P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Farmers’ posers to parties
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 25
A substantial section of farmers in Punjab is still undecided as to which party to support in the coming Assembly elections. These farmers have some posers for frontrunners of political power in the state.

“Both the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Congress should take a clear stand on the policy of acquiring of land for industrial houses and establishing special economic zones (SEZs) under pressure from monopoly houses, colonisers and builders.

  • What is the parties’ stand on minimum support price?
  • What about SEZs?
  • Interest loans and debt waiver?
  • Will they ensure farmer-friendly Budget?

“While the Congress has not even mentioned about SEZs in its manifesto, the Akalis are not averse to acquiring land for mega projects but are promising market rate,” says Mr Prem Singh Bhangu, state president of the All-India Kirti Kisan Union.

Various kisan organisations and unions have decided to hold a state-level convention on January 28 at Ludhiana to place their agenda before the parties.

A brochure that focuses on long-standing demands of farmers has been prepared which would be released on that day.

The farmers, says Mr Bhangu, are agitated over the new role the government has donned- of acting as a mediator in acquiring agricultural land of farmers for industrial houses and multinational companies.

The government should amend the Land Acquisition Act to safeguard the interests of farmers and also scrap the Special Economic Zone Act.

The farmers maintain that though the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal are pinning hopes on rural and farmers’ vote, yet they have done little for them.

“The farmers of Punjab are under heavy debt. The total debt burden as of today is Rs 25,000 crore. This mounting debt due to heavy rate of interest is what is compelling more and more farmers to end lives. All parties are mum on this issue. Instead, they are spending l crores on advertisements, both in the print media and electronic media.

“Our only demand is waiving this ever-increasing debt. Nothing else would pacify the farmers,” said Mr Bhangu.

His views were echoed by other leaders, including Mr Pishora Singh Sidhupur (Bharti Kisan Union (Ekta), Mr Bhupinder Sambher (Punjab Kisan Sabha), Mr Kulwant Singh Sandhu (Jamhoori Kisan Sabha) and Mr Maghar Singh Kulrian (Khetibari Kisan Vikas Front).

They wanted the main contestants to come clear on a policy statement on minimum support price for agricultural produce. “We want a commitment that the policy of MSP would continue and the MSP for the rabi crop, especially wheat, be fixed 50 per cent over and above the actual cost of production as recommended by Dr M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, National Farmers’ Commission.

The other demand of farmers’ organisations is that the Budget of 2007 be farmer-friendly, with 35 per cent earmarked for agriculture and rural development.

The institutional credit for agriculture and other related areas should be given at an interest rate of 4 per cent. A special fund for recharging the depleting ground water and crop insurance scheme are the other demands.


Sidhu, Singla file papers amid chaos
Varinder Walia and Ashok Sethi

Amritsar, January 25
Supporters of the BJP and the Congress as well as mediapersons jostled with one another to enter the office of the District Returning Officer as Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, cricketer-turned- politician, and Mr Surinder Singla arrived in the District Courts complex to file papers for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat here today.

The administration had a tough time in controlling the spirited activists of both parties. The police booked Mr Baxi Ram Arora, district BJP chief, on the complaint of Mr Balwant Singh, an Assistant Sub Inspector for alleged tearing his uniform. However, the district BJP chief, who is covering candidate for Mr Sidhu, denied the allegations. Ms Sushma, wife of Mr Singla, filed papers as covering candidate for her husband .

The inimitable Sidhu, ever-ready with his one-liners was the cynosure of all eyes. He enthralled the huge crowd which followed him.

In his typical style, Mr Sidhu referred to the contest as one between a ‘lion and a lamb’. Mr Sidhu quoted couplets of Urdu and Punjabi poets to demolish his opposition.

Traffic came to a halt in the Civil Lines area for several hours, even though the police had put up barricades to regulate the entry of the people into the District Court complex. So much so, senior leaders like Prof Darbari Lal and Mr Jugal Kishore Sharma were not allowed to enter when Mr Singla was filing his papers.

However, certain MLAs and senior Congress leaders pushed their way in. The entire proceedings of filing of papers was recorded by video cameras on the directions of the Election Commission. Later, crew of the NDTV was beaten up by DSP Major Singh. Senior police officials apologised on behalf of the DSP. The mediapersons have lodged a written complaint in this regard. District Returning Officer Kirandip Singh Bhullar said the administration might take action on the complaints received today.

What irks the local population is the fact that both Mr Sidhu and Mr Singla are ‘outsiders.’ However, Mr Sidhu takes pride that he has represented Amritsar in Parliament for more than two years. He claims: “I have a vision paper for Amritsar that will be implemented if voted to power.”


Bir mellows down; not to contest
Tribune News Service

Mohali, January 25
In a reversal of stand, sitting MLA from Kharar Bir Devinder Singh today said he would neither stand as an Independent candidate nor quit the Congress. In what he described as his “last press” conference till the elections, he said he was felt hurt and humiliated at the treatment meted out to him by the party high command, but “the 30-year association with the party cannot be broken,” he said.

Fighting tears Mr Bir Devinder said the party president in Punjab, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, had added insult to injury by threatening disciplinary action against him.

“We both became MLAs in 1980. One needs to only compare the property declarations made by both since then, and the picture of who ‘buys and sells’ tickets will be clear.”

Saying he would campaign for the party candidates in 116 constituencies, Mr Bir Devinder, however, stated he would not do so in Kharar. “I will not force voters to opt for a particular person. I will, however, request my supporters not to vote for a person who instead of creating a knowledge city will end up creating a centre of drug and liquor trade.”

He read out from a piece of paper, thanking his supporters and those who had voted him to power last time. “I did whatever I could with commitment and sense of service. I have paid the price of being honest and raising my voice against corruption. He mentioned the questions he raised in the Assembly regarding Lovely University, and the Amritsar Improvement Trust scandal.

At the end of the statement, a very emotional Bir Devinder said he would now shift to Patiala. “ I have no house here. In 30 years of politics, I have no farm and no firm. I will be packing my bags and leaving.

Facing questions from mediapersons regarding his reversal of stand, he said: “Baat aisi karo jis ke hazaar pehlu hon, ek pehlu aisa bhi ho jis se badla ja sake.”


Not in fray for CM’s post, says Sukhbir
Sunit Dhawan
Tribune News Service

Hisar, January 25
Rajya Sabha member and former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal's son Sukhbir Badal said here today that he was not in the fray for the post of the Punjab Chief Minister.

"SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal is the chief ministerial candidate of the party in this as well as the next assembly elections," Mr Badal said while talking to a group of newsmen.

The SAD leader maintained that their party would win 100 of the 117 assembly seats in the ensuing poll in Punjab. He was in the city to mourn the death of Zee Television chairman Subhash Chandra's mother Tara Devi.

On being asked about the contentious issue of sharing the river waters between Punjab and Haryana, Mr Badal asserted that Punjab should get its due share of water. He termed the friction between the two states over the completion of the SYL canal a "family dispute". In response to a query, the Rajya Sabha MP pointed out that their party had fielded more than 20 fresh faces in the elections to give due representation to the youth.

Criticising the Congress government in Punjab, Mr Badal remarked that the moves by the state DGP and an SP to launch shopping malls worth hundreds of crores indicated the level and extent of corruption in the state.

Bhajan Lal, who? In a rather off-the-cuff remark, Mr Sukhbir Badal asked the media persons as to who Bhajan Lal was. He had been asked to comment on the former Haryana Chief Minister's statement that he and his MP son Kuldeep Bishnoi would not campaign for the Congress in Punjab.

To this, Mr Badal shot back, "Who Bhajan Lal?" On being told that the question pertained to former Haryana Chief Minister, he quipped that who would remember Bhajan Lal in Punjab when he had little say in his own state.


Fidayeen attack feared during poll
Dharmendra Joshi

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, January 25
Jammu and Kashmir-based militants may carry out a fidayeen (suicide) attack in Punjab in an attempt to disrupt the ongoing process of assembly elections.

Intelligence inputs suggest that J and K militants want to expand their area of operation from one border state to another (Punjab) and the election process provides easy targets to them.

However, the Punjab militants and their splinter groups are reportedly inactive as their network has been in a shambles for a long time now. Only two groups, Ranjit Singh Neeta's Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) and Lakhbir Singh Rode's International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF-Rode group), have been active in the state in the recent past.

While KZF was responsible for two bomb blasts at Jalandhar bus stand some time back, three militants of the ISYF, Paramjit Singh Dhaddi, alias Punjab Singh, Amolak Singh and Jaswinder, were held about a month back with 11 kg of RDX from different parts of Punjab.

Despite the fact that Jalandhar SSP Naunihal Singh had said at that time that the RDX presumably was to be used for carrying out disruptive activities in the state during the assembly elections, the intelligence agencies do not see Neeta and Rode groups as a major threat to the poll process and are more apprehensive about the J and K militants.

Police sources said that the SSPs of all the 24 police districts of the state had been asked to be extra vigilant following intelligence reports in this regard.

No police official was ready to talk on record about the intelligence reports of possible fidayeen attacks by J and K militants during the elections.

When asked, DIG Jalandhar Range P.S. Gill claimed that there was general but no specific intelligence report about fidayeen attack. On further probing, he said that if there was any report about that why he would share that with the media.

In the meantime, the reports of missing identity cards of 87 Army personnel have created panic among intelligence and police agencies. These identity cards may be used to carry out suicide attack.

Sources said that J and K militants might use woman as a human bomb to carry out suicide attacks.


A typographical error, says DGP
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 25
Coming to the rescue of his officials, the Director-General of Police, Punjab, Mr R.S. Gill, today stated that both the communications sent by the two wings of the Punjab Police on the issue of missing identity cards of Army men were correct as both the wings had received different communications.

"The Security Wing received a message from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that armymen were missing and the same was forwarded. The intelligence wing received a message from the Intelligence Bureau that I-cards of armymen were missing and they forwarded that," he said adding that the Intelligence Wing had received the correct message.

"A typographical error probably took place at the level of the MHA while they were communicating the message to us. I called for the original message received by the security wing today and it clearly says that army personnel are missing," he said.

The message received from the Government of India had stated that identity cards of 87 Army personnel had gone missing since December 2006 and state police heads were asked to ensure that these were not misused by militants in trying to gain entry to the various venues of the Republic Day celebrations.

The message received from the MHA about "missing army men" included the entire list of the 87 Army men along with other details sent and was forwarded by the to all zonal and range IGs and the various SSPs in the state on January 23, causing quite a flutter. For the SSPs, the situation, however, became clear on January 24 when another message from the intelligence wing was received stating that identity cards of 87 army men were missing. This message also included the same list with the same details.

But as far as the Zonal and Range IGs are concerned, they still have no clarification about the original message from the security wing. "We are still waiting for some clarification from the security wing. As far as we are concerned, army men are missing," said Mr SK Sharma IG Patiala Range, when contacted.


EC whip: Contestants fall in line
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 25
With the Election Commission cracking the whip on top leaders of political parties , the official nominees of the ruling party today fell in line and took utmost care to adhere to the Model Code of Conduct. Congress candidate from Bathinda Harminder Singh Jassi was very careful as he filed papers in the presence of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.

The CM, who was served a notice by the EC for code violation, was in no mood to take any chance , as his chopper landed at Rajindra College ground after seeking due permission. He headed for the mini-secretariat in his official convoy, parked it at a distance and walked up to the SDM’s office along with Mr Jassi.

A few chosen persons accompanied them. The Congress candidate did not come with a cavalcade of vehicles. The CM left within 20-25 minutes and skipped the rally organised in support of Mr Jassi in the heart of the city.

Similarly, Congress candidate from Talwandi Sabo Jeet Mohinder Sidhu reached the SDM office accompanied with the permissible number of vehicles and filed his nominations in the presence of PPCC general secretary Raninder Singh before holding a rally, permission for which was taken.

Earlier, interacting with mediapersons, the CM said the Congress manifesto would be released in a day or two. He said the HT-CNN-IBN survey, which had predicted a swing in their favour, reflected the mood of the electorate.

He said the Congress would sweep the so-called Akali bastion of Malwa. AICC chief Sonia Gandhi and PM Dr Manmohan Singh would attend four rallies, including one in the Bathinda belt. Starting tomorrow, he would campaign for the party in six constituencies daily.


1.69 cr voters; 17,000 booths
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 25
Punjabis love their fairs and festivals. Ditto for elections. The number of contestants in an election has been on an upswing with observers claiming that there could be more candidates luring the over 1.69 crore voters than the last time.

Sources say the Election Commission will set up over 17,000 polling booths. Out of these, about 35 per cent could fall in the hyper-sensitive and sensitive categories.

In the 1992 Vidhan Sabha elections, 569 candidates entered the fray. The number went up to 693 in 1997 and almost doubled to 923 in 2002.

However, there is a flip side too: With the number of candidates increasing, the number of contestants, forfeiting their deposits, has also been on the rise. In 1992, 317 candidates did not get their deposits back, the number was 420 in the next elections and it was a whopping 655 in the 2002 poll.

Thus, in 2002, since each contestant has to deposit Rs 5,000 at the time of filing his nomination, the amount earned by the exchequer as a result of 655 candidates losing their deposits was Rs 32.75 lakh.


Hussainiwalas want trade route back
Ajay Banerjee & Anirudh Gupta
Tribune News Service

Ferozepore, January 25
The electorate here has one issue - revival of trade with Pakistan through the Hussainiwala route. Once, the trade was stopped in 1971, the economy changed. Hotels, restaurants, cinema houses, and trading houses handling cargo closed down. Various spin-offs with them like transporters, porters, taxi operators also shifted base.

Talk to any candidate of a party and he will claim that the “Prime Minister is keen on it and has assured us the border will be opened”.

Thousands of families of farmers all along the Indo-Pak border have been tilling land for more than 50 years, but do not own it. The Union Government has to give permission for the same. Till then they are tenants.

Legislators come and go, but the plight of farmers remains the same, says Mr Imaant Singh of Guru Har Sahai, whose family grows vegetables along the Sutlej.

The issue of compensation for farmers in the border area is long standing. Farmers cannot grow crops like sugarcane. Thousands of acres of land is located across the electrified fence. Farmers can only venture there during the day.

For the 3.5 lakh-strong Rai Sikh population living all along the border, the promise of being included in the Scheduled Castes’ list is pending with the Centre.

If these problems are not enough, a bridge across the Sutlej awaits permission of the Union Ministry of Defence. Several villages do not have road connection with the mainland and crossing the river on a boat is the only option.

Big stink in Ludhiana
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, January 25
A need as basic as a urinal has emerged as the main poll issue for shopkeepers and residents of Block-I in Sarabha Nagar.

The only urinal for the market, common to several other blocks of the posh Sarabha Nagar, where the price of plots and houses is over a crore, was demolished five months ago by the municipal corporation.

It forced the shop owners and their employees to answer nature's call along the boundary wall of a park. However, residents objected to it, stating that they could not use the park for evening and morning walks due to the stench.

Since then, the shopkeepers have been requesting MC officials and political leaders to get a new urinal constructed for them at an appropriate place, but to no avail.

Residents and shopkeepers have come close to physical confrontation many times due to the absence of the urinal.

Now, with politicians coming to them for votes, both groups are reminding them of the unfulfilled promise of a urinal.

Mr Devinder Pal Singh, a chemist representing the market, said they would teach a lesson to political parties whose leaders gave them just lip service regarding their demand. ‘‘Now, only that candidate can hope to get our votes who convinces the market that he will fulfil our demands.’’

Mr S.S. Channa, a retired IFS officer and senior resident of the area, said it was sheer nonsense that the residents could not make use of the park despite living in the posh area of the city because of the pungent smell owing to misuse of the park.

He said it was shocking that they had to plead with leaders for such a basic demand.


District Report
Hoshiarpur open to grab
Naveen S Garewal

Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur , January 25
The eight Assembly segments of the Hoshiarpur parliamentary constituency are keeping all contenders on the tenterhooks, showing no clear preference. Having taken a lead in campaigning in other parts of the state, the Shiromani Akali Dal candidates have completed round one in four of the eight segments it is contesting from, but poll partner Bharatiya Janata Party has been a let down.

Having started late, the rival Congress is yet to work out logistics for all eight seats, two of which were won by the Congress in the 2002 poll and one (Garhshankar) regained during the 2004 bypoll. Among the sitting MLAs, Mr Ramesh Chander Dogra and Mr Lov Kumar Goldy are being repeated from Dasuya and Garhshankar, while Congress sitting MLA Dr Kewal Krishan from Mukerian has been replaced by his son Rajnish Kumar.

The Garhshankar segment was won by Mr Goldy from the BJP candidate, Mr Mohinder Pal Mann, in the 2004 bypoll. He will again be locked in a straight contest with the same candidate. The 2002 poll from here was won by BJP’s Avinash Rai Khanna. The Congress and the BJP saw a close fight here in 2002 with the BJP polling a marginally 2 per cent higher votes.

In the neighbouring Mahilpur (SC) reserved constituency, the SAD sitting MLA, Mr Sohan Singh Thandal, has had the lead by starting his campaign early. The Congress has fielded a new candidate, Dr Dilbag Rai. But the Congress has never considered this seat to be favourably inclined towards it and in the past the Bhaujan Samaj Party (BSP) has done better than the Congress from here. This time too Mr Avtar Singh Karimpura of the BSP will make Mahilpur a triangular contest.

In Hoshiarpur the contest is between Mr Tikshan Sood of the Congress and Mr Gurdev Singh of the BSP. The Janata Dal (S) has also announced its decision to contest this seat. Mr Sood is the sitting MLA , but he had contested and won the 2002 and the 1997 elections on the BJP ticket. He replaces Mr Naresh Thakur who contested this seat as the Congress candidate during the last poll.

The Congress is repeating its sitting MLA Chaudhry Ram Lubhaya from Sham Chaurasi (SC), the third reserved seat in the district. He will take on a woman candidate of the SAD, Bibi Mohinder Kaur Josh, and BSP’s Sham Singh Chohan.

In Mukerian, the BJP has fielded Mr Arunesh Kumar, who had contested against Dr Kewal Krishan in the 2002 poll. Both Mukerian and Dasuya are considered to be Congress strongholds. Dr Ramesh Chander Dogra has retained the Dasuya seat since 1985. Mr Arunesh Kumar lost to the Congress candidate with a margin of 10 per cent votes last time. A five per cent swing can make all the difference this time.


Jasjit Singh files papers
Our Correspondent

Mr Jasjit Singh, SAD candidate from Kharar, along with his father, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, at a public rally befor filing his nomination papers in Mohali on Thursday.
UNDER FATHER’S WINGS: Mr Jasjit Singh, SAD candidate from Kharar, along with his father, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, at a public rally before filing his nomination papers in Mohali on Thursday. — Tribune photo by Vicky Gharu

Mohali, January 25
SAD-BJP alliance candidate from the Kharar constituency Jasjit Singh put up an impressive show of strength at Dasehra ground before filing his nomination papers here today.

Addressing a gathering, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, SAD general secretary and father of Jasjit Singh, said he would ensure overall development of the constituency once SAD-BJP combine assumed power in the state.

He said the works done by him in the Banur constituency were there for everybody to see and this time he had come to assure the people of Kharar.

He said the local Congress MLA had failed to deliver and done nothing for the welfare of the people of the area during the past five years.

He said the Congress would have to pay the price for neglecting the constituency.

He said the SAD-BJP combine would start welfare activities stopped by the Congress Government.

He said their government would abolish VAT in the interest of traders and common people and increase old-age pension from Rs 200 to Rs 400 per month.

He said the work on the Dashmesh canal, which had been stopped by the Congress government, would be started on priority, as the water table in the area had gone down.

Senior BJP leader Sat Pal Jain said he was impressed with the faith shown by people in the alliance thus far.

He said the SAD-BJP combine was here not only to win the elections but also to give due respect to the Sikh community that had suffered at the hands of the Congress.

It had become difficult for the Sikhs to live outside of the state post-1984.

He added that the Congress regime had made it difficult for the poor to purchase essential items, as the prices skyrocketed.

Jasjit Singh said people had the power to turn the tables on the Congress on February 13.

He said the sitting Congress MLA from the area had alleged that Balbir Singh Sidhu, Congress candidate contesting from the Kharar constituency, had got the party ticket by giving Rs 5 crore.

He questioned the origin of the amount. He alleged that liquor vends being run by Mr Sidhu were selling intoxicants besides liquor.

He claimed that their alliance would form the next government in the state and Capt Kanwaljit Singh would become the Finance Minister.

He assured of getting grants released for the development of the Kharar constituency.

Former MLA Daljit Kaur, senior SAD leader Rajbir Singh Padiala and BJP leader Khushwant Rai Giga were among those who took part in the rally.


Jobs, education on his mind
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Ghanaur, January 25
His priority is employment generation and providing quality education in the Ghanaur Assembly segment in the home district of the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh.

"After the creation of infrastructure such as roads, drinking water facilities and flood-control measures during the past five years, the main focus is going to be on provision for quality education in the predominantly-rural constituency if the Amrinder Singh government is voted back to power,” says Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Minister for Cooperation and Horticulture.

"Only quality education can open new vistas for gainful employment and my focus will be on creating infrastructure to provide quality education. Employment needs to be taken care of, and the Congress is committed to this issue,” the sitting MLA, who is attempting to enter the Punjab Assembly for a third time, asserts.

A widely-travelled man, Mr Randhawa says development is his main poll plank.

"During the past five years, Ghanaur was among the few constituencies in Punjab which fared well on several fronts, including laying of roads, control of floods and provision for drinking water," he claims.

Any anti-incumbency factor? Certainly not in his Assembly segment, claims the 60-year-old politician, who is locking horns with the SAD-BJP candidate and former minister, Mr Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur.

On dissidence in the party, particularly the threat posed by the rebel candidate, Mr Madan Lal, Mr Randhawa says there is no place for disgruntled elements in polity.


For councillors, all roads lead to Punjab
Amrita Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 25
Come Monday and local councillors and politicians will be more visible in Punjab than the city. With less than three weeks left for polling in the Assembly elections, the local political fraternity is all set to start campaigning there in support of their respective party candidates.

Drawing maximum mileage out of this is the SAD. With its Mayor in place, party leadership is all set to flaunt the success across Punjab.

The Congress, however, feels that their majority in the MC House will go down well with people.

Talking to the TNS, Congress leader B.B. Bahal said the party high command had already divided certain districts and constituencies for them to campaign in.

“A councillor and I will go to these districts. While women councillors will go to constituencies reserved for women candidates,” he stated.

Four districts - Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Ropar -will be covered by local councillors.

Mr Bahal started campaigning for the party in the Kharar constituency on Tuesday.

The BJP, too, is set to follow suit. This weekend will decide who will go where for campaigning, says Satya Pal Jain, who was in Kharar to support his party yesterday.

“The high command will depute the cadres. Senior leaders will campaign all over the state. The programme will be prepared by the leadership in Punjab and we will address public and worker meetings.”

Meanwhile, Congress councillor Jasjit Singh Kang, not waiting for directions from the party high command, has already joined the campaign trail for his brother Jagmohan Singh Kang, Minister of Animal Husbandry and Tourism, and sitting MLA from Morinda.

Talking to the TNS, he said his campaigning was on a personal level.

Former Union Minister of Civil Aviation and president of the Chandigarh Vikas Manch Harmohan Dhawan will also campaign for the BJP and the SAD, with whom his party has an alliance.

“We will campaign, once the nominations are final. We will support both the SAD and the BJP.”

Mayor Harjinder Kaur of the SAD will also join the campaign. “Mr Badal has to finalise the schedule,” she says.


1.78 lakh voters to decide candidates' fate in Banur
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, January 25
Over 1.78 lakh voters will decide the fate of candidates in the Banur Assembly segment. According to sources, as many as 31 polling stations have been declared "hyper-sensitive" and 32 "sensitive" out of the 173 polling stations in the segment. Of the 1,78,603 voters, there are 93,849 males voters and 84,754 female voters.

Meanwhile, to review the polling arrangements and apprise the party candidates and their polling agents about the model code of conduct, the Returning Officer, Mr Narinder Sangha, today held a meeting here.

Urging the candidates to follow the model code of conduct in letter and spirit, Mr Sangha warned that candidates' cavalcade should not exceed three authorised vehicles. The candidates have also been warned not to deface public property by pasting posters and other election materials. Similarly, the use of the loudspeakers has been banned from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

A strict vigil is being maintained on the expenditure of the candidates, which has been fixed at Rs 10 lakh per candidate, officials highlighted.

Sources said adequate security arrangements had been made for the candidates as well as the smooth conduct of the poll. While the party candidates have been provided five security personnel, the Independent candidates have been given two security personnel each, the DSP, Mr Surinder Pal Singh, informed.

A total of the 10 candidates, including two covering candidates, are in the fray for contest with Capt Kanwaljit Singh (SAD-BJP) and Mr Rakesh Sharma (Congress) being the main contenders for the seat. The candidates are Capt Kanwaljit Singh( SAD-BJP), Rakesh Sharma (Congress), Jasbir Singh (BSP), Avtar Singh Saini (SAD-Amritsar), Sham Kumar (NCP), Avtar Singh Ghuman (Independent), Mann Singh Jarot (Independent), Subhash Rana Zirakpur (Independent), Sarbjit Kaur (covering), Balwinder Singh (covering).


It’s development vs anti-incumbency in Banur
Tribune News Service

Banur, January 25
With the last date for filing nominations ending today, battle lines have been drawn for the crucial Banur Assembly segment in the run-up to the February 13 elections to the Punjab Assembly.

And it is going to be development versus anti-incumbency in this segment where the battle royale will be between SAD stalwart Capt Kanwaljit Singh and Congress’ greenhorn Rakesh Sharma, who is the son of former Punjab Finance Minister Hans Raj Sharma.

In fact for the Congress candidate, development issue seems to be the trump card.

Mr Sharma is banking on the development activity carried out by his father in the 70s and 80s. Besides, he is backed by former Haryana Power Minister and former MLA from Banur Venod Sharma.

Interestingly, development activity has been a carried out in the segment by former vice-chairman of the Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation (PSIDC) Deepinder Dhillon, who was also the Congress in-charge for the constituency during the past five years.

However, Mr Sharma was chosen by the party high command over Mr Dhillon and general secretary of the PPCC Seelam Sohi.

“Bijli, sarak, pani (electricity, roads and water) are my priorities,” Mr Sharma told Chandigarh Tribune today.

“Besides, the overall development of the backward constituency, including a girls’ college, are high on my agenda,” he added.

A majority of the local Congress leaders were absent from the first rally of the Congress candidate at Dera Bassi yesterday before the filing of the nomination papers, adding to the worries of Mr Sharma.

Efforts are on to rope in senior leaders for campaign, Mr Sharma claimed promising “stunning results”.

However, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, who is aiming for a hat trick from the Assembly segment, picks up holes in the development theory of the Congress government.

“Let the Congress fight elections only on the development issue,” he said here today.

The direct contact between the government and people had snapped during the past five years and the electorate was waiting for an opportunity to break free from “Maharaja’s” oppressive rule, the sitting MLA asserted.


1,662 nominations
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 25
A total of 736 candidates today filed their nominations, the last day for filing nominations for the Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections.

With this, the total number of candidates who have filed nominations is 1662. However, the actual number of candidates who remain in the fray will be clear only after January 28, the last date for the withdrawals.

In the last elections, 923 candidates had vied for the 117 Assembly constituencies. It remains to be seen if the number of contestants after the withdrawals cross the 2002 elections tally, as is widely expected, or not.

Prominent among those who filed their nominations today were Mr Balmukund Sharma, Mr Brahm Mohindra, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Master Mohan Lal, Mr Harminder Singh Jassi, all former ministers and Mrs Luxmi Kanta Chawla. Incidentally, two leaders - Mr Anil Dutt and Mr Harbhajan Lakha - also filed their nominations.

At the end of the process to file the papers, major contenders who are in the fray are incumbent Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Punjab Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo, Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, ministers Harnam Dass Johar, Lal Singh, Jagmohan Singh Kang, Pratap Singh Bajwa, R.C. Dogra, Jagjit Singh, Gurkanwal Kaur, Razia Sultana, all from the Congress.


Khanna’s men to oppose Sood
Our correspondent

Hoshiarpur, January 25
Mr Tikshan Sood, MLA, received a jolt when a majority of office-bearers of the district unit close to Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, MP and BJP chief , Punjab, resigned soon after he filed his nomination papers here yesterday.

The decision was unanimously taken at a joint meeting of office-bearers of various cells held under the presidentship of Mr Vijay Aggarwal, district president of the party.

All speakers, including Mr Sanjiv Talwar, vice-president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, Punjab, Mr Vijay Aggarwal, Mr Gopi Chand Kapur, Capt Roshan Lal, Dr Subhash Mehta, all presidents of the city mandal, rural mandal and medical cell, criticised the BJP high command for granting party ticket to Mr Sood from Hoshiarpur, despite opposition from all quarters .

They raised slogans against the high command and Mr Sood.

Later, talking to mediapersons, Mr Vijay Aggarwal and Mr Sanjiv Talwar said Mr Sood was allegedly involved in activities that gave a bad name to the party.

His ‘henchmen’ had issued defamation notices to nine office-bearers and filed suits against some party leaders.


This party for 9 to 5 corruption
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 25
Chandigarh's comedian Jaspal Bhatti, (in)famous for lampooning politicians, is at it again. With elections to the Punjab Assembly round the corner, the satirist today found yet another way to mock at the “corrupt” political class by floating the “Land Grabbers and Dealers Party”.

In fact, launching the party, which has the aim of wooing the “hearts of millions of unemployed, bankrupt, downtrodden and frustrated voters of Punjab”, at Sector 17 Plaza here today, Bhatti came out with some of the weirdest promises which perhaps no politician could match.

“Corruption at lower levels will be rooted out. Corruption will be allowed only at the bureaucratic and ministerial levels”, Bhatti said, adding that corruption would be allowed only from 9 am to 5 pm. Party tickets will be sold through auction only, he quipped.

Bhatti and his “gang” took potshots at Capt Amarinder Singh and his bete noire Parkash Singh Badal through a parody song: “chak de phatte” adapted from comedy movie “Khosla ka Ghosla” as a motley Thursday crowd watched in amusement.

If voted to power, the party would sell all fertile land of Punjab to big industrial houses through land mafia, Bhatti said, promising special training to the youth to make them property dealers. Farmers would be made to get rid of their lands and taught to do farming in pots and "gamlas"!

And he lost no time in welcoming all disgruntled politicians from all parties, having the experience of selling the interests of their constituencies, to his party fold. ”All bureaucrats and police officers, who have acquired over five acres through fair or unfair means are specially welcome to the party”, he added.

Chak de phatte

  • Corruption to be institutionalised at the bureaucratic and ministerial levels
  • Party ticket to be sold through auction
  • Government schools to be converted into shopping malls


Notices issued to SAD, Cong candidates
Our Correspondent

Mohali, January 25
The SDM-cum-Returning Officer, Mr Sandeep Hans, has issued notices to the SAD and the Congress candidates asking them to furnish details of the expenditure incurred on rallies that were held by them at the Dasehra ground in Phase VIII here.

Mr Jasjit Singh of the SAD had held a massive rally today while Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu of the Congress exhibited his show of strength yesterday. Both of them were issued notices today and asked to furnish the details of expenses in connection with their rallies. Authorities believe that a huge sum must have been spent by each of them.

Notices regarding the illegal plying of vehicles which amounted to a violation of the code of conduct have also been issued to four candidates . These have been issued to Mr Jasjit Singh, Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, Mr Tarlochan Singh Mann, Independent, and Mr Jaswinder Singh of the BSP.

It had been observed by authorities concerned that a number of vehicles that were being plied by supporters of candidates had party flags, posters and stickers even when no permission had been sought in this regard.

The candidates have been warned that such vehicles will be impounded if the required permission was not taken from the office of the Returning Officer.


Uma’s party fields 19

Chandigarh, January 25
On the last day of filing of nomination papers, the Bharatiya Jan Shakti Party fielded 19 candidates, including two women, besides deciding to support 11 others.

Among those named in the party’s list are Mr Ram Lal, a former BJP MLA, from Narot Mehra, Mrs Manju Gupta from Pathankot and Mrs Bindu Rani from Dina Nagar.

The other candidates of the party are : Mr Ashutosh Vinayak (Malerkotla), Mr Krishan Bansal (Fazilka), Dr Subash Trehan (Ferozepore City), Mr Anil Kumar (Kharar), Mr Bobby Chandalia (Ludhiana East), Mr Balbir Aggarwal (Ludhiana West), Mr Pardeep Jindal (Ludhiana North), Mr Fakir Chand Gupta (Ludhiana South), Mr Baldev Singh (Dakha), Mr Roshan Lal Dabra (Muktsar), Swami Sukrit Sharda (Sujanpur), Thakur Jai Singh (Mukerian), Mr Badri Narain Jha (Jalandhar North), Mr Dewan Chand (Nangal), Mr Ashwani Gaind (Hoshiarpur) and Mr Raj Kumar (Dasuya).

The party will support Mr Iqbal Singh Chunda (Dhuri), Mr Sucha Singh Chottepur (Dhariwal), Mr Vipin Nair (Amritsar West), Mr Ashwani Gora (Moga), Mr Ashwani Chauba (Phagwara), Mr Deepak Nanchahal (Bathinda), Mr Raj Kumar (Nakodar), Mr Rajinder Batheja (Guru Harsahai), Mr Jatinder Gupta (Garhshankar), Mr Raja Walia (Batala) and Mr Sanjeev Kaushal (Sirhind). — TNS


First Gujjar woman in fray
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Balachaur (Nawanshahr), January 25
When you meet her for the first time, she appears like any woman next door. A Gujjar and first woman contestant from Balachaur, Ms Santosh Kataria, has a simple, straight and yet a confident style of eloquence.

Daughter-in-law of a two-time MLA and Congress leader, Mr Ram Kishan Kataria, this mother of four had her first stint in politics in 2002 when her father-in-law fielded her for the Zila Parishad elections soon after he himself lost to his Akali rival, Mr Nand Lal, in the Vidhan Sabha poll.

She emerged as the winner. She says she is now on a hat-trick. “I have already had two firsts and I am going in for a third one. I became the first woman Zila Parishad chairperson from Balachaur and the first woman to contest the poll in the constituency,” she says, adding that her chances are bright as the constituency has a 45 per cent Gujjar population.


EC deputes 3 Observers

Fatehgarh Sahib, January 25
The EC of India has deputed three Election Observers for the Sirhind and Amloh(R) Assembly constituencies of Fatehgarh Sahib district.

Mr Subrata Sarkar, IRS, has been appointed expenditure observer for both seats.

Mr Jagadish Parshad Aggarwal, IAS officer from Orissa, has been appointed election Observer for the Amloh (R) constituency. Similarly, Mr Suresh Parshad Singh, IAS officer from Bihar, has been appointed election Observer for the Sirhind Assembly constituency. — OC


AISAD merges with SAD

LUDHIANA: The All-India Shiromani Akali Dal, led by Mr Jaswant Singh Mann, on Friday merged with the newly constituted Shiromani Akali Dal. Mr Arnrik Singh Aliwal will be acting president. — TNS

BJP quells dissidence

Gurdaspur: The BJP today managed to bring back into its fold a number of dissident leaders. A former minister, Mr Satpal Saini, said he would support the official candidate. — TNS


Police harassment complaint by Akali leader
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 25
Mr Ajit Pal Singh Kohli, president of the Patiala district Youth Akali Dal, has complained to the Punjab State Election Commission that houses of certain local Akali leaders, who had recently defected to the SAD from the Congress, were raided last night.

In his complaint, Mr Ajit Pal Kohli has said that residences and business premises of nearly 10 local SAD leaders, including Tilak Raj, Kanwaljit Singh, Bhola Ram, Surinder Singh, Rakesh Kumar, Suniel Kumar, Tarsem Kumar, Devinder Singh and Suresh Kumar, were raided and the leaders were subjected to police harassment at the " behest of the Congress".

In his complaint, Mr Kohli has said that "there was a fear psychosis in the minds of these people, as they have switched sides. Since last night a few of them had already left the city and were being blackmailed with dire consequences".

Meanwhile, SP (City) Mandeep Singh Sidhu, when contacted, denied that any raids were being conducted at the behest of the Congress party.


President’s Police Medal for two Punjab cops
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 25
Two Punjab Police officials have been awarded the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service while eight other officials of the force have been awarded the Police Medal for Meritorious Service on the occasion of Republic Day.

A spokesman of the Punjab Police said ASI Ranbir Singh of Ludhiana and ASI Gian Singh of Ropar, have been awarded President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service.

The awardees for the Police Medal for Meritorious Service are: S.M. Sharma, ADGP Computers and telecommunication; SI Gopal Dass, (number 896/PR); ASI Som Nath, (number 36/97); ASI Kuldeep Singh, (number 54/Ropar); ASI Bikkar Singh, (number. 1375) of Ludhiana; ASI Surjit Singh, (number 1754/PAP); ASI Surinder Kumar (number 221) of Ludhiana; and Head Constable Jagtar Singh (number 2840) of Ludhiana.


4 sworn in as members of info panel
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 25
The Punjab Governor, Gen S.F. Rodrigues (retd), today administered the oath of office to Lt-Gen Promod Kumar Grover (retd), Mr Kulbir Singh, Mr P.P.S. Gill and Mrs Ravi Singh as members of the State Information Commission, Punjab, at a brief ceremony at Punjab Raj Bhavan.

Mrs Jean Rodrigues, wife of the Punjab Governor, the State Chief Information Commissioner, Mr Rajan Kashyap, and other members of the commission were among those present.


Misra takes over as BBMB chief
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 25
Mr U.C. Misra today took over as the Chairman of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB).

Mr Misra is an engineer and has 35 years of experience in the power sector. He was last working with Powergrid.

He has been associated with various power projects and was responsible for the timely completion of some projects located in difficult terrain and insurgency-hit areas.


Police nabs car thief
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 25
The Patiala police claims to have nabbed a notorious criminal who was allegedly involved in several thefts of cars across the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.

According to a Patiala police press note, a team led by SP (City), Mr Mandeep Singh Sidhu, today laid a naka at the Sirhind bypass and stopped an Indica car bearing registration number DL-4C-1857. The driver sensing trouble tried to drive the vehicle away but was allegedly overpowered by the cops with the help of the public.

The accused, identified as Harvinder Singh, a resident of New Delhi, admitted to have stolen as many as 21 cars across four states after intoxicating the occupants with various drugs.

A case has been made out against Harvinder Singh at Tripuri police station under various Sections of the IPC.


‘Psycho Fest’ on happiness at Punjabi varsity
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 25
The Department of Psychology, Punjabi University, organised its annual “Psycho Fest” here yesterday. The fest, organised to counsel and test students, faculty and staff for free, is being held on “Happiness”.

Satwant Kaur Boparai, wife of Vice-Chancellor S.S. Boparai, inaugurated the fest. Interacting with participants, she said such events could be used as tool to fighting social evils like drug-addiction, crime against women and dowry deaths by carrying out counselling sessions.

The students of the Psychology Department participated in a poster competition on “Psychology of Happiness” in which they highlighted the different ways of searching happiness both around and within.

Around 50 posters describing the ingredients of happiness were put on display. From catchy phrases to cartoon captions, all were well received by visitors.

A workshop on “Happiness and Well-being”, aimed at generating and enhancing positive thoughts and feelings, was organised.

Psychological exercises and visual inputs helped participants visualise and experience the power of a happy mind.

Dr Sucha Singh Gill, Dean Academic Affairs, Dr Parm Bakhshish Singh, Registrar, and Dr R.K. Sehgal, Director, UCOE, also attended the workshop.

Dr Gill asked the Head of the Department to continue with the activities for the welfare of students.

Dr B.S. Sandhu, Dean College Development Council, said the department would hold follow-up sessions for those students who participated in the event.


Seminar on Ramayana ends
Tribune News Service

Patiala, January 25
A two-day seminar on “Retelling the Ramayana and other languages” being organised by the Department of Maharishi Valimiki Chair, Punjabi University, in association with the Central Valmik Sabha (International), UK, concluded here yesterday.

Dr Aniruddha Joshi, former Professor of Sanskrit, Panjab University, and Dr Lekh Ram Sharma, Professor of Sanskrit, GND University, Amritsar, were the guests of honour yesterday.

Central Valmik Sabha general secretary Jagdish Rai gave his presidential remarks, while Dr A.N. Pandey, Professor, Department of Sanskrit, Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, Varanasi, presented the valedictory address.

Experts and scholars of Sanskrit language presented their papers during the seminar in which various aspects pertaining to “Ramayana” were discussed.

Dr Ravinder Kaur, Head, Maharishi Valimik Chair, presented a vote of thanks.


17 students of BGIET selected

Sangrur, January 25
The Libsys Corporation, a Delhi-based software company, conducted a joint campus interview at the Bhai Gurdas Institute of Engineering and Technology (BGIET) here yesterday.

Dr Tanuja Srivastava, director of the BGIET, said as many as 244 students from 12 engineering institutes of Punjab and Haryana participated in the interview.

Dr Tanuja said that 31 students, including 17 from the BGIET, had been selected by the company. — TNS


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