Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, secretary-general of the party, and Mr Baldev Singh Mann, SAD candidate from the seat, at Dirba village, about 25 km from here.

Mr Dirba had remained president of the Sangrur District Congress Committee for about 10 years. He was elected to the Assembly from Dirba in the February 1992 and February 1997 Assembly elections. He also remained a Minister of State in the Harcharan Singh Brar government.

Mr Dirba today accompanied Mr Baldev Singh Mann when the latter filed his papers as the SAD candidate from Dirba.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Dirba, who has been denied the Congress ticket this time, said he had left the Congress due to its "anti-worker" policies. He said he would work whole-heartedly for the victory of Mr Mann and other SAD candidates in Sangrur district.

Mr Dhindsa said with the joining of the SAD by Mr Dirba, the party's base in the Dirba constituency had increased manifold.


Independent candidate wants to make youth drug-free
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 20
Ashwani Kumar, an independent candidate from Kharar, was weighed in ladoos by shop owners in the Sohana market, here today. The 26-year-old candidate is a resident of village Sambhalki and is standing for elections for the first time.

Ashwani Kumar is from the family of sarpanchs of the village who have retained the headship of the village for the past 24 years. He also runs a social welfare and youth club in the area and is considered to be very popular among the youth.

Campaigning for the past few days in the constituency, Ashwani Kumar is confident of a win. “My first project will be to help the youth of the villages leave drugs. The problem is very widespread and needs to be curbed immediately,” he added.

From a humble background, Ashwani works with his father in his electrical shop at Sanetta. He says his family has been involved in social work for the past many years.


Singla makes a strong case
Anita Katyal

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20
The battle for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat is hotting up. With former Lok Sabha MP Jagmeet Singh Brar throwing his hat in the race, his bete noire Punjab Finance Minister Surinder Singla has intensified his campaign for this prestigious seat.

Mr Singla, who represents the Bathinda Assembly constituency, has expressed his desire to move to the Centre, making a strong case for his candidature from Amritsar.

His supporters argue that the minister will be an asset for Amritsar since he enjoys considerable clout in Delhi circles. Stating that Mr Singla is the right choice for this seat, they point out that Amritsar has always been held by a Congress Hindu candidate.

Others in the fray include former filmstar Rajesh Khanna and Amritsar mayor Sunil Dutti.

While strong lobbying is on in Congress circles, the leadership has indicated that it is in no hurry to decide on its nominee for Amritsar as the last date for nominations is still five days away.


Deepa’s ultimatum to Cong
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, January 20
An unsuccessful aspirant for the Congress ticket from Sunam, Mr Rajinder Deepa, today announced that he would contest the Assembly elections from the seat as an Independent if the party failed to change the candidate within two days. Mr Aman Arora, younger brother of Mr Deepa's wife, Sonia Deepa Arora, is the party candidate for the seat.

Talking to The Tribune this afternoon, Rajinder said the party had committed a mistake by allotting the ticket to Aman as he (Deepa) and his wife Sonia, daughter of late Bhagwan Dass Arora, former minister and two-time Congress MLA from Sunam, had done a lot of work in Sunam in the past five years.

If he contests the elections then his wife will campaign for him, he added.


Samra’s overseas fans here
Anil Jerath
Tribune News Service

Nakodar, January 20
The NRIs settled in the UK, Canada, the USA and other countries are using the telephone to garner support for Congress candidates here. Some are here campaigning for the candidates.

Many Indian Overseas Cell members are camping in a Jalandhar hotel Even the Bahujan Samaj Party campaign in Nakodar is getting substantial NRI support.

Mr Paramjit Singh is of the IOC , UK, is here campaigning for Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, Congress nominee from Nakodar. "We have decided to offer support to Mr Samra and also other Congress candidates in the state since the party has safeguarded NRIs' interests," he said .

Punjab Revenue Minister Amarjit Singh Samra had also held the portfolio of NRIs.


‘Ravana’ meets ‘Rama’ again

PATHANKOT: Mr Ashok Sharma, sitting Congress MLA from Pathankot, and his arch rival Master Mohan Lal of the Bharatiya Janata Party have always been in opposite roles. While Mr Sharma plays the Lord Rama, Master Mohan Lal performs the role of Ravana in separate Ram Lilas. In 2002, Mr Sharma defeated Master Mohan Lal by about 17,000 votes. — TNS

Development works still on

AMRITSAR: Development works in this district has been going on in full swing in violation of the Model Code of Conduct on a “war-footing.” While in rural areas, the officials of the department concerned have been supervising the development works, in Khandwala (Chheherta), construction of the boundary wall of a public park is being completed on a time-bound basis. The park is situated near the house of the Mayor, Municipal Corporation. — TNS


One more files nomination
Our Correspondent

Mohali, January 20
Ms Ishwar Kaur, a resident of Phase IX here, filed her nomination papers as an independent candidate for the Punjab Assembly elections from the Kharar constituency today. She had earlier contested the municipal elections in July last year but had lost.


Memorial dedicated to war heroes
Tribune News Service

The wife of a senior Army officer pays tributes to martyrs of Pulkanjari battle in Amritsar on Saturday.
The wife of a senior Army officer pays tributes to martyrs of Pulkanjari battle in Amritsar on Saturday. — A Tribune photograph

Pulkanjari (Amritsar), January 20
The Army today dedicated a war memorial to 10 valiant soldiers of the 2 Sikh Regiment for repulsing two attacks by Pakistan’s 43 Punjab Regiment in the 1971 war.

Maj N.S. Koak (retd), the then Commander of the 2 Sikh Light Infantry assault party, who was present today at the solemn function, narrated the valour of his jawans who won one Mahavir Chakra, one Vir Chakra, four Sena Medals and four Mention-in-dispatches for recapturing the border observation post, Pulkanjri.

Lieut-Gen Thoraburaj, GOC, 11 Corps, and Maj-Gen K.M.S. Shergill, Commander of the 15 Infantry Division, along with senior officers of the local garrison paid tributes to the heroes.

A number of events were organised to mark the occasion. An enactment on the Pulkanjari battle was also held.


Company selects 18 students
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 20
Punj Lloyd Group of Industries conducted a campus interview at Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Engineering College, Fatehgarh Sahib, yesterday. It selected 18 students.

According to Dr Dilbag Singh Hira, Principal of the college, the company shortlisted 43 students after group discussion conducted in the college. Out of that 18 were finally selected after interview.

He said these students were selected as graduate engineer trainees in the company and after training of one year they would be appointed as Engineer on a salary of Rs 2.5 lakh per annum.

The Training and Placement Officer of the college, Prof Gagandeep Singh, said Cognizent Technologies Solutions would be visiting the college in February for campus placements.


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