P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Keen tussle in Samana
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Samana, February 1
The Samana Assembly segment can neither be called a predominantly rural constituency because of the fact that 19 out of 50 municipal wards fall in Patiala district nor it can be termed an urban segment as 107 villages fall in Samana tehsil.

A keen tussle is likely to emerge in this segment where it is a straight fight between SAD candidate Surjit Singh Rakhra and Congress' nominee Brahm Mohindra. In the previous Assembly elections, the segment witnessed a four-cornered contest despite 15 candidates being in the fray.

The other candidates who were in the fray are Mr Ram Kumar Singla (BSP), Mr Nirmal Singh (CPI), Mr Jarnail Singh (Lok Jan Shakti Party) and Mr Mohinder Pal Singh of the SAD (Mann) and nine Independents.

Again 15 candidates are trying their luck. Political analysts feel that Mr Rakhra, who won the seat in 2002 with a margin of nearly 10,000 votes beating Mr Mohindra, will be facing a much tougher contest this time.

A number of factors go in favour of Mr Mohindra, who polled 30.25 per cent votes compared to 39.32 per cent polled by Mr Rakhra in the last elections. Nineteen municipal wards that fall in this segment cater to around one lakh electorate. The ruling Congress had carried out good development works in these wards.

Another factor which may sway the electorate in favour of Mr Mohindra is that unlike in the past elections, this time he has the full backing of the people who matter the most in the New Moti Bagh residence of the Chief Minister. The Patiala MP, Ms Preneet Kaur, accompanied him when he went to file his nomination papers.

Mr Mohindra have won the Assembly elections thrice from the Patiala segment. Mr Harry Mann, who contested as Congress rebel in 2002, dented the Congress vote base, causing Mr Mohindra’s defeat. With Mr Mann joining the SAD (B), Congress workers loyal to him have left with no other option but to support Mr Mohindra.

However, Mr Malwinder Singh, younger brother of Capt Amarinder Singh who was also an aspirant for the Congress ticket, has not yet gone public in announcing support to Mr Mohindra. He can play a vital role in the hustings of this segment having around 2.35 lakh voters.

For Mr Rakhra, he will have to fall back upon the development works initiated in the constituency during his tenure as sitting MLA. An early campaign launched by Mr Rakhra, too, will help him. He has been successful in mobilising cadres in the constituency.

Mr Mohinder Pal of the SAD (Mann) and Mr Ram Kumar Singla would cut on the Akali and Congress votes, respectively.


Sukhbir intimidating SSP, Cong tells EC
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
The Punjab Congress today petitioned the Election Commission of India against Shiromani Akali Dal MP Sukhbir Badal for allegedly threatening the SSP, Majitha, yesterday.

The president of the Disciplinary Action Committee of the Congress, Mr Gopal Krishan Chatrath, said today that Mr Badal had no right to ask the SSP, Majitha, Mr Lok Nath Angra, “to quit”. He said Mr Badal could have only put forward his point of protest and not issue threats to the IPS officer. The police had to register an FIR under Section 154, but the officer had every right to investigate the case before taking action.

Mr Chatrath said the party had also protested against the display of advertisements carrying promises of the SAD on more than 200 buses. That was a violation of the Model Code of Conduct. He went on to saying “Mr O.P. Chautala should explain what is his interest in the Punjab elections and what kind of understanding is between him and Mr Parkash Singh Badal”.

Let them jointly declare what would be their stance on the river waters if the SAD was voted to power, he added.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) formed a state committee for the election campaign besides three committees for the Malwa, Doaba and Majha regions.

The Himachal Pradesh Congress chief, Ms Viplove Thakur, would be stationed at the party headquarters in Chandigarh. The party had appointed AICC secretary and MP from Goa, Mr Shanta Ram Naik in charge of the Malwa region. A former Union Minister, Ms Mohsina Kidwai, and MP Arun Kumar would be in charge of the Doaba region while Mr Santosh Bagrodia would look after the Majha region, Mr Chatrath said.


Kang blames it on stress; EC notice to Johar
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
The Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Sports Minister, Punjab, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, has blamed “natural stress on mind” and “hectic election schedule” for the alleged violation of the election code of conduct on January 26.

In his reply to the show-cause issued by the Election Commission on January 30, Mr Kang writes: “The alleged violations, if any, are inadvertent, bon afide and on account of natural stress on mind as I went to do honours at the Republic Day function at Muktsar cutting short my hectic election schedule in which my mind got attuned to a particular type, tone and tenor of speech, which unintentionally rubbed on to my Republic Day speech”.

He tendered an apology.

It may be recalled that on January 30, the Election Commission had given time till today to Mr Kang to reply to a show cause with regard to the speech that he delivered at the Republic Day function at Muktsar.

In his reply, Mr Kang denied seeking votes for his party, saying he took Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s name only because he was founding father of the Indian Constitution. Defending himself for having eulogised Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Mr Kang said he took her name only because she had done a great job by appointing a renowned economist like Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister.

Referring to the allegation that he took the names of former President Giani Zail Singh and Pradesh Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo, Mr Kang had this to say: “In the same vein, references were made to Giani Zail Singh and Mr S.S. Dullo to underline that in our democracy any citizen can rise to any level, irrespective of caste, creed and economic status.”

He also denied making any commitment or promises to the people. He has also pointed to the fact that his own constituency — Morinda — was over 300 km from Muktsar.

Meanwhile, the EC today issued a show cause to Punjab Minister Harnam Dass Johar for the alleged violations of the poll code.

The show cause refers to complaints received along with photographs showing Mr Johar going in a huge cavalcade of mini trucks, jeeps, and cars to file his nominations. The complaint also said that government vehicles were also part of the cavalcade.

The EC notice also refers to the cut-outs and posters of the minister, Congress candidate from Ludhiana (West), on walls of public properties in areas of Model Town, Shastri Nagar and Rajguru Nagar. The minister has been given time till 11 am of February 3 to submit his reply.


Kanwaljit fighting on two battlefronts
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Seeking votes for her father, Ms Manpreet Kaur Dolly, daughter of SAD candidate from Banur Kanwaljit Singh, meet women of 12 villages surrounding Dera Bassi
Seeking votes for her father, Ms Manpreet Kaur Dolly, daughter of SAD candidate from Banur Kanwaljit Singh, meet women of 12 villages surrounding Dera Bassi on Wednesday night.
— A Tribune photograph

Chandigarh, February 1
In the run-up to the February 13 battle royal, the former Finance Minister, Mr Kanwaljit Singh, is struggling on two electoral fronts-Banur and Kharar.

The battle in the Kharar Assembly segment ,from where his son Jasjit Singh is locked in a tough contest against Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu of the ruling Congress, will be an acid test for the Akali stalwart's popularity in Punjab politics. Knowing full well that his prestige is at stage, he is leaving no stone unturned for the victory of his son.

His wife Sarabjit Kaur has emerged as his principal campaigner in the Banur segment. Most of Capt Kanwaljit Singh’s time is being consumed in campaigning in Kharar. This has provided an issue to his Congress opponent, Mr Rakesh Sharma, that the former minister is "ignoring" his Banur constituency.

"Capt Kanwaljit Singh is more interested in the victory of his son from Kharar and sparing little time for Banur. It is for the Banur voters to decide whether they want to elect a leader who has little time for campaigning in their constituency," Mr Sharma told The Tribune.

However, sources close to Capt Kanwaljit Singh rubbish the charges, claiming that the Akali leader's campaign in Banur is on in a "phased manner".

The sources claimed that the Akali leader had nursed the constituency well as Finance Minister from 1997-2002. This the people had not forgotten and they continued to repose faith in him.

They said Capt Kanwaljit Singh had survived the pro-Congress wave even in the 2002 elections. He was undertaking electioneering according to a strategy and did not need to exhaust his energies.

The sources, however, conceded that the fight at Kharar would be a tough one. The former Finance Minister could not leave his son, a greenhorn, alone to battle it out.


Vote for change: Nitish
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 1
Opposing the concept of special economic zones (SEZs), the Bihar Chief Minister, Mr Nitish Kumar, has sought to change the common perception about Bihar by asserting that unlike in the past, Bihar is a "changed, relatively developed and crime-free state".

"I have come here on an invitation of the SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to campaign for SAD-BJP candidates. We are seeking votes for change, and we appeal to people that they have seen the five-year rule of the Congress and now should give the SAD-BJP combine a chance," said Mr Nitish Kumar.

Painting a rosy picture of Bihar under his rule, he said the face of the once trouble-torn state had undergone a sea change. "We have got investment proposals worth Rs 27,000 crore. Roads are being relaid. Now, it is no more the Bihar people used to dread. We have a target of making Bihar a developed state by 2015,” he said.

Referring to SEZs, Mr Nitish Kumar said he was opposed to the idea. "We are not going in for SEZs in Bihar. We don't support the idea as we feel it is not beneficial for the country. The Prime Minister should convene an all-party meeting on the issue.”

describing Mr Badal as a towering political personality, Mr Nitish Kumar said: "People are not satisfied with the performance of the Congress government. The SAD-BJP has consolidated its base in the state and this time there will be no division of votes.”


power game
Sidhu grows bigger within BJP
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
With less than a fortnight to go for the Assembly elections in Punjab, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Punjab unit is seeing a clear power shift- towards Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu. He is having more and more say in managing the affairs of the party in the state.

The BJP has recast its national-level organisational set-up and dropped Mr Harjit Singh Grewal, a national secretary. This is seen as the second instance in the past 10 days that indicates a power-shift. Mr Grewal was the first Sikh to have held a national post in the BJP or its erstwhile form, the Jana Sangh. Mr Sidhu is so far only in the executive committee and not on a post.

The BJP had earlier denied party tickets to popular Dalit leader from Jalandhar Vijay Sampla and also Mr Rajinder Bhandari from Ludhiana. Both, along with Mr Grewal and the BJP chief, Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, were seen as a well-knit group. The denial of tickets, removal of Mr Grewal and also giving the ticket to Mr Anil Joshi from Amritsar North are seen as deft moves by the party high command to show their preferences. The tilt seems toewards towards Mr Sidhu and not Mr Khanna, who is also an MP from Hoshiarpur.

Mr Joshi was in the forefront when Mr Khanna and cricketer-turned- politician Navjot Singh Sidhu were involved in a clash in Amritsar some two months ago. Reports had indicated that Mr Khanna was not keen on ticket for Mr Joshi. However, he managed it being close to Mr Sidhu. Grudgingly, party leaders have accepted Mr Sidhu as the star campaigner and that he is close to Mr Arun Jaitely, the party in charge for Punjab.

In BJP circles, it is still a mystery as to why Mr Vijay Sampla was denied the ticket. He was seen as a strong candidate. Similarly, Mr Grewal was seeking nomination from Dhanuala. Their candidature was backed fully by the state unit. But the parliamentary board of the party did not approve of the same . Since Mr Grewal was seen close to the party president, Mr Rajnath Singh, denial of ticket to him was even more baffling.

Interestingly, both leaders were in the forefront seeking more seats from the alliance partner, the SAD. The Punjab unit of the BJP, at one time, even recommended that the party should contest on its own and not in partnership with the SAD.


I’m the right man for Amritsar: Singla
From Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 1
The Congress candidate for the Amritsar Lok Sabha byelection, Mr Surinder Kumar Singla, hopes that the charisma of the Prime Minister, who belongs to Amritsar, would help him improve his victory chances. Mr Singla said that if voted to power, he would make this holy city an international tourist hub.

Releasing a vision document as part of his poll manifesto, he had a dig at Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, saying the latter had failed to initiate any major development project in the city and described his tenure as a period of non- performance.

Handing out a well-documented list of promises, Mr Singla said the government was in the process of implementing a Rs 3150-crore centrally sponsored project for water, sewage, roads and a mass rapid transport system.

Elaborating on the plans for restructuring civic amenities through the Integrated Development Plan with focus on strengthening the existing system and providing improved access to planned housing and urban needs. He said the government had earmarked Rs 36 crore for conservation of heritage. Besides, the tourism sector would get an international convention centre.

Claiming to have sound economic sense, Mr Singla emphasised that he was the right person for Amritsar. He also claimed to enjoy a close rapport with the Prime Minister and said that he would be able to work as a catalyst for the economic growth of this border city.

His ambitious plans for the city included setting up a technical university, a textile park, a jewellery export zone, a world-class cricket stadium and an international export centre.


Singla, Sidhu just won’t stop
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur February 1
The Congress and BJP candidates for the Amritsar parliamentary seat, Mr Surinder Singla and Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, carried their mudslinging match to Gurdaspur.

Batala and Quadian Assembly constituencies of Gurdaspur are part of the Amritsar parliamentary seat. Both Mr Singla and Mr Navjot Sidhu toured the area today to consolidate their position.

Mr Sidhu in his addresses said: “ Singla has left his native place of Bathinda and come here. He will be made a 'pingla' here and sent back.”

Mr Singla did not mince words while mentioning Mr Navjot Sidhu in his addresses. He termed Mr Sidhu as 'bhonka' (one who barks).

Mr Surinder Singla blamed Mr Sidhu for ignoring the Qadian and Batala segments.

He promised the moon to the Quadian voter. He promised that in case he was elected the Qadian railway line would be connected with the main line. He also promised a sports stadium and liberal central grants for the area.

Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu concentrated on recital of couplets. He blamed the Congress for the violence in Beas. He also took up the case of the farmers in Barnala.

He also accused the Chief Minister of wasting the public money on Vikas Yatra ahead of the elections. Public money worth crores was wasted on the yatra, a publicity stunt, he said.


CPI blames it on Amarinder
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
The general secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI), Mr A.B. Bardhan, today blamed the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, for the break-up of the alliance between the Congress and the CPI in Punjab.

The two parties had jointly contested the Assembly elections in 2002. The CPI now has an alliance with the CPI-M and the Lok Bhalai Party (LBP), led by Mr Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, and they are contesting 48 seats.

Mr Bardhan said here that after the last elections, the Congress “hijacked” two of the CPI legislators and the Chief Minister did not show “any respect” for the alliance. He said the Chief Minister had been announcing for long that the Congress had nothing to do with the Left parties.

Though some sections in the Congress high command were thinking in favour of a tie-up, the CPI chose not to have any understanding with the Congress, he added.

He termed the SAD-BJP alliance as “communal”. When asked about his party’s stand in case of a hung Assembly, Mr Bardhan said: “We will cross the bridge when we come to it, however, there would be no chance of supporting the SAD-BJP combine on any issue.”


Sohi joins Rakesh Sharma's campaign
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, February 1
A day ahead of the election rally of the Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amrinder Singh, in support of the Congress candidate from Banur, Mr Rakesh Sharma, here, the Congress campaign got a shot in the arm today with a senior leader, Ms Seelam Sohi, joining the campaign.

The general secretary of the PPCC, Mr Sohi, who was a strong contender from the Banur Assembly segment, seemed to have patched-up with the high command-imposed candidate Mr Sharma. After initial reluctance, Ms Sohi campaigned for Mr Sharma in several Banur villages.

Addressing a series of meetings, Ms Sohi, who lost to the Akali stalwart and sitting MLA, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, by a narrow margin of over 500 votes in the 2002 Assembly elections, scotched rumours that there was "disunity" among the Congress rank and file about the nomination of Mr Sharma from Banur. It is the high command's decision and as the disciplined soldiers of the party we have to honour it and work for the victory of the Congress candidate, Ms Sohi added.

Coming down heavily on the SAD for perpetuating the "family rule", Ms Sohi exhorted the voters to vote for the Congress for the allround development of Punjab in general and the Banur segment in particular.

Mr Sharma claimed that the Congress had always kept the development issues at the forefront. Other leaders of the area would join my campaign in the days to come, Mr Sharma asserted. He was accompanied by senior leaders, including Ms Geetanjali Gujjar, Mr Amar Chawala,Mr Kuljit Randhawa and Mr Nabab Singh.

The township remained abuzz with activity with senior officials, including the Mohali SSP, Mr G.S. Dhillon, supervising security arrangements at the venue of the Ramlila Ground in connection with visit of the Chief Minister tomorrow.The Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and the Congress MP, Mr Sachin Pilot, are likely to attend the rally.

The official machinery, including the SDM, Mr Narinder Sangha, the SP(City), Mr Varinder Pal Singh, and the Dera Bassi DSP, Mr Surinder Pal Singh,were there to make last-minute arrangements for the rally.


Lawyers put weight behind Sidhu
Tribune Reporters

Mohali, February 1
A large number of lawyers have extended support to the Congress candidate from Kharar constituency, Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu.

Attending a meeting organised by Chairman of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (Legal Cell) S.K. Pipat, lawyers decided to go all-out to ensure the victory of the Congress nominee. Over 100 lawyers attended the meeting.

Prominent lawyers who were present included Mr Anmol Rattan Sidhu, president, Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association, Mr N.K. Nanda, president, District Bar Association, Chandigarh, and Mr Anil Kaushal, president, Kharar Bar Association.

Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu promised to work for the development of the constituency and also ensure proper infrastructure for the legal community.

Mr Pipat said Mr M.C. Bhandare, senior advocate, Supreme Court of India, who is also the Chairman, All-India Congress Committee (Legal Cell), will address public meetings in Punjab in the coming days to seek support of Congress nominees.

Councillors back Sidhu

Meanwhile 19 municipal councillors today assured Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, of their support. They said they would campaign in their wards in his favour.

Addressing a press conference in the presence of Mr Rajinder Singh Rana, president of the Mohali Municipal Council, Mr Sidhu said 50 per of the area had been properly covered by him and he was getting good response. People were happy with the work that had been done by the Congress government during the past five years.

He said the local civic body had cleared estimates for development works to the tune of Rs 18 crore ever since his team of councillors took over the charge of the council.The Kharar constituency would also be developed in a similar way.

He said he had addressed a rally at Pabhat village last evening where people had shown an encouraging response because they were not happy with SAD as Capt Kanwaljit Singh, had kept the village out of municipal limits, saying that it was a village of migrant labourers. The residents, however, approached a court and got the village included within the municipal limits.

Mr Sham Bansal, president of the Mohali Kiryana Merchants Association, extended full support to Mr Sidhu. He was not happy with the SAD because an outsider had been brought as a candidate to the area.

Sidhu’s associate joins rival

A Municipal Councillor and close associate of Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, Congress candidate contesting the Punjab elections from the Kharar constituency, today said that she would support Mr Jasjit Singh of SAD in the Assembly elections.

Addressing a press conference in the presence of Capt Kanwaljit Singh, SAD general secretary, Mrs Kuldeep Kaur Kang, said: “she had family relations with Mr Sidhu for the past 20 years but now it appeared that Mr Sidhu did not need “good people”. As such I have decided to support Mr Jasjit Singh”. Moreover, she had got inspired by the development carried out in the Banur constituency by Capt Kanwaljit Singh and thought that it could be done in the Kharar if the SAD candidate won the elections.

When asked whether she would withdraw her support to Mr Rajinder Singh Rana, president of the Municipal Council, because he had close relations with Mr Sidhu, she said she would not do that.

While talking to mediapersons, Capt Kanwaljit Singh said the future of the local civic body would also change but how this would be done would be decided after the elections. He said the demands of the people had not been fulfilled during the Congress rule. However, peace and prosperity would be brought about by the SAD-BJP government after assuming power in the state. He said Mr Sidhu wanted to get power only to expand his business.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh was accompanied by Mr Rajbir Singh Padiala, a senior SAD leader.


Ghanaur: Rebels may rock Cong, SAD-BJP boats
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Ghanaur, February 1
The rebel candidates may rock the boat of the candidates of the two mainline political parties in the predominantly-rural Ghanaur segment in Chief Minister Capt Amrinder Singh's home district in the coming Punjab Assembly elections.

Both Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, the Minister for Cooperation and Horticulture(Congress), and a former minister, Mr Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur(SAD-BJP) are not only fighting with their backs to the wall in battle of wits, they also face stiff competition from their own party rebels. It a close contest, the rebels may make all the difference, observers feel.

While the Congress candidate is facing rebellion from Mr Madan Lal Jalalpur, a grassroot worker and an influential contractor, the Akali leader is reportedly at the receiving end of another leader, Mr Gursev Singh Harpalpur.And if the response to their election campaigns is any indication, it is going to be a four-cornered contest.

In fact, Mr Jalalpur has made the contest interesting by raising the bogey of the "outisider" status of his rival candidate."People want a son-of-the soil to represent them so that they could approach him any time of the day for the redressal of their grievances", Mr Jalalpur tells The Tribune.

Mr Jalalpur alleged that the Congress MLA had done nothing in the field of education, he alleged that the elected representative had not been accessible to the common man in the past five years.

However, banking on the development undertaken by him during the past five years on several fronts, including the water supply, irrigation and flood control, Mr Randhawa conceded that a lot of work needed to be done in the field of education.

Mr Mukhmailpur is primarily banking on the ant-incumbency factor against the ruling Congress. And Mr Harpalpur is heavily dependent on his personal contacts in the area.

The high stakes in the strategic constituency have forced the contenders to rope in star campaingers.While Mr Randhawa had roped in Ms Preneet Kaur, Patiala MP, for the campaign, Mr Mukhmailpur is heavily relying on the campaigning by the SAD top brass, including the party supremo Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

Mr Paramjit Singh Sarna,a former president of the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee(DSGMC) and Mr Badal's bete noire, has already campaigned for Mr Harpalpur in the Assembly segment. Mr Jalalpur has launched an intensive personal contact programme.


SAD extends support to Congress rebel in Ropar
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 1
While extending his party support to Congress rebel Independent candidate Amarjeet Singh Saini from Anandpur Sahib, the president of SAD (1920), Ravi inder Singh today said that the next government in the state would only be formed with the help of a third front. As the people of state this time are going to vote for the candidate instead of the party, he added.

While blaming both Congress and SAD (Badal) for their policies, he said that while curbing Mohali as a separate district from Ropar, the Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh ignored the people of Ropar. The CM decision was purely administrative and he did not took the people and their representative into confidence.

He said that if the next government is formed with the help of a third front then he would make it sure that Mohali again will be made a part of the Ropar district.

Although he did not give a satisfactory reply when asked why he did not raise this issue earlier or took part in the agitation against the CM decision when Mohali was separated last year.

Criticising the SAD Chief, Parkash Singh Badal, he said that Badal did not have any vision for people of Punjab. The state has suffered a lot during the Akali’s regime. Badal has one point agenda to promote his family and ignore other leaders, he alleged.


Chautala embarrasses SAD

Amritsar, February 1
In a major embarrassment to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Mr Om Parkash Chautala, former Chief Minister of Haryana who has come here as a star campaigner for the SAD-BJP combine, has said Chandigarh belongs to Haryana.

The SAD has been fighting for the transfer of Chandigarh and other left-out Punjabi speaking areas since the reorganisation of the state on November 1, 1966. These demands are included in the Anandpur Sahib resolution of 1973.

“Chandigarh is indisputably of Haryana and the inter-state river waters dispute between Punjab and Haryana has to be resolved by the leaders of both states. If they fail to resolve the matter amicably, then the option of court is open to settle the long-pending issue”, said Mr Chautala while talking to mediapersons here today. — TNS


Study: Freebies don’t sway voters
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
Do women go by the diktats of their husbands who accept intoxicants from political parties to vote in favour of their candidates? No. A majority of women exercise their franchise without succumbing to pressure from their husbands accepting free liquor or other intoxicants from candidates.

Even majority of men voters do not vote in favour of the candidates who supply them with freebies.

These are the findings of a statewide study conducted by the Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle, a Ludhiana-based organisation.

The circle studied a sample of 200 persons, including 46 per cent women, from 12 districts of Punjab in the age group between 18 and 60 years. The findings are bad news for political parties, most of which reportedly distribute drugs, poppy husk, liquor and other intoxicants to lure voters.

Around 51 per cent women voters said they exercised franchise as per their choice. But, 31 per cent admitted the male members in the family succeeded in prevailing upon them when it came to voting.

According to the study conducted by Mr Balwinder Pal Singh, Head, Department of Economics, GHG College, Gurusar Sudhar, Ludhiana, and Dr Deepinder Singh of Lord Mahavira Homoeopathy Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, almost all political parties woo voters with liquor.

The Akali Dal, the Congress and other political parties indulge in this malpractice, the study finds. Alcohol turned out to be the most popular intoxicant used during elections. As many as 58 per cent respondents found alcohol as the most favourite allurement whereas 30 per cent opined that all kinds of intoxicants, including smack, were distributed.

Around 12 per cent said poppy husk was the preferred one in their respective areas. Election period is party time as 51 per cent said alcohol and other drugs were distributed by arranging parties while 22 per cent said the stuff was supplied on the doorstep.

Interestingly, only 29 per cent stated affirmatively when asked whether voters reciprocate by voting in favour of the candidates from whom they accept intoxicants whereas 36 per cent were of the opinion that the voters enjoying such freebies were not loyal.

Money came out to be the second most popular instrument to lure voters while 12 per cent said politicians got voters’ illegal works done to get their votes. Besides, politicians use the voters seeking drugs to mobilise people for rallies and election meetings, as revealed by 70 per cent respondents.


Dialling up support
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
All lines on the election route are busy. Over 500 non-resident Punjabis (NRP) are busy in long distance canvassing.

Back “home” from Canada in a run-up to the poll, they are dialing up support, asking friends across the seas to call up their native villages and seek votes in the name of development.

Led by Shiromani Akali Dal of Canada ’s President Kehar Singh Gill, these upwardly mobile NRPs are moving village to village across the state, not for drumming up support at political rallies but for identifying problems faced by the locals!

“After completing the survey, we track down people from these villages staying abroad and seek their assistance in the canvassing process,” says Mr Gill.

The NRPs they contact are assured of protection of land and properties in their native villages once the party of their choice comes to power.

The NRPs have divided themselves into five teams. The group members, in turn, have tied up with over 117 MLAs for visiting the villages. As of now, they are concentrating on areas in and around Jalandhar, Ferozepore, Ludhiana and Patiala.

Accompanying Mr Gill, in charge of SAD Canada’s office Inderpal Singh Athwal says they assure the villagers that efforts were afoot to preserve the rich culture and heritage of the state. “We are telling them how more and more NRPs in Canada and other places are now being encouraged to tie the knot with girls back home.”

“We are also persuading our brothers across the seas to purchase properties and set up projects in the state so that they remain connected to their roots.”


It’s neck & neck in Moga
Manish Sirhindi
Tribune News Service

Moga, February 1
With the Congress and the Akalis going all out to woo the voters, and the Left parties gearing up for a spirited fight, the district is all set to witness a neck and neck contest for the electoral mandate.

The district has four constituencies, at present represented by SAD legislators in the state Assembly.

In the Moga constituency, the battle is between a two-time MLA and former Education Minister, Jathedar Tota Singh, and the sitting president of the civic body, Mr Joginder Pal Jain.

Though the Jathedar is banking on development works carried out by him during the previous Akali regime, Mr Jain claims to have a strong base in urban as well as rural areas.

Adding spice to the contest here is the CPI candidate, Mr Randhir Singh Gill, who has the backing of the All-India Students Federation and the All-India Youth Federation.

In the Bhagapurana segment, which so far has been an Akali stronghold, it will not be a cakewalk for the Akalis, as former minister in the Congress government, Mr Darshan Singh Brar, is locking horns with the sitting Akali MLA, Mr Sandhu Singh.

Besides, Mr Sukhwinder Singh Brar, joint candidate of the Lok Bhalai Party and the Joint Front, is also in the race.

Though in Dharamkot, it is likely to be a tough contest for the Congress with an Akali heavyweight, Mr Shital Singh, pitched against its nominee and former MP, Mr Kewal Singh, the fight in Nihal Singh Wala has generated a lot of curiosity. Here Akali rebel Ajit Singh Shant is challenging the Congress nominee, Col Babu Singh, and SAD candidate, Mr Jarnail Singh Rama, as an Independent.


EC told to rein in Akali leaders: YC
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 1
The president of the Punjab Youth Congress, Mr Vijay Inder Singla, urged the Election Commission to intervene and stop the intimidation of bureaucrats by Akali leaders responsible for conducting elections in the state.

In a press note, Mr Singla said it was unfortunate that leaders like Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu and SAD general secretary Sukhbir Singh Badal gatecrashed into the office of Mr Lok Nath Angara, a senior IPS officer, to protest against the inaction on the part of the Majitha police in arresting Jasbir Singh Dimpa, Congress candidate from the Beas assembly segment.

Mr Singla claimed that the Akaii-BJP combine was facing an imminent defeat in the elections as its leaders were resorting to such tactics to browbeat the state machinery.

Mr Singla said Youth Congress workers would not wait indefinitely to counter the Akali-BJP leaders if they continued to harass the state election machinery.


Drug trade picks up
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Langroya, February 1
The district administration and the police have failed to keep tabs on drug sale, which has shot up here ever since campaigning.

Despite the fact that the hub of the drug trade-Langroya village on the Bagroan village road- is barely 4 km from the District Administrative Complex, members of the 500-plus Sansi community continue to operate the business from their homes openly.

The villagers said while earlier the trade would start after 5 pm, it now began well before noon. Members of the community were seen loitering around offices of political parties everyday.

They were seen operating from a house providing small packets to buyers, most of them youths. One of the men asked the driver of this reporter if he was interested in buying ‘something’.


Never-say-die Khaira
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Bholath, February 1
Despite two defeats in a row, Kapurthala district Congress president Sukhpal Singh Khaira is giving a tough sight to SAD candidate Bibi Jagir Kaur the Bholath Assembly constituency of Kapurthala district.

Mr Khaira is trying to make his debut in the Assembly on different development works done in the constituency with his efforts, despite his defeat in the two previous elections.

After organising Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s rally in the Bibi’s village, Begowal, Mr Khaira is hopeful of a victory this time. Mr Khaira speaks of ‘development’ in the constituency during the Capt Amarinder Singh government at his public meetings.

Community affiliations are likely to affect the prospects of the candidates in Bholath. Lubana and Jat communities are almost in equal numbers in this constituency.

It is for the third time in a row that the Bibi and Khaira are contesting against each other. The Bibi remained victorious both times, but the margin of victory narrowed in 2002.


Verma foresees victory
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 1
With a view to giving a boost to the election campaign of the candidates of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) , Mr Sahib Singh Verma, senior BJP leader and former Delhi Chief Minister, along with Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, president and secretary general, respectively, of the SAD, today campaigned in the Sangrur and Dhuri segments.

Addressing an election rally in favour of the SAD candidate from Sangrur, Mr Parkash Chand Garg, at the New Grain Market here, Mr Verma said Mr Badal would be the next Chief Minister as the SAD-BJP alliance would emerge victorious with a two-third majority.

Mr Verma criticised the Amarinder government for bursting tear gas shells and resorting to a lathi charge on agitating farmers at Fatehgarh Chhanna village (Barnala) yesterday.


Vote for the honest, say employees
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 1
After farmers, it is now the turn of employees to resume their agitation against the Punjab Government.

Employees will hold a rally at Dhuri on February 3 and will stage a march in Jagraon the next day after holding a convention there.

Such rallies will be held in Assembly segments from where Cabinet ministers are contesting.

Mr Sajjan Singh, a spokesman for the Punjab and UT Employees Joint Action Committee, said rallies would also be held at Sunam and Sangrur.

He said the rallies would be held to mark their protest against “anti-employee and anti-people” policies of the government. He said people would be urged to vote for honest politicians. — TNS


Tinu is PPCC organising secretary
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, February 1
Mr Narinder Kumar Tinu has been nominated as organising secretary of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) by its president, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo. This was stated in a press release issued here today.


AICC observer

New Delhi, February 1
Mr Rajesh Yadav, secretary of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, has been appointed observer for Barnala district. The district has three Assembly segments, namely Barnala, Bhadaur (SC) and Dhanaula. — TNS


ADC’s staff beat up truck driver
Tribune Reporters

Phillaur, February 1
Vehicular traffic remained disrupted for around four hours today on the national highway in Goraya when the official staff, including gunmen and driver of the official car PB-08-0021 of Jalandhar ADC Kulbir Singh, dragged a truck driver Tilak Raj of Ludhiana-bound truck (PCR-9565) and beat him up mercilessly for not allowing the car to overtake the truck at the traffic lights near the Goraya bus stand.

The incident happened around 9 a.m.

Hundreds of truck drivers belonging to different unions blocked the traffic on the Goraya-Phagwara, Goraya-Phillaur, Goraya-Jandiala and Goraya-Barrapind roads.

Meanwhile, some miscreants ransacked the official car of the ADC, who jumped out from his car and escaped to a nearby house.

When a Tribune team visited the site, a large crowd had assembled near the site, raising slogans against the official staff of the ADC.

The injured truck driver Tilak Raj said he was waiting for the green signal at the traffic lights when the car reached there and the car driver went on sounding horn. His inability to allow the car to overtake the truck irritated the official staff, which dragged him from the truck and beat him up mercilessly with the butts of the guns. One of his legs was also fractured.

Phillaur DSP Gursharandeep Singh Grewal rushed to the spot to pacify the mob. The traffic was restored after around four hours. Meanwhile, a meeting was held between agitators and officials, including Phillaur SDM Jagwinder Singh Grewal, DSP Gursharandeep Singh Grewal and BSP candidate MP Singh Goraya.

ADC Kulbir Singh also attended the meeting and expressed his regrets for the incident. An amount of Rs 25,000 was given to the victim truck driver as compensation.


TSU flays lathi charge on farmers
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 1
The Technical Services Union (TSU) held protest rallies at all sub-divisional offices in this circle today to express resentment over the police lathi charge on farmers at Barnala yesterday.

Mr Hem Raj, president, Mr Krishan Ghayal, vice-president, Mr Balwinder Singh, secretary of Muktsar circle, Mr Balwant Singh, Mr Khushal Chand, sub-divisional presidents, were among those who addressed the rallies.

They criticised the government for using repressive measures against the farmers who had been fighting against the acquisition of agricultural land by industrial houses.

The TSU, while extending its whole-hearted support to the agitating factions of the Bhartiya Kisan Union gave a statewide call to employees and their families to join the dharna on February 7 at PSEB headquarters in Patiala to press for long-pending genuine demands of the unions.

The TSU demanded free medical treatment for the farmers who were injured in the police lathi charge at Barnala yesterday in addition to the compensation. The union regretted that all political parties were united over the privatisation of the PSEB.


Farmers block rail, road traffic
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 1
A large number of farmers today blocked rail and road traffic for over two hours at Sunam, 13 km from here, in protest against yesterday’s police action on agitating farmers at Fatehgarh Chhanna village, Barnala.

Around 35 farmers had sustained injuries when the police fired plastic bullets and teargas shells and resorted to lathi-charge after farmers tried to gain access to land acquired by the state government for the Trident Group.

BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan) president Joginder Singh Ugrahan said the farmers were bent upon reclaiming their land, acquired by the government in Fatehgarh Chhanna, Dhaula and Sangherra villages, near Barnala.

He said hundreds of farmers held a dharna outside the gurdwara at Fatehgarh Chhanna village under the leadership of BKU (Ugrahan) organising secretary Hardip Singh Tallewal in protest against the police action.

Mr Ugrahan added that farmers would again try to enter the acquired land on February 9 at Fatehgarh Chhanna and Dhaula villages.

He said they would not relent till they reclaimed their land.


Arorvansh Sabha reconstituted
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 1
The North India Arorvansh Sabha, a representative body of units of Arora community in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Jammu Kashmir, has been reconstituted. The was done as president Raj Kumar Girdhar of Muktsar had health problems. Mr Prem Parkash Arya has been nominated working president of the organisation. Other office-bearers from three states here were: patrons — Mr Joginder Singh, former CBI Director, Mr Virendra Kataria, former member, Rajya Sabha, Ms Luxmi Kanta Chawla former MLA, Mr Lachhman Dass Arora, member, Haryana Cabinet, Mr Radhey Sham, former Minister Rajasthan and Mr Harbans Lal Muktsar.

General secretary — Mr Lal Chand Khurana, Sriganganagar, organising secretary — Mr Jagdish Nagpal, cashier — Mr Mathra Dass Miglani, vice-presidents: Mr Sat Pal Manaktala Fatehabad, Mr Ramesh Chander Arora Jammu, Mr Kashmiri Lal Jasuja, Sriganganagar, Mr Satish Kumar Arora Ferozepore Cantonment; Mr Atma Singh Monga Mansa. Secretaries — Mr Bhim Sain Gagneja, Fazilka, Mr Madan Lal Grover, Bathinda. Ms Bimla Bhateja Hanumangarh, has been nominated convener women’s wing, Ms Sudesh Paruthi will be co-convener. Mr Jagdish Kumar Nagpal, Mr Naresh Malik Sirsa, Mr Baldev Krishan Nagpal SGNR and Mr Ramesh Arora have been named presidents for Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir states respectively. Mr Satinder Kathuria, Mr Prem Chaudhary, Mr Lal Chand Khurana and Mr Vijay Kumar Grover will be general secretaries for the respective states.

Former CBI Director Joginder Singh has stressed on making marriages less expensive besides observing simplicity at the death related ceremonies.


Child killed in road mishap

Amritsar, February 1
Harkirat Singh, a student of Guru Harkishan Public School, Ranjit Avenue, was reportedly killed when his school autorickshaw collided with a car on Court Road here today.

The incident has once again raised many questions over the traffic management, violation of traffic rules by autorickshaw drivers who overload children in their vehicles and various school administrations allowing transportation of children through these vehicles.

According to the information, the autorickshaw collided with the car near Sangam Palace on Court Road. The autorickshaw rolled thrice on the road after the accident.
Harkirat was seriously injured in the incident. He was rushed to hospital where he died in the evening, while other children who suffered minor injuries were discharged after giving first-aid. — OC


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