P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Ballot replaces bullet... but the scars remain

Varinder Walia and Gurbaxpuri
Manochahal, (Amritsar), January 24
The ballot has replaced the bullet. Kin of slain militants, who propagated the boycott of the February 1992 elections, have now plunged into electioneering.
They now feel that the ballot is the best weapon to bring about a change, not the bullet.

Saurabh Malik and Gurbaxpuri
Tarn Taran, January 24
Peace and tranquility, exterminated by militants in the border villages of Tarn Taran, may have come alive with the restoration of normalcy in the state, but the left-alone victims in the once bullet-ridden areas are still struggling for survival, and their rights.



Varinder Walia and Gurbaxpuri

Manochahal, (Amritsar), January 24
The ballot has replaced the bullet. Kin of slain militants, who propagated the boycott of the February 1992 elections, have now plunged into electioneering.

They now feel that the ballot is the best weapon to bring about a change, not the bullet.

Tarn Taran, once known as the “mini-Khalistan”, is a changed place. A visit to Manochahal village, the native village of Gurbachan Singh Manochahal, self-styled chief of the Bhindranwale Tiger Force of Khalistan (BTFK) who was killed in a police encounter at Ratoul, was revealing.

The widow of the BTFK chief, who has been living in the village along with her sons Harjinder Singh and Gurbinder Singh, rued that their house in Naushehra Pannuan had been converted into a police chowki.

She says the administration was not issuing the death certificate of the BTFK chief to enable the family to transfer his 1 acre in their name. To a question, she said they would support a candidate having good credentials irrespective of the party.

The condition of the house of Sukhwinder Singh Sangha at Sangha village, who had succeeded Gurbachan Singh Manochahal as the self-styled chief of the BTFK, is pathetic.

His ailing mother Maninder Kaur said she had lost three sons during the militancy. However, her fourth son Dilbagh Singh was arrested for murder. She said though she was disillusioned with politicians, family members would definitely vote during the Assembly elections.

A visit to Dasuwal, native village of Sukhdev Singh Babbar, self-styled chief of the Babbar Khalsa International, revealed that the widow of the slain militant has been living in Canada along with her two sons.

Close relatives of Babbar, however, live here. Mr Channan Singh and his wife Surjit Kaur said they were staunch supporters of Mr Gurchet Singh Bhullar, a Congress nominee from the Valtoha constituency.

The brothers of Parmjit Singh Panjwar, self-styled chief of the Khalistan Commando Force whose name figured in the list of India's 20 most-wanted persons, have also decided to take an active part in the electioneering.

Mr Baldev Singh, elder brother of Panjwar, said though they considered Capt Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister a “better Sikh” than Mr Parkash Singh Badal, yet they would support the SAD candidate from Tarn Taran due to their personal relationship.

As many as 1,227 persons were killed in encounters while 1,191 civilians died in indiscriminate firing in the Tarn Taran police district during the militancy. Besides, 277 police personnel were also killed.

Saurabh Malik and Gurbaxpuri

Tarn Taran, January 24
Peace and tranquility, exterminated by militants in the border villages of Tarn Taran, may have come alive with the restoration of normalcy in the state, but the left-alone victims in the once bullet-ridden areas are still struggling for survival, and their rights.

Following the failure of successive governments, both at the Centre and the state, to pay adequate compensation, the distance between both ends has only increased.

No wonder, rehabilitation of the sufferers is fast becoming an election concern. In fact, the villagers are insisting that they will cast their ballot only in favour of candidates promising to bring the victims back into the mainstream.

Putting up in hamlets where landholdings diminish with each generation and jobs are still a “next-generation” dream, they assert that the governments have done so much for rehabilitating militants giving up arms, but hardly anything for the defenceless victims.

Tending cattle in a kuccha house situated less than 200 meters away from the barbed-wire fence along the international border in Naushera Dhalla village, Sujjan Singh is among the many victims who simply hate to talk about their miseries. For, they believe “nothing much will come out of it”.

As he gets up to feed a sheep bleating in a corner of the ramshackle dwelling, his daughter-in-law Simarjeet Kaur mummers the entire family sustained serious injuries after it was attacked at night by militants over two decades ago, probably due to mistaken identity. 


Sukhbir Badal is star of Chandumajra poll rally
Tribune News Service

Moonak (Sangrur), January 24
The SAD candidate for the Lehra Assembly constituency, Mr Prem Singh Chandumajra, filed his nomination papers in the office of the Returning Officer, Mr Zora Singh Thind, here today. His wife Balwinder Kaur also filed her papers.

Mr Chandumajra is pitted against Congress candidate and Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, who had won consecutively from Lehra in 1992, 1997 and 2002.

Later, Mr Chandumajra held a rally, which was attended by thousands of party workers. Star speakers at the rally were Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, general secretary of the SAD; and Mr Om Parkash Chautala, former Chief Minister of Haryana. All speakers criticised the Amarinder government.

Mr Chandumajra has declared the assets of his family worth Rs 1.17 crore. As per the affidavit, he individually has Rs 45,000 in cash, Rs 3,66,931 in banks, jewellery worth Rs 44,000, and 69 kanals and 16 marlas (worth Rs 26.50 lakh) in Chandumajra village, Patiala district.

Interestingly, Mr Chandumajra has no vehicle. He has taken loans from two banks and an amount of Rs 12 lakh is yet to be repaid.


Badal’s affidavit not displayed
Tribune News Service

Malout, January 24
Even as the Election Commission is making all-out efforts to ensure free and fair elections in the state, its instructions are being reportedly ignored here.

It was found today that the affidavit by SAD supremo Parkash Singh Badal regarding any criminal cases against him was not put on public display even after 48 hours of his filing of nomination papers. As per the EC’s instructions, it is mandatory to make such affidavits public.

However, the affidavit of his brother, Mr Gurdas Singh Badal, who filed his nomination as a covering candidate, was pasted outside the office of the Returning Officer.

When mediapersons took up the matter with the Returning Officer, Mr Balbir Singh, he said he had handed over his lower staff all papers which were to be made public. Though, he said, somebody might have removed it from the wall, there was no sign of any paper being torn out from the wall.

Later, he issued a copy of the affidavit for pasting it on the wall along with other papers declaring Mr Badal’s assets.

As per the affidavit, an FIR had been lodged against the former Chief Minister under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471 and 120B of the IPC and 7,8,9, 10 and 13 (1) read with Section 13 (2) of the CrPC Act 1988 by the Vigilance Bureau. A challan report had been filed under Section 173 of the CrPC before the competent court at Ropar.


Mahesh Inder files papers; Lambi gets hot
Tribune News Service

Malout, January 24
Congress candidate from the high-profile constituency of Lambi Mahesh Inder Singh Badal today filed his nomination papers here amidst cheers of his supporters. He lead a 10-km procession before filing his papers.

Mr Badal reached the town along with his supporters on three vehicles. His close associate Gurmeet Singh Khudian filed the papers as a covering candidate. Gurmeet is the son of former MP Jagdev Singh Khudian.

Addressing a rally at his election office in Lambi, Mr Badal said the presence of a large number of people in his support had reflected the mood of the electorate.

Meanwhile, with the filing of his nomination, the fight for Lambi between the two Badal brothers has picked up.

In the last Assembly elections, Mahesh Inder had polled over 26,000 votes as an Independent while the Congress candidate, Mr Gurnam Singh Abulkhurana, stood third polling over 12,000 votes. This time it appears to be a straight contest between the two Badals, one of whom is eying the Chief Minister’s post for the fourth time.


code uncode
Malooka comes with convoy of 300 vehicles
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 24
A former SAD minister, Mr Sikander Singh Malooka, a former PCS officer, Mr Ajaib Singh Bhatti, and a former IAS officer, Mr Amarjeet Singh Sidhu, today filed their nomination papers from the Rampura Phul, Nathana and Talwandi Sabo Assembly constituencies, respectively, amid violation of the Model Code of Conduct.

According to sources, Mr Malooka ventured out to file his nomination in a cavalcade of 250-300 vehicles, though he left his convoy at some distance before reportedly walking up to the Returning Officer (RO). He exceeded the permissible limit of three vehicles in the convoy.

The RO, Mr K.P.S. Mahi, said a notice was being issued in this regard.

The SAD candidate from Talwandi Sabo, Mr Amarjeet Singh Sidhu, who is a former IAS and a political greenhorn, also violated the code as he too had a cavalcade of about 250 vehicles.

The RO has issued him a notice under Section 188 of the IPC. He has also calculated his expenditure on the cavalcade to around Rs 2 lakh.

In another case, the RO has written to the SSP to register a case against the Congress candidate from Nathana, Mr Ajaib Singh Bhatti, a former PCS officer and greenhorn, under Section 188 of the IPC.

Mr Bhatti held an election rally prior to filing his nominations today without taking permission. He also used 160 cars and jeeps apart from a minibus in the process. 


Saathi to contest as Independent
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 24
Disgruntled over the denial of ticket by the Congress, Mr Vijay Saathi has decided to contest the elections as an Independent from the Moga constituency.

Mr Saathi has contested the Assembly elections twice from the constituency. He lost to Akali candidate Tota Singh in 1997 (on the Janata Dal ticket) and 2002 (on the Congress ticket). He said he would file his nomination papers tomorrow.

The Congress has given the Moga ticket to Mr Joginder Singh Jain, president of the local Municipal Council.

Meanwhile, supporters of ticket aspirant from the Dharamkot seat Jagdarshan Kaur held a rally in the subdivision yesterday. 


Parties pay lip service to youth welfare
Never mind the party in power, liquor trade grows & so does addiction
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
There could be no bigger loss for a prosperous state like Punjab, than losing its young men to the vices of addiction. Irrespective of their ‘public welfare’ rhetoric - for both the incumbent Congress government and their Akali predecessors- maximising revenue from the liquor trade has been their USP.

There would hardly be a village in Punjab that is free from the vice of addiction. So rampant is addiction- be it drug, prescription drug or liquor addiction-that many welloff landlords in the rural areas of the state have shifted to urban areas, to ensure that their children do not succumb to addiction.

No wonder Punjab ‘boasts’ of the highest per capita consumption of liquor at 360 litres per year as also the highest per capita revenue in the country at Rs 628. 116 per person per year.

With liquor trade in the state accounting for highest revenue to the state exchequer, no political party has ever thought of “public welfare” in the true sense to check this growing menace of addiction.

The fact that there is no state-run de-addiction centre in Punjab speaks volumes of the apathy of the political parties towards this issue. It is only through grants received from the Central Government that as many as 15 de-addiction centres are being run by the District Red Cross Societies and 11 by NGOs.

It is a different matter that the de-addiction centres set up by these NGOs are in a pathetic state - with little technical assistance for their functioning.Though the number of these centres have increased during the past five years (there were 10 centres run by the Red Cross Societies and seven by NGOs in 2001-02), over the years, the two main political parties - Congress and SAD - have tried to outdo each other in increasing the liquor trade, which has increased by leaps and bounds.

If the total revenue collection during the Akali regime (between 1997- 2002) increased from Rs 1143. 51 crore to Rs 1350. 52 crore, the Congress government ensured that the revenue increased to Rs 1570. 29 crore in the first four years of its rule (between 2002- 2006).

The Shiromani Akali Dal may now be crying hoarse over the concessions accorded to liquor baron Ponty Chaddha by the Congress, but the party when in power itself did not shy away from encouraging the trade and monopolising it.

In fact, it was during the Akali regime that Mr Adesh Pratap Kairon, then Excise and Taxation Minister and son-in-law of SAD supreme Prakash Singh Badal, had himself brought in Ponty Chaddha to Punjab. He had done this to weaken the hold of Jagdish Singh Garcha and his brother Man Singh Garcha in the liquor trade, who enjoyed the patronage of Mr Sukhbir Badal.

The Congress allowed Ponty Chaddha to monopolise the liquor trade in the state and then raise the prices of liquor. It was only during the last one year that the government changed its liquor policy to single-vend lottery and managed to somewhat break the monopoly of the cartel.

But come election time and all is forgiven.The liquor lobby is now being wooed by all political parties to pump in money and ‘more importantly’ liquor for electioneering. For the parties, improvement in social indices can wait.


Readying for another akhara
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, January 24
A former minister and BJP nominee from the Pathankot Assembly constituency, Mr Mohan Lal, begins his day from an “akhara”.

Despite a hectic schedule because of the elections, he still finds time early in the morning to exercise and wrestle in the akhara for at least one hour every day.

Talking to The Tribune at his akhara, Mr Mohan Lal, who was coaching his junior wrestlers, said coming to the akhara was his daily routine for the past 40 years. He says this has helped him keep good health.

“I have produced national-level wrestlers from this akhara. I cannot leave this routine that I have followed throughout my life. I believe only a healthy body can have a healthy mind which is required to serve people in any sphere, including politics,” he said.

About his constituency, he said Pathankot was losing business. “It is located on the border of Himachal and Jammu and Kashmir. Both states have industrial-concession packages due to which business is shifting from Pathankot to these.”

Moreover, the city was in dire need of planned development. During the past five years, the local Improvement Trust had just notified and de-notified land in the area and had helped encroachers. The problem of the ever-increasing traffic in the city had also not been sorted out. If voted to power, these issues would be his top priority, he said.

“The Dhar area in the the Pathankot constituency is the most backward area of the district. Farmers in the area have suffered in the past few years due to drought-like situation. However, the state government has done nothing for them. Bringing in special schemes for development of the area will also be my priority,” he added.

The district status for Pathankot was another issue hanging fire for long. The people of Dhar and Narot areas had to travel at least about 80 km to reach the district headquarters. Moreover, Pathankot had a population of over 2 lakh due to which it deserved to be district. If the SAD-BJP alliance was voted to power, he would take up the issue, he said.


Stakes high for Dera Sacha Sauda
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 24
With the Congress fielding Mr Harminder Singh Jassi, a relative of Dera Sacha Sauda head, from the Bathinda Assembly seat, the electioneering has picked up steam here.

Political observers feel that the stakes will be high for the dera, which wields considerable clout in Barnala, Mansa, Muktsar, Ferozepore, Sangrur, Patiala, Faridkot and Moga districts. The supporters of the dera, which had been embroiled in controversies earlier, will have an impact on the election results in the region.

In the last elections, the Congress had nominated Mr Sukhraj Singh Natt, one of the dera followers, for the Joga Assembly seat. This time, the dera is throwing weight behind Jassi whose daughter is married to the son of dera head Gurmit Ram Rahim Singh.

Though the dera had no direct involvement in the politics earlier, it has reportedly set up a political wing to decide on for whom its followers should vote for in the elections.

Sources said the wing had held meetings with the dera followers at the district-level. There were around 18,000 followers of the dera in the Bathinda segment and a sizable number of them had been voting in favour of the Congress, they claimed.

Meanwhile, supporters of Mr Jassi distributed sweets as soon as the news of his candidature reached here.


Singla faces rebels’ wrath

Amritsar, January 24
On the first day of his campaigning, Finance Minister Surinder Singla today faced the wrath of voters when he tried to convince Mr Joginder Pal Dhingra , District Congress President not to contest as rebel candidate from Amritsar North.

Supporters of Mr Dhingra told the minister that they would not support Congress candidate Jugal Kishore Sharma at any cost.

Talking to the Tribune, Mr Singla said he would also visit the residence of Mr Sunil Dutty , Mayor ,Municipal Corporation who was annoyed for being denied ticket for Amritsar West.


Cong leader Lalli joins SAD
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
Mr Jaipal Singh Lalli, senior Congress leader, joined the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) at a function held in Budhlada, Mansa district, on Wednesday.

Mr Sukhbir Badal has reportedly said that Mr Lalli and his supporters would be given appropriate places in the SAD set-up.


(In)fighting a tough battle
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, January 24
With the BJP announcing its candidate from here, the battle lines have finally been drawn for a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP.

The BJP has once again reposed faith in the MLA for the past two terms, Mr Tikshan Sood, while the Congress has fielded Mr Charanjit Singh Channy amid much opposition from party cadres.

The going may not be easy for both candidates because of the opposition from within. Although Mr Sood managed the ticket at the last moment, the way his nomination was delayed has certainly robbed him off crucial time he could have utilised for campaigning.

Even the Congress candidate started his campaign ahead of him, unlike in other constituencies in the state.

Mr Sood had survived the anti-incumbency factor in 2002, when most of the BJP candidates lost. He enjoys a clean image and has remained accessible to voters.

His differences with the state party president, Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, are well-known. On the other hand, Mr Channy is facing quite an uphill task. He is fighting against a two-time MLA. Besides, he has to tackle the rebellion within his party. A former minister and former MLA from here, Mr Naresh Thakur, has already made his opposition to Mr Channy public.

The BSP has fielded Mr Gurdev Singh Saini. Although the BSP remains in a disarray, the party may still manage to garner some cadre vote. And this is likely to cut into the support base of the Congress, making things more difficult for an already beleaguered party candidate.


Show of strength by Tota Singh
Tribune News Service

Moga, January 24
The SAD candidate from the Moga constituency, Jathedar Tota Singh, today filed his papers here today. It was a show of strength by the Akali leader who arrived outside the office of the SDM along with a large number of his supporters.

Before filing his papers, the Jathedar took out a massive procession from various parts of the town that led to roadblocks. Traffic on the National Highway No. 64 remained disrupted for hours.

SAD General Secretary Sukhbir Singh Badal arrived in a helicopter and joined the procession. Addressing the gathering, Mr Badal said the Congress had fielded ‘corrupt’ men.

Meanwhile, Congress candidate Joginder Pal Jain filed his nomination papers today.


Show of strength by Sidhu
Our Correspondent

Mohali, January 24
It was a show of strength by Congress candidate from the Kharar Assembly constituency Balbir Singh Sidhu and his supporters at a rally organised at Dasehra ground here today.

The rally was attended among others by PPCC chief Shamsher Singh Dullo, MP Pawan Bansal, and local Municipal Council President Rajinder Singh Rana.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Dullo said the party high command had given the ticket to Mr Sidhu to contest the elections from Kharar because he deserved it.

A survey in the area suggested that Mr Sidhu was considered the most befitting candidate, he added.

He said the SAD government had done nothing for the development of the area or for the welfare of farmers.

During the SAD regime, the produce of farmers was not immediately purchased by government agencies, which had led to a lot of harassment.

Many farmers had committed suicides even when ministers were busy amassing wealth.

Mr Bansal said Mr Sidhu had worked for the development of the area even though he was not an MLA.

As such he deserved to be elected to the Assembly and had a good chance of getting a ministerial berth, he said.

Mr Sidhu said his emphasis was on development of the area and make Mohali a better town than Chandigarh.

Mr Sidhu assured of getting the Periphery Act scrapped and land pooling scheme implemented if voted to power.

He said the tussle pertaining to Sectors 76-80 would be ended on priority.

He would also ensure no additional tax burden on the shoulders of residents of the area.

A number of local municipal councillors attended the rally.

Meanwhile, Mr Dullo who was upset over the allegations levelled by sitting MLA Bir Devinder Singh against Mr Sidhu, claiming that he had paid Rs 5 crore to get the party ticket, said even Bir Devinder Singh must have paid a huge amount to get the party ticket in the last Assembly election.

He said stern action would be taken against Bir Devinder Singh after January 29, which was the last date for withdrawal of candidature.

Mr Dullo was talking to mediapersons before Mr Sidhu filed his nomination papers.

He said every leader of the party had the right to seek a ticket.

Over 900 persons had aspired to get ticket for the 117 constituencies. He appealed to Congress leaders to support Mr Sidhu and assured of adjusting left out leaders on some other posts after the elections got over.

Files nomination; assets worth Rs 2.51 cr

Mr Sidhu today filed his nomination papers at the office of SDM-cum-Returning Officer Sandeep Hans here today.

He was accompanied by Mr Dullo and a number of supporters.

In his declaration, Mr Sidhu revealed that he possessed property worth Rs 251.61 lakh and his wife Daljeet Kaur owned assets worth Rs 69.24 lakh.

He claimed that he possessed a house worth Rs 1.5 crore but owned only half the share.

He also has a share worth Rs 20 lakh in a gas agency at Kurali, a share worth Rs 50 lakh in a showroom in Chandigarh, land worth Rs 50 lakh at Kurdi village, gold jewellery worth Rs 1.25 lakh, a wine company worth Rs 24.88 lakh, etc. with the total of Rs 251.61 lakh.


Three file papers from Rajpura
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, January 24
Three candidates filed their nomination papers from the Rajpura Assembly constituency here today.

Before filing his nominations, BJP’s Raj Khurana addressed a rally and criticised the Congress for its anti-people policies.

He also alleged that the Congress had victimised the poor during its regime.

Mr Khurana fielded his son Tarun Khurana as his covering candidate.

After addressing the rally, Mr Khurana along with his supporters and other BJP leaders reached the office of the Returning Officer and filed his nomination papers.

Two local Congress leaders, Raj Rohila and Satish Kumar, also joined the BJP and expressed their solidarity with Mr Khurana.

Denied ticket by the SAD, Avtar Singh Harpalpur filed his nomination papers from the constituency as an Independent candidate.

Gurdev Kaur, wife of Mr Hardialpur and member of the Shiromani Committee, filed her papers as his covering candidate.

Mr Hardialpur addressed a rally and urged people to vote against the Congress.

Ashok Arora also filed his papers on BSP ticket from the constituency.

Addressing a rally before filing his papers, Mr Arora claimed that people had lost faith in the BJP, the SAD and the Congress.

BSP state vice-president Baldev Singh Mehra filed his papers as covering candidate of Mr Arora.

Ghanaur: It was a show of strength by Congress candidate from Ghanaur Assembly constituency, Jasjit Singh Randhawa, who organised a rally in the local Grain Market here today.

Coming down heavily on the SAD-BJP alliance, Mr Randhawa said they had been betraying innocent public since long.

While on his way to file his nomination papers at Patiala, Mr Randhawa visited various religious places to seek blessings.

Rupinder Kaur, wife of Mr Randhawa, filed her papers as a covering candidate for him.


BJSP candidate claims Balmik Sabha support

Mohali, January 24
Bhartiya Jan Shakti Party’s Anil Kumar, contesting the Punjab Assembly elections from the Kharar constituency, today claimed the support of some representatives of the Balmik Sabha.

Anil Kumar said sabha president Jeetpal Singh and cashier Krishanvir along with a large number of supporters had extended him their support during the elections.

Addressing a gathering at Amb Sahib Colony, Jeetpal Singh said none of the governments had so far worked for the welfare of the poor, especially the Dalit community.

Anil Kumar welcomed the supporters and assured of working for providing basic facilities to the poor. — OC


Saini goes past Badal

Ropar, January 24
Rebel Congress leader Amarjit Singh Saini today filed his nomination as Independent candidate from the Anandpur Sahib Assembly constituency here today.

He along with his wife declared assets worth more than Rs 9 crore, more than SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal and his wife.

Mr Saini had received the support of former MLA Basant Singh, former state youth Congress president Bhupesh Sharma, Punjab Pradesh Employees Federation president Sukhdev Singh and Congress leader Kulwant Rai.

Parliamentary Secretary for Industries and Commerce K.P.S Rana also filed his nomination papers from the Nangal Assembly constituency at Anandpur Sahib. — TNS


Rakesh files papers, dissidence evident
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, January 24
Local flavour was missing from the cavalcade of Congress candidate Rakesh Sharma, who filed his candidature from the Banur Assembly constituency here this afternoon.

Senior Congress leaders and contenders for the ticket avoided joining the procession and rally organised by his supporters before the filing of papers.

2 more file papers

Mr Avtar Singh Saini of the SAD (Amritsar) also filed his nomination. He proposed Mr Balwinder Singh as his covering candidate. Mr Sham Lal of the Akhil Rashtriyavadi Party also filed his papers.

Expressing resentment over the giving of ticket to Mr Sharma, son of former Punjab Finance Minister Hansraj Sharma, Ms Sheelam Sohi, Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee member, Mr Deepinder Singh Dhillon, former vice-chairman of the Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation, Mr Amritpal Singh, block Congress chief, Mr Prem Singh, Dera Bassi Congress chief, Mr Akattar Singh, Zirakpur Congress president, chairmen of the Dera Bassi, Banur and Lalru market committees and presidents of the youth Congress were absent from the rally.

Mr Sharma was accompanied by former Union minister and former Haryana Power Minister Venod Kumar Sharma and a few Congress leaders from Panchkula, Ambala and Chandigarh.

Addressing the gathering, Mr Venod Sharma sought public support for Mr Rakesh Sharma and promised development of the area on the same pattern as had been done by Hansraj Sharma.

Mr Rakesh Sharma filed two sets of nomination papers, declaring assets worth Rs 9,03,91,344, including his wife Sajata’s assets worth Rs 3,36,41,634.


Observers to stay at Raj Bhawan
Our Correspondent

Mohali, January 24
The three election observers appointed for the Kharar, Banur and Morinda constituencies will stay at the Punjab Bhawan, Sector 3, Chandigarh.

In a press note issued here this evening, District Election Officer-cum-Deputy Commissioner Tejveer Singh said the three observers - Anita Karwal, S.K. Dass, V.B. Pathak - will stay in room Nos. 202 to 205.

They may be contacted on telephone Nos. 2740463 to 65, 2740919 to 21 and 2748061. Fax messages may be sent on 2740863.

Those who wish to meet them personally can do so between 10 am to 11 am daily at the Punjab Bhawan.


JD(U) decides to campaign for SAD, BJP 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 24
The Janata Dal (United) yesterday announced that it would campaign for the

Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance during the Punjab Assembly elections.

The party, which had a week ago finalised names of candidates for

five Assembly constitutencies, said it would contest elections on the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) platform. The JD(U) leadership seems to have changed its mind after receiving a letter from SAD president Parkash Singh Badal that its state unit's electoral interests would be protected.

JD(U) president Sharad Yadav told mediapersons here that the party would not contest elections in Punjab independently but under the NDA banner.


Seera files papers

Barnala, January 24
Mr Harinder Singh Dhillon Seera, state vice-president of the Youth Congress, today filed his nomination papers as an Independent from this constituency.

He addressed a well-attended rally near the local bus stand. He, along with his supporters, carrying white flags, marched through the main bazars of the town. — OC



Ahir may contest as Independent

CHANDIGARH: Supporters of Mr Rakesh Ahir, former PCS officer and Congress leader, have been pressuring him to contest the Assembly elections from the Mahilpur segment in Hoshiarpur district against official nominee Dilbag Rai. Mr Ahir, a confidant of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, reportedly resigned from the government service following an assurance for the ticket. — TNS

CM’s posters: Case registered

BATHINDA: Unidentified persons have been booked on the charge of pasting posters of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his ministers carrying unparliamentary language. The posters were pasted at Rampura Phul. — TNS

Chautala campaigns for SAD

MOONAK (SANGRUR): Mr Om Parkash Chautala, former Chief Minister of Haryana, on Wednesday declared that he would campaign for the SAD-BJP candidates across Punjab. Mr Chautala was here to campaign in favour of Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra, SAD candidate for the Lehra Assembly constituency. — TNS


Rights body report: SAD seeks CBI probe
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 24
The Shiromani Akali Dal today asked President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to get a probe initiated into the findings of a report by the Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO). The report indicates “a diabolical plot to kill SAD president Parkash Singh Badal, son Sukhbir Singh Badal and other members of their family” and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s alleged role in it.

The party has demanded a CBI probe into the whole episode, saying that it was “the extremely serious development with grave implications for our polity and national security.”

An independent report conducted by the PHRO has found substantial evidence to link Capt Amarinder Singh, former Akali leader Ravi Inder Singh, controversial militant leaders Jasbir Singh Rode and Bhai Daljit Singh Bittu with the plot to kill the Badals and other Akali leaders during the election campaign.

Two Pakistanis, disguised as Sikhs, were to be used to act as human bombs to liquidate the father-son-duo as per conspiracy hatched at the residence of Ravi Inder Singh in Chandigarh on December 22, says the report. 


2 kids die in accident

Amritsar, January 24
Two schoolgoing students, aged eight and nine years, respectively were killed and four others injured when the tempo in which they were travelling collided with a school bus near Fatehpur Rajputana village in the district today, the police here said.

The accident took place when the tempo bringing the children back home collided with the bus of another school coming from the opposite direction. Both girls have been identified as Muskanjit and Simranjit.

The injured were admitted to a local private hospital. The deceased and the injured were students of a private school. — UNI


5-year-old boy rescued in Bihar

Hoshiarpur, January 24
A five-year-old boy abducted from Mukerian town nine days ago, has been rescued in Samastipur in Bihar, SSP R N Dhoke, said here today.

The police arrested abductor Sanjay Mahanto of Fatehpur in Bihar and rescued the boy Saidab, son of Israr Ahmed of Shahpur in Uttar Pradesh, at present residing at Railway Colony, Mukerian, he said.

The SSP said Saidab’s parents had complained to the police the child had not returned home since the evening of January 16, when he had left home to play with friends.

Investigation, established that Sanjay Mahanto was prime suspect as Jasmin, mother of the abducted child revealed that her husband recently lodged a complaint under Section 364 of the IPC against their worker Sanjay, after a quarrel over money.

Mr Dhoke said he contacted SSP of Bihar’s Samastipur district and informed him about the case. The Bihar police raided the residence of Sanjay Mahanto and arrested him after recovering the kidnapped boy.

A police party from here went to Bihar to take Sanjay Mahanto in custody. He was produced in the court there and after getting his transit warrant, Punjab police brought him, along with Saidab, to Mukerian.

Saidab has been handed over to his parents and Sanjay Mahanto was being interrogated, Mr Dhoke said. — UNI


Four hurt in accident

Phagwara, January 24
Four persons, including a woman, were injured in a collision between a car and a tractor-trailer on the naitional highway-I near Chaheru village last night, the police today stated. The injured were identified as Ishpal and sister Narinderpal, Jatinderpal Singh and Joginder Singh, all residents of Phagwara. — UNI


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