P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Capt storms Badal’s home turf
Tribune News Service

Lambi (Muktsar), February 4
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today targeted SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal on the latter’s home turf for taking the help of INLD supremo Om Prakash Chautala in the SAD campaign.

Addressing a rally in support of Congress candidate Mahesh Inder Singh Badal, the Chief Minister said: “Mr Chautala has staked claim on Chandigarh and our water share time and again, but today he is campaigning for the SAD.”

He accused Mr Badal of selling Punjab’s interests on the river waters issue, as he had his own business interests in neighbouring states of Haryana and Rajasthan. Ms Sushma Swaraj of the BJP had opposed the termination of the River Water Agreement by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, he added.

He claimed all eyes were on Lambi and the Congress would turn the tables on the SAD president.

He promised to increase the power generation in the state from the existing 5,900 MW to 14,000 MW in the next four years and also 24-hour power supply to the farmers and industry.

Capt Amarinder Singh held another rally at Sarawa Bodhla village in the Majha belt.



Role reversal: Royals look to common man
Chander Parkash and Ravi Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Mrs Preneet Kaur with her daughter-in-law at an election rally in Patiala
(Right) Mrs Preneet Kaur with her daughter-in-law at an election rally in Patiala.

Patiala, February 4
Aggressive campaigning, which includes door-to-door canvassing, by former minister and SAD candidate Surjit Singh Kohli and his kin, has forced the royal family to come on the streets to counter him. Mr Kohli who is slowly making inroads into the traditional Congress vote bank.

Unlike last time when Capt Amarinder Singh faced a rather light weight in Mr Sarup Singh Sehgal, things this time are getting hotter for the scion of Patiala's royal family. This has forced the royals to come to the streets and reach out to the common man.

Though represented by the `Maharaja' of Patiala, this seat has been nursed with care by the `Maharani '. Ms Preneet Kaur , along with her kin, is making all-out efforts to blend with the electorate here.

Scores of meetings are being addressed by Mrs Preneet Kaur, her daughter Jai Inder Kaur, son-in-law Gurpal Singh, daughter-in-law Rishma and the `Maharaja's' aunt Gurpreet Kaur.

Mr Kohli and his supporters may shout hoarse about the inaccessibility of the Chief Minister, but they cannot say the same of the ‘Maharani’.

Dressed up modestly, Mrs Preneet Kaur, her head covered, is busy holding fort at election meetings at various places almost everyday while Capt Amarinder Singh hops from one segment to the other to ensure the victory of Congress candidates.

Ms Preneet Kaur keeps her speech to a bare minimum but at the same time she makes it a point to harp on the development projects initiated by her husband.

A two-time member of Parliament from the Patiala Lok Sabha constituency, she certainly has her finger on the pulse of the people.

Every member of the royal family is accompanied by district-level leaders, be it the Patiala Mayor, the Improvement Trust Chairman or the DCC president .

Remarked a senior Congress leader: " The Maharani Sahib has always made it a point to be present at social functions, which means she is aware of the problems faced by grass-roots workers."

Though Mr Kohli has endeared himself to the voters due to his down-to-earth approach.


Flag march in Beas
Tribune News Service

Baba Bakala, February 4
The Paramilitary Force and the Punjab Police today jointly held a flag march in the main lanes and bazars of the troubled Beas Assembly constituency, including Khalchian, Mehta and Raya, which had witnessed a clash between Akali and Congress activists, leaving an Akali worker dead on January 29.

The DSP, Baba Bakala, Mr Kulwinder Singh Thyara, said the flag march was held to defuse the tension in the constituency.

Six companies of the Paramilitary Force and one of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) have been deployed in the constituency for conducting a free and fair election.

The SAD candidate, Mr Manjinder Singh Kang, who fears a threat to his life, however, refused to accept the security umbrella by the RPF stating that it was meant for protecting rail tracks and railway property.

Meanwhile, Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa today addressed at least 12 election rallies in his constituency, including Umranangal, Nijhar, Niranjanpur, Lohgarh, Loharanwali and Kaler, where he was given more than Rs 3 lakh by his supporters. He was also weighed against coins at Umranangal.


Oust ‘arrogant’ CM: Advani
Tribune News Service

Narot (Gurdaspur), February 4
The BJP stalwart, Mr LK Advani, started his campaign for the party from the Narot constituency of the district .

Talking to The Tribune on his arrival at Pathankot today, he said the ‘condition’ of the state governments of Congress in Punjab and Uttaranchal was reflected the “failed policies of the UPA government at the Centre.

The UPA government at the Centre had failed to check the price rise of essential commodities. This had hit the poor.

On the other hand, the NDA government during its stint at the Centre had kept the prices in check.

He addressed rallies at Narot, Dinanagar and Batala. Mr Advani said corruption was main issue in the elections. The farmers had suffered the most due to ‘corruption’ by the Congress government. Their lands had been acquired for peanuts and handed over to real estate developers.

Mr Vinod Khanna, Gurdaspur MP accompanying Mr Advani levelled charges of corruption against local ministers and MLAs of the Congress, including Mr Raghunath Sahay Puri and Mr Ashok Sharma. He alleged that the Congress leaders had tried to halt development works started by him from his MPLAD fund.

Mr Mohan Lal, BJP nominee from Pathankot, said he say a clean sweep for his party in Gurdaspur. He also criticised his rival Congress nominee from Pathankot, Mr Ashok Sharma, for posing as Rama in advertisements.

AMRITSAR: Mr Advani held a number of rallies in Majha region here on Sunday.

However, no major Akali leader was present at these rallies. Even the state BJP president, Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, was conspicuous by his absence.

Mr Advani urged the people to defeat the “arrogant” Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and instead vote the “progressive” SAD-BJP combine to power for restoring the pristine glory of the state, which, he said, had been battered and bruised by the Congress government with its wrong policies and abuse of administrative and police powers.

Terming the approach of Capt Amarinder Singh as dictatorial, he said the state government had let loose a reign of terror through the police in a bid to suppress the voice of the people. 


Prior to the visit, Calcutta all praise for PM
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 4
The expelled Akali leader and SGPC member, Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, has expressed his willingness to speak in favour of the 'contribution and achievements' of Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, if personally requested by him .

He said Dr Manmohan Singh had 'given too much to Punjab' and, hence, residents could not forget his contribution. "He was instrumental in flagging off the Amritsar-Nankana bus and sanctioning of Guru Granth Sahib Centre at Guru Nanak Dev University," he said.

Mr Calcutta said the Prime Minister had also helped in expediting the four-laning of the Jalandhar-Wagah road. Mr Calcutta said the Prime Minister had announced several development projects for the holy city and border areas.

Mr Parmjit Singh Sarna, President SAD (New Delhi), who was here, showered praise on Dr Manmohan Singh. He said the Prime Minister during his last visit had given Rs 200 crore for the development of roads in border villages. He announced Sri Guru Ram Dass Development Project for improving water supply and sewerage under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission at a cost of Rs 180 crore.

Meanwhile, the Congress has been making efforts to mobilise workers for an 'impressive show' at the local Ranjit Avenue. Earlier, the site for the PM's rally was shifted from the City Centre on the recommendation of Intelligence agencies.

The PM would land at Rajasansi airport at 11 am and would address the rally from 12 p.m. Later ,he would leave for Jalandhar to address more rallies there.


Sukhbir befooling people: Ambika
Our correspondent

Hoshiarpur, February 4
Ms Ambika Soni, Union Minister for Tourism, said here yesterday that Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, MP and general secretary of the SAD, was trying to befool the people by portraying that his party was victorious, even before the elections.

She was addressing a public meeting while campaigning in favour of Mr Jaspal Singh Pal, a Congress nominee, at Garhdiwala town, 28 km from here, this afternoon.

Ms Ambika Soni said the Congress was the only secular party which could ensure development of the state and eradicate unemployment and corruption. She said the status of the Attari railway station at the Wagah Indo-Pak border had been upgraded.

She said owing to her efforts, Hoshiarpur district had been selected under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act for providing employment to at least one family member of each family in rural areas.

She criticised Mr Avinash Rai Khanna, MP and BJP chief, Punjab, for his ‘negative’ role in Parliament towards Hoshiarpur.


Modi visit irks Muslims
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 4
Activists and the leadership of the Majlis-e-Ahrar, a party led by the Shahi Imam of Ludhiana, which had recently announced its support to the SAD in the coming elections, today protested against the visit of the Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP leader, Mr Narendra Modi, by burning his effigy and carrying black flags.

Led by the Shahi Imam, Maulana Habib-ur-Rehman Sani, who claims to have the support of 22 lakh Muslims in the state, the activists started the protest march from Jama Masjid and burnt Mr Modi’s effigy at Field Ganj Chowk.

Addressing the activists, the Shahi Imam said Mr Modi had no right to visit a peace-loving state. Calling him a ‘‘killer’’ of Muslims, Maulana Sani said he should not poison the peaceful environment of the state.

The protest by the Shahi Imam holds significance as he had claimed that he would ask all Muslims to vote in favour of SAD candidates.

Mr Modi was in the city to canvass for two BJP candidates, Mr Harish Bedi and Mr Satpal Gosain, contesting from Ludhiana North and East, respectively.

Addressing a rally, Mr Modi called upon the electorate to turn out in large numbers and give a mandate to the SAD-BJP combine if it wanted to make Punjab a model state like Gujarat.


RO acts tough, removes temporary poll offices
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, February 4
With just a week remaining for the campaigning to end in the high-profile Banur Assembly segment, the Returning Officer(RO) today acted tough and removed temporary election offices in the Dera Bassi sub-division.

At the same time, the CISF personnel, accompanied by the local police, staged a flag march in the subdivision to instill a sense of security among electorates in the run-up to the crucial February 13 Punjab elections.A large number of booths in the constituency, where the former Finance Minister and the SAD-BJP candidate, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, and the Congress candidate, Mr Rakesh Sharma, are locked in a bitter contest, have been declared sensitive.

The SDM, Mr Narinder Sangha, who is also the RO for the Banur segment, accompanied by the civil and police officials, removed temporary election offices of mainline political parties, including the Congress, the SAD-BJP and the BSP, functioning from tents and other temporary structures.

While removing the temporary election offices, the officials instructed the supporters of the candidates to refrain from functioning from the temporary offices. They were told that the election offices could only be opened in the permanent structures such as shops and showrooms under the model code of conduct.

It may be mentioned that the political parties had opened several offices along the roadside, including the busy Chandigarh-Ambala highway, allegedly in violation of the model code of conduct. Besides being violative of the model code of conduct, these election offices posed a serious traffic hazard.

Meanwhile, the Lalru police has booked Shish Pal, a resident of Rajound in Kaithal district, for pasting posters on an electricity pole. He was allegedly pasting the posters of an Independent candidate, Mr Subhash Rana, on the public property.


Voter card sale: probe ordered
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore, February 4
The Deputy Election Commissioner has ordered an inquiry into the reports regarding sale of voter identity cards captured on camera during a sting operation by a private channel.

Thousands of identity cards were being reportedly purchased by certain politicians to prevent voters belonging to opposite party from exercising their franchise.

A politician on the condition of anonymity said we were trying to purchase cards of those people who belonged to the opposite camp.

Though the practice is prevalent all over the state, the rate per card varies from place to place. At some places, the price is from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000. Some people are even getting their cards duplicated to get more money by selling them.

Mr R. Bhattacharya, Deputy Election Commissioner, who presided over a meeting of electoral officers belonging to Ferozepore and Faridkot divisions yesterday, said the commission had not yet finalised that whether a person without valid voter identity card would be allowed to cast vote.

About the reported sale of voter cards, Mr Bhhatacharya said he had instructed the officials concerned to probe the reports in this regard.


Mann holds corner meetings
Tribune News Service

Dhanaula, February 4
The campaign of Mr Simranjit Singh Mann, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) and candidate from the Dhanaula Assembly constituency, is different from those of big parties. He, besides holds big rallies, is holding small election meetings in his own style.

He visited Kothe Hargobindpura, near Dhanaula, today to address an election meeting there. Addressing the gathering, he highlighted the problems of the state.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Mann said if he won the election, he would work for the establishment of degree colleges at Longowal, Dhanaula and Tapa. He would ensure facilities on urban-pattern in the villages. Laying roads in the left out parts of the constituency would be his priority, he added.


For the urbane — Blogs, email, SMS
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 4
For politicians in the fray, technology is coming handy to woo the electorate. Getting tech savvy, these politicians have launched e-campaigning to reach out to their urbane and young voters through blogs, email and SMS.

With the urbane voters in Punjab not too keen on attending election rallies, technology has shown politicians the door to reach out to this niche segment of voters.

With the help of either their own tech-savvy friends, or hired technocrats, these politicians, especially Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Hoshiarpur, are finally reaching out to the class which has always remained aloof from electioneering.

Mr Harish Rai Dhanda, the Shiromani Akali Dal candidate from the Ludhiana West constituency, has launched a blog for the electorate. “Any voter in my constituency can now post messages on this blog. I had started it 13 days ago, and my daughter, Kanika, is the one who is managing the blog. I get messages from not just NRIs but from a large number of local voters who write about their concern and aspirations from the government,” he says.

There are others like Mr K.D. Bhandari, the BJP candidate from the Jalandhar North constituency, who is campaigning by sending emails to voters. “Though we have few email IDs of voters, we are using this method to project our promises and give details about our daily campaigning,” he says.

The most common method adopted by politicians is to woo these voters is by sending SMS. With Punjab having the highest tele-density in the country, SMS campaigning has come as a boon for the contestants as they are able to reach out to the urban as well as rural masses.

Though cell phone operators in the region deny that they have provided a list of mobile phone subscribers in different constituencies of the state or offered any special package to political parties, politicians claim otherwise. “The list of subscribers is easily available from cell phone companies, or through certain agencies that have come up and are distributing list of mobile numbers in a particular constituency. Special offers for SMS campaigning are also available,” says Mr Vineet Joshi, member, National Executive, BJP Youth Wing, adding that SMS campaigning has picked up in a big way in Ferozepore, Mukerian and Dasuya.

In rural areas, specially-designed vans with huge television screens and projectors were also used to reach out to voters.


SGPC, DSGMC fight it out
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

 Avtar Singh
Avtar Singh
Parmjit Singh Sarna
Parmjit Singh Sarna

Amritsar, February 4
It is showdown time for SGPC chief Avtar Singh and Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) president Harwinder Singh Sarna with both plunging into campaigning.

They believe that in Sikhism, religion and politics are “inseparable”. Hence, forgetting religious terminology for the time being (at least till February 13), it is time for doing politics now. While the Sarna brothers (DSGMC chief and his elder brother) have given a big jolt to the SAD (Badal) by winning the DSGMC poll, the SGPC chief has been endeavouring to prove his worth by campaigning for the Badals like a “star campaigner”.

The SGPC chief yesterday launched an election campaign in favour of the SAD candidates in the Holy City. He succeeded in roping in Mr Khurinder Singh Narula and his son Prince Narula, both confidants of Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, an expelled Akali leader. Siropas (robes of honour) were presented to those who joined the SAD (Badal) at the rally.

Some “patit” (apostate) Sikhs, who joined the Badal faction, were also presented with “siropas” by the SGPC chief.

Mr Parmjit Singh Sarna, president of the SAD (New Delhi), has addressed a series of rallies in Punjab, including the one in Lambi, and called upon the Punjab voters to oust Mr Parkash Singh Badal from the gurdwara politics.

The SGPC chief has alleged that they (Sarna brothers) have been playing in the hands of the Congress. As the rival Akali factions have not fielded any candidate in Lambi, the rallies addressed by Mr Parmjit Singh Sarna will help the Congress candidate, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh.

Addressing a rally in favour of Mr Raminder Singh Bularia, SAD/BJP candidate from Amritsar South, the SGPC chief has predicted that the days of the Congress government in Punjab are numbered. Replying a question, he has said “dharm parchar” won’t be affected with his participation in the election campaign.

However, Mr Harwinder Singh Sarna said he, along with other members of the DSGMC, would land in Punjab on February 10 to campaign in favour of “panthic leaders”.


Development: Rai Sikhs divided
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Indo-Pak border (Amritsar), February 4
Even as campaigning is picking up in the border belt, Rai Sikhs are divided over the issue of development.

While the members of the community living in Chhankalan, Dagg, Tut, Nere Dagg, Madhapure, Mehdiawala and Saidpura villages of the Rajasansi Assembly segment express satisfaction over development of the area during the Congress regime, those living in the Ajnala Assembly segment, including Burj and Ranian villages, lament non-development of their area.

Known as “tigers” of the border belt (as they did not flee even during shelling from across the border), around 20 lakh members of the community are spread in the 533-km Indo-Pak border belt in Gurdaspur, Amritsar and Ferozepore districts. They link their lineage to a Rajput clan.

The Rai Sikhs have more than 50,000 votes in the Jalalabad (Ferozepore) constituency and no candidate can win without their support.

Talking to The Tribune, Mr Mukhtiar Singh, member of Chhankalan Panchayat, said they were satisfied with the functioning of the Congress candidate from their constituency. They would again vote for the Congress candidate as he had promised the community to include it in the SC category.

Women of the villages of Burj and Ranian in the Ajnala sector said they were not able to earn enough income by working in the fields along the border due to restrictions imposed by the BSF. Their men had got addicted to country-made liquor in the absence of employment opportunities in the area.

The younger generation had started manufacturing carpets to earn a living.

The women were critical of the Congress and SAD-BJP governments for ignoring them. They had done nothing to develop the area and set up industry to generate employment. They would vote for the person who would work on those issues, they added.

Members of the community lament although they played a big role in the event of a war by supplying ration, milk and other materials to the soldiers putting their lives in danger, they were never given their due by the successive governments.

“This is the second generation of the Rai Sikhs who have been guarding the border in the most trying situations ever since they migrated here after Partition.”


Singla’s American bahu goes desi 
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 4
Clad in an embroidered Punjabi suit, head covered with a dupatta, Ms T.J. Singla, American daughter-in-law of Mr Surinder Singla, the Congress candidate for the Amritsar Lok Sabha byelection, while pushing the pram of her 10-month-old son Karn Singla and accompanied by her sister-in-law Shweta Singla enters the St Francis Church to participate in the Mass at 11 am.

After offering prayers for the success of her father-in-law, she introduces herself to the audience waiting outside the church: "Main T.J. Singla, Congress candidate ki daughter-in-law hun aur America se aap ke pass apne sasur ke lie vote mangne aee hun (I am T.J.Singla, daughter -in-law of Congress candidate Surinder Singla, and have come all the way from America to urge my Catholic brethren to vote for my father-in-law).”

She mingles with the local folk with ease and addresses them in their own idiom. Then she starts enlisting achievements of her father-in-law as Rajya Sabha member and then of the legislature from Bathinda. "Mere sasur ne Bathinda ka bahut vikas kia" (Singla Sahib did a lot for the development of Bathinda).

Senior citizens listen to her with rapt attention. She asks the voters, "Vote for a person who is through and through a politician." Having a dig at Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, the BJP candidate from the seat, she says that he does not have much time for people since he has to take part in TV shows. 


BJP vows clean govt
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 4
The BJP today released its manifesto, which is almost a replica of that of its alliance partner, the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal). “Corrupt Congress ministers, MLAs and leaders” and alleged “amassing of assets” by them do find a mention in it, but the BJP is mum on whether it will constitute a commission to probe such irregularities.

“We will see whether to set up a commission or not once we form the government”, said Mr Avinash Khanna, BJP’s state president. Mr Khanna was accompanied by senior party leaders, including Mr S.D. Chugh, Mr Vijay Sampla and Mr Rajat Mohinder, when he released the party manifesto here.

Though, the long-standing issues of Punjab, such as the transfer of Chandigarh and Punjabi-speaking areas to Punjab and river waters do not figure in the manifesto, Mr Khanna said his party stood guard to interests of the state.

“There is no question on Chandigarh. It is ours. We have not a drop of river waters for others. We are committed to these issues”, he asserted.


Bhajji in denial mode
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 4
The "door-to-door campaign" of cricket star Harbhajan Singh in favour of the Congress candidate from the Jalandhar (Central) Assembly segment, Mr Tejinder Bittu, has kicked off a controversy following reported denial by the cricketer about the whole "political drama".

Harbhajan Singh was not available for comments. However, IBN 7 has recorded Bhajji denying that he campaigned for any candidate.

"Harbhajan Singh has denied participating in the campaign of any candidate and has clarified that his photos were clicked by somebody when ventured out of his home to meet friends," said Nikhil, a reporter of the channel.


Rebel Gilzian a headache for Congress
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Tanda, February 4
The Congress dissident-turned Independent is giving all political parties a run for their money. Mr Sangat Singh Gilzian has become a cause for concern for the five others candidates in the fray, representing different parties, turning the Tanda contest into an interesting fight.

If gatherings at his rallies are any indication, the Congress would realise that it has jeopardised its prospects of wresting the seat from the sitting Akali Dal MLA Balbir Singh Miani by allotting the ticket to a candidate other than Gilzian, who lost by a mere 3 per cent votes. Mr Gilzian has been the Congress face in the area and is posing a big threat, making the task of the Congress difficult by splitting its votes. The gainer would be SAD’s Balbir Singh.

Having roots in the region, Ms Supinder Kaur Kalkat Cheema is the daughter of former Congress MLAs Surjit Kaur and A.S. Kalkat. Both won this seat twice each. voters of this largely rural constituency are reluctant to accept her as a replacement for Mr Gilzian. Her living outside the constituency for the past many years after marriage has become an issue.

With heavy odds against her, she is banking a lot on women voters and raising issues such as education for girls, concern for female foeticide, employment to the educated, especially girls, protecting the interests of the NRI's and providing city-like facilities to the villagers.

Mr Gilzian spent the last five years in the Assembly segment distributing grants and acting as a liaison between the people and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

During the 2002 elections, Mr Balbir Singh polled 46.75 per cent votes, while Mr Gilzian who contested on the Congress ticket got 43.59 per cent. The NRIs who have flocked this constituency are playing an important role in canvassing for all parties and candidates. 


SAD rebel gets more support
Tribune News Service

Mohali, February 4
Members of the Shiv Sena (Hindustan) today declared their support for the Shiromani Akali Dal rebel candidate Tirlochan Singh Mann. Mr Mann is contesting as an independent candidate from Kharar.

The party’s candidate Pramod Kumar had relinquished his claim in favour of the Congress candidate from Kharar, Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu. Announcing their support to Mr Mann, The president of the Party, Mr Pawan Kumar Gupta, and the Punjab president Sanjiv Kumar said Mr Pramod Kumar had let them down and was supporting the Congress for his own selfish reasons. They added that no one from their party will support the Congress. They said the party had fielded over 50 candidates across the state and were supporting Mr Mann in Kharar, as he was the most suitable candidate. Mr Mann assured the members of the party that he would work keeping in mind the interests of the Shiv Sena workers.


Dhillon grapples with Dhillon
Our Correspondent

Barnala, February 4
Mr Malkiat Singh Keetu, sitting MLA and Shiromani Akali Dal candidate from Barnala, who is striving hard to score a hat-trick of wins from this seat, feels that the contest is going to be easy for him this time too due to the Congress rebel factor.

Mr Kewal Singh Dhillon, the Congress candidate from Barnala, has a big worry in the form of a party rebel, Mr Harinder Singh Seera Dhillon, who is contesting as an Independent.

Mr Keetu is leaving no stone unturned, relying on personal contacts, dinner diplomacy and rallies.

Mr Kewal Dhillon is wooing the electorate through corner meetings in Barnala.

Mr Keetu is also focusing on advocates. He visited the local Courts Complex and met advocates in their chambers. While Mr Keetu is banking on his popularity, Mr Dhillon is has made development his poll plank.


Sirhind: Party loyalties hard to breach
Chander Parkash and Ravi Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 4
"Capt Amarinder Singh is among the few good men left in the Congress," says 72-year-old Bhagwan Singh, a voter of the Sirhind Assembly segment. On the surface it seems, Bhagwan Singh, who has been exercising franchise ever since 1967, is a die-hard Congress voter. But scratch the surface a little, and one is taken aback. For Bhagwan Singh has been voting regularly for the Akalis and this time it will be no different.

There are many like Mr Bhagwan Singh who think Capt Amarinder Singh's government has done a good job as far as procurement of wheat and paddy is concerned. People in the area also speak highly of developmental works initiated by Congress MLA Harbans Lal during his tenure as MLA. However, all of them will go the Akali way.

This is a land where candidates do not matter. What matters is party loyalty.

This constituency is witnessing a direct fight between former parliamentary secretary Harbans Lal and Mr Didar Sigh Bhatti of the SAD. The erudite Mr Emaan Singh Mann, son of firebrand SAD (A) leader Simranjit Singh Mann, may be well-educated, but he is a political novice as compared to Mr Harbans Lal and Mr Didar Singh Bhatti.

A cross-section of voters interviewed by TNS said that governments came and went but the lot of the common man seldom improved. "So why break your loyalty with your party", asked Mr Nirmal Singh, 52, an Akali supporter.

In villages of Tarkhanmajra, Bhumarsi, Ambemajra, Jalla and Tarkheri, some villagers were running ‘langar’, irrespective of party loyalties. What worries the local populace is local issues. " Previous MLAs had promised the moon, but the lot of the common man remains the same". This was the refrain of almost all villagers interviewed.

Said Mr Labh Singh of Tarkhanmajra:" We are more interested in getting our local problems solved through the offices of elected representatives. Agreed, both Capt Amarinder Singh and SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal are good persons but what is important to us is who will solve our problems."

Another villager Bahadur Sigh, an electrician ,talked of a slew of local issues which have not been addressed. 


Ex-servicemen lay conditions before candidates
Tribune News Service

Mohali, February 4
The All-India Veterans Core Group, an NGO, headed by Brig H.S. Ghuman, (retd) merged itself with the Indian Ex-Services League, Punjab and Chandigarh, under the leadership of Lt Col C.S. Dhillon (retd).

The Election Cell of the league has decided that the league would support all deserving candidates irrespective of the political party they belong to.

In Kharar, the league has decided to support Congress candidate Balbir Singh Sidhu. In a press note issued by Brigadier Ghuman, the candidates, who desire to get the support of the league, would have to give assurance to the Election Cell of the league that they would make efforts individually as well as through their party to get an appropriate Act passed to safeguard the property of the soldiers and veterans.

Not only this, the system of filling ex-servicemen vacancies be made transparent and efficient by a Monitoring Cell at each district. The military service must be counted to fix the initial pay of a veteran when employed with the Punjab Government.


Lalli threatens to block traffic
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 4
Mr Sukhjinder Raj Singh Lalli, Congress candidate for the Majitha constituency, today threatened to block roads if the district administration failed to take any against the Akali workers who were allegedly intimidating his supporters.

Mr Lalli alleged that a number of complaints of hooliganism by Akali workers were reported to the district administration, but to no avail.

Even the gunmen of Mr Abhay Chautala, son of former Chief Minister of Haryana, were canvassing for Akali candidate Bikramjit Singh Majithia, he added.

He said a Punjab police havaldar, who was neither posted nor deputed for election duty, was working for the Akali candidate. 


Sacha Sauda to back Cong
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 4
The seven-member committee of the political wing (Punjab) of the Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa, today announced its support to all Congress candidates of the Sangrur district.

Mr Gurbaz Singh, member of the committee, said the followers of the dera would vote and support the candidates of the Congress.


Reformed, yet on the run
Parties speak up for former offenders
Saurabh Malik and Gurbaxpuri

Tarn Taran, February 4
The insurmountable barbed-wire fence across the Indo-Pak border has failed to keep the troubles at bay for the former smugglers putting up in the villages situated just along the border.

Though the illicit business has almost come to an end with the coming up of the fence, the old-time contrabandists are still allegedly harassed by the police every now and then.

As the Assembly elections draw near, the issue of their “harassment”, an allegation the top brass of the police vehemently denies, is fast becoming an election concern with the dwellers of these border villages demanding an end to the practice of “targeting” the former smugglers.

In fact, some of the candidates are also promising protection in accordance with law to the small-timers, who have since long waded their way into the mainstream. Among them is MLA-cum-SAD nominee from Attari Gulzar Singh Ranike.

The constituency has nearly 90-km boundary with Pakistan and had, at one point of time, developed a reputation for narcotics smuggling. However, the last “key” case of smuggling to hit the headlines was in August, 2004.

At that time, the police had claimed to have busted an international smugglers’ gang with the arrest of 11 persons. As much as 31 kg of heroin worth Rs 31 crore, along with fake currency and firearms from Pakistan, was reportedly seized from them.

“Though over two years have lapsed since the last incident was reported, the harassment continues,” says a well-known transporter, Mr Harpal Singh Shah of Naushera Dhalla village. He adds that the issue of the persecution of former smugglers was taken up by the political parties in the run up to the parliamentary elections also. “At that time, too, the political bigwigs promised the formulation of special schemes for their peaceful rehabilitation. But nothing much was done to prevent their harassment”.

At Shakri village, former Zila Parishad member Kabal Singh says comparatively affluent former smugglers continue to be the deciding factor as they still have a hold over the opinion of not-so-thriving landless farmers of the border villages.

“Following police harassment, so many of the former runners have shifted their base out of Tarn Taran to either Amritsar, or even Delhi. A sizable number of them, still putting up in the constituency, are now striving hard for their rights. The candidates also realise the same. No wonder, the leaders are out to please the old-timers,” he concludes. 


It can’t get any cheap
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 4
Votes are for sale in Dr Ambedkar Nagar, commonly known as Dhakka Colony. Here residents sell their franchise for a meagre sum.

Belonging to the poor strata of society, residents of area falling in the West segment are not willing to cast their votes without being compensated in cash or kind.

Living in pathetic conditions, the residents say this is nothing new; they have been doing it in past also. Being fed with money, liquor and poppy husk every election season, they are openly admitting that they will accept money this time also.

‘‘I will cast my vote in favour of a candidate who will get my shanty reconstructed. Whosoever is ready for it is most welcome,’’ says Seelo, a 38-year-old resident of Street No. 9 without missing to add that she can influence 16 members of her joint family to cast their vote in somebody's favour.

Adding that her husband is an alcoholic, and that she makes both her ends meet by picking rags, Seelo says she has no option but to sell her vote. “They give us money only when it is election time. Otherwise you go begging and they will kick you out.”

Just ask them about their aspirations from the candidates, and they open up after little reluctance. “Let somebody pay my electricity bill, and I will vote for him. So will 14 members of my family, who are living in the dark owing to non-payment of bills for quite some time,” says Shakuntala, a resident.

For another couple, Neelam and Suresh, any candidate offering to get their five children admitted to school will get their votes.

“We want the candidates to come to us directly. Last year, we were paid between Rs 100 and Rs 200 by mohalla presidents, who gobble up the major chunk themselves,” says Seelo.



Jassi, Sidhu bury hatchet

BATHINDA: Mr Harminder Singh Jassi and Mr Jeet Mohinder Singh Sidhu, Congress candidates from Bathinda and Talwandi Sabo, respectively, on Sunday sunk their differences and joined hands in the presence of PPCC general secretary Raninder Singh at the Congress office here. — TNS

Brahm Mohindra in trouble

PATIALA: Mr S. K. Poddar, Observer (Expenditure), Samana Assembly segment, on Sunday asked its Returning Officer to register an FIR against Congress candidate Brahm Mohindra under Section 171 (1) of the IPC for not replying to the show-cause notice issued to him on January 30. — TNS


AIPNBOA holds triennial zonal conference
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 4
The triennial zonal conference of the All-India Punjab National Bank Officers Association (AIPNBOA), Chandigarh ‘B’ zone, was held at the hotel Narain Continental, here, today. Mr K.D. Khera, General Secretary of the association, in his keynote address discussed various issues, including second option of pension benefit to bank officers, mergers and acquisitions of banks, outsourcing and its impact.

The conference was presided over by Mr P.K. Nayar, President of the association, who delivered the presidential speech and discussed the growth of the bank.

The chief guest, Mr I.D. Singh, General Manager of Punjab (South) zone of the bank, deliberated on the issues like business growth, branch expansion and core banking solution. He said the PNB had become the country’s largest on-line bank having more than 2550 CBS branches throughout the country. He added that the PNB had registered 16 per cent increase in net profit of Rs 429 crore in third quarter ended December 2006.

Mr Rajiv Puri, Assistant General Secretary, AIPNBOA (Punjab) South zone, in his address stressed that in case their demand of second option for pension was not met, bank officers would go on an indefinite strike in protest for which a meeting of the United Front will be held on February 11 in Mumbai.

Mr C.R. Khajuria, Deputy General Manager of Chandigarh ‘B’ zone, told the gathering that AIPNBOA had been successful in sensitising the officers to render customer service efficiently in today’s competitive environment.

Some leaders of the association from Centre, Punjab, Chandigarh, Haryana and Rajasthan also graced the occasion. Mr Jangvir Singh, President, Chandigarh ‘B’ zone, presented the vote of thanks.


NTAS stages Punjabi satire ‘Sanu Kee’
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 4
The National Theatre Arts Society (NTAS) presented a Punjabi musical satire, ‘Sanu Kee’, at Baradari Garden, here, today.

The chief guest, Dr Sawraj Singh (USA), a noted surgeon, scholar and author of 20 books on world affairs and eastern philosophy, gave away the prizes to the artistes and lauded the play’s bold criticism of the shortcomings in the parliamentary and political system of the country.

He cautioned the people to guard against the influence of the western countries and urged them to follow the Guru Nanak’s teachings of truth, sacrifice and fearlessness.

Mr Shyam Lal Gupta, MD, hotel Flyover Classic, inaugurated the function while Mr A.P. Dubey, Manager, State Bank of Patiala, presided over.

Earlier, Mr Kamal Deep Gill, Shubham Arora and Amrik Singh Jhaj enthralled the audience with their singing and recitation. The dignitaries were honoured by NTAS Director, Pran Sabharwal.


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