P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



PM promises Green Revolution II
Prabhjot Singh and Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Dimpa absent at rally

Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa, Congress candidate from Beas booked by the Beas police, and Mr Sukh Sarkaria, a candidate from Rajasansi, were conspicuous by their absence at the PM's rally. There was murmurs when Mr Harminder Singh Gill, a Congress candidate from Patti and former president of the All-India Sikh Students Federation touched the feet of the PM.

Thin attendance

As compared to the rallies addressed by the PM earlier in Amritsar, the gathering was comparatively thin with several chairs empty. However, the attendance was better than the rallies addressed by Mr L.K.Advani, former Deputy PM, on Tuesday. A few women with Congress flags in hand tried to 'disrupt' the rally, raising slogans.

Amritsar, February 5
Setting the political agenda for Punjab, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, today urged the state to go the Congress way so that it could work in tandem with the UPA government at the Centre to accelerate its economic development and for regaining its number one position in the country.

Dr Manmohan Singh chose Amritsar, his home town, and Punjabi, to address his first election rally in the state before flying to Jalandhar on the first day of his two-day election tour of Punjab.

Besides various economic and development issues, he spoke about improving relations with Pakistan, saying that it had opened many vistas for the overall development of trade and various other economic activities for the people of Majha. The Congress government was committed to ushering in a new era of development of the border belt. Earlier, industrialisation of the area suffered because of hostilities from across the border.

Development of Amritsar as a major trade centre to Central Asia figured prominently in his 20-minute speech in which without naming or blaming the Akalis, he said the state in general and border districts in particular suffered immensely during the years of turbulence in the state.

The state was not only on the brink of economic disaster as it had no money to pay salaries to its employees, but also witnessed shifting of the industry to other states. "It is the Congress which revived the economy of the state," he said.

Describing the Chief Minister as “a visionary with a modern mind”, the Prime Minister praised the government for making the sate as the most favoured destination for industrial and infrastructure investment.

He said global companies and big houses preferred Punjab to Bangalore or Hyderabad for their investments. Mohali, for example, was their favourite.

"I want the Jawaharlal Urban Renewable Mission to be extended to the entire state instead of just Amritsar and Ludhiana.”

"Punjab needs a new Green Revolution. To rid itself of the problems of poverty and unemployment, it also needs to go in for rapid industrialisation. This can be achieved only if Chandigarh and New Delhi work in unison and close coordination," he said while emphasising the need for reforms in the education and healthcare systems.

He said every child aged above five must not be left out of school.

Recalling his association with the holy city, he said though he was born across the border, he spent his formative years here. At the time of Partition, when the future appeared dark, Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress took command for reconstructing Punjab.

A network of canals, the Bhakra Dam and starting of an agriculture university in Ludhiana helped brave people of Punjab to become the granary of the country. But then the blight of terrorism stalled this economic growth and development. At one stage it looked as if Punjab was being reverted to its economic bewilderness. But in the last five years, the Congress government in Punjab worked wonders, he said.

He admitted that the agriculture sector, the mainstay of Punjab's economy, had some problems. Though some initiatives had been taken in offering a better minimum support price and for rationalisation of the rate of interest on farm loans, yet a lot more needed to be done. Issues like loan waivers and offering farmers better quality seeds and farm inputs needed to be addressed, Dr Manmohan Singh said.

He advised Punjab farmers to take to other crops than paddy and wheat. The state and the Central governments were ready to help farmers going in for fruit and vegetable cultivation or any diversification, he said, while recommending "a new Green Revolution in Punjab”.

Earlier, the Chief Minister said Punjab was on the threshold of major economic growth and development. Seeking the cooperation of the people of Majha, he said the coming election was a fight for development.

He said it was the first election in which there was no "Panthic agenda". Now, Punjabis could go to Kartarpur Sahib, Nankana Sahib, and Katasraj to pay obeisance. 


Beware of communal parties: PM 
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 5
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has urged the electorate to beware of communal forces.
Dr Manmohan Singh was speaking at an election rally of the Congress candidates of the Doaba region at the PAP grounds here today.

He said there were some forces which incited the emotions of the public in the name of religion and caste and adversely affected the development of the nation. “The Congress is a secular party, which works for the development of all sections of society”, he added.

Capt Amarinder Singh had created such an atmosphere in Punjab that industrialists from Bangalore and Hyderabad had started investing in the state, he said. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh claimed that he had done development on such a large extent that the SAD was forced to make development an election agenda.

Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, PPCC chief, also spoke.

Earlier, Sant Baba Kashmira Singh presented a “siropa” to the Prime Minister.


Caught on a Trident
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Mansa, February 5
In this district, the fortunes of the Congress will largely depend on whether the electorate gives credit to the party for a bumper cotton crop due to the introduction of Bt Cotton or holds it responsible for ‘forcible’ acquisition of farmers’ lands for the Trident group. The district has four Assembly seats.

Most of the farmers in the constituencies of Mansa, Joga and Sardulgarh mince no word in giving credit to the Congress for the introduction of Bt Cotton . “Earlier, farmers were tired of spraying chemicals to get rid of bollworm or the American sundi and attack of other insects on the crop. But, after the introduction of Bt Cotton, minimal use of insecticides is required and crop yield has increased”, says Randhir Singh, a farmer.

The heaps of cotton bales lying in markets are a testimony to the increase in cotton produce in the region.

The farmers, however, are not happy with the price they are getting for their produce. “The expenditure on insecticides is saved but the Bt Cotton seed is costlier than the normal seed. Farmers are not saving enough money at the minimum support price of around Rs 2,100 per quintal”, laments Satnam Singh, another farmer. He hoped that if the Congress was voted to power, it would increase the MSP substantially.

The party's score at the cotton front is being nullified by the “bad name” it has earned in the Trident acquisition issue. Though the controversial land falls in Barnala district, the directly affected villages, Dhaula, Fatehgarh Channa and Sanghera, are on the Barnala-Mansa border.

Mansa district has more than 10 organisations of farmers. Most of them are engaged in an agitation against the Trident group and the government. The agitation is going to affect the mood of the electorate.

Mr Shingara Singh Mann, district president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), said it was sheer dictatorship on the part of the Congress regime to force farmers to part with their lands. “The Congress regime did not think it proper to even give some lip service to the farmers and has behaved in an autocratic manner on the issue. The party would have to suffer in the elections”, he warns.


It’s dharam yudh, says Sushma Swaraj
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 5
Mrs Sushma Swaraj, BJP general secretary, addressed a rally in support of the SAD-BJP combine candidate, Mr Surjit Singh Kohli, here today. She stated that the main factors which would go against the Congress would be failure of the government to provide employment and end corruption within the rank and file of the Congress as well as the inaccessibility of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh in his own segment.

Mrs Swaraj, who along with former Union Minister S.S Dhindsa, addressed a press conference at the residence of Mr S.S Kohli, said the SAD would roar back into power as the people were fed up with the policies of the Chief Minister.

Mrs Swaraj said she was not against SEZs but these must be set up in barren land and not on fertile agricultural land.

On leaders like Ms Uma Bharati and Mr Madan Lal Khurana touring Punjab, Mrs Swaraj said Ms Bharati had little or no influence on Punjab politics.

Speaking on the occasion, former Union Minister and SAD secretary general S.S Dhindsa, said the SAD was taking people of all sections of society along with them.

Addressing rallies for the SAD nominee in Lehra Assembly at Moonak and Mr Parkash Chand Garg, SAD candidate for Sangrur, at Bhawanigarh, Ms Swaraj said the Amarinder regime had made the life of the common man difficult due to the rising prices. Ms Swaraj termed the elections as a "dharma yudh.”

At Bhawanigarh, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, secretary general of the SAD, urged the people to ensure the victory to Mr Parkash Chand Garg with a big margin. He said the SAD-BJP had worked for the unity of Hindus and Sikhs while the Congress had created differences between the communities.

Among others who spoke at Bhawanigarh were Mr Parkash Chand Garg, candidate of the SAD for Sangrur, and Mr Tejinder Pal Singh Sandhu, a former chairman of the Punjab Subordinate Service Selection Board. 


Rajnath speaks for the jobless
Tribune News Service

Kharar ( Mohali), February 5
The President of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Mr Rajnath Singh, today called upon economists of the country to study factors that led to rise in prices whenever the Congress came to power.

The BJP president, addressing an election rally here in favour of Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) candidate Jasjit Singh said:“Economists must study why prices rise during Congress rule.''The SAD-BJP combine, if voted to power would ensure that the industry in Punjab was back on track and was given adequate power supply.

He, however, did not spell out how this would be done. He also promised that the combine would ensure 24-hour power supply to farmers, industrialists who had left the state due to the policies of the Congress government would be brought back and unemployed youth be given jobs.

Mr Rajnath Singh said Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, despite being a Captain, had failed to run the state and despite being a doctor, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had failed to treat the problems of the country.

He appealed to the people of Punjab to change the government with the changing season. Mr Rajnath Singh, touching an emotional chord with the audience, said “:The brave sons of Punjab, who have saved the country so many times during wars, are now jobless.”

Earlier, Mr Jasjit Singh Bunny, a good orator, said if voted to power, his party “will bring the government at people’s doorstep”. 


BJP units clash over welcome to Rajnath
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
Minutes before the BJP President, Mr Rajnath Singh, was to arrive here for canvassing in favour of the party, an altercation broke out between activists of its Punjab and Chandigarh units over according him welcome.

Outside the airport in the city, activists of the two units had heated arguments over ‘refusal’ of entry to senior partymen of Punjab to receive Mr Rajnath Singh.

While Punjab BJP activists accused senior leader and former MP from Chandigarh Satya Pal Jain for "manipulating" with the airport authorities in getting the names of these leaders struck off from the group of people who were to welcome Mr Rajnath Singh, the Chandigarh unit activists refuted the same.

The members of the two units pushed each other as tempers ran high. Mohali district president Khushwant Rai Gigga clashed with the Chandigarh BJP’s general secretary, Mr Balkrishan Kapoor, and party councillor in Chandigarh Anil Dubey. Mr Giga was peeved at being left out and he blamed Mr Satya Pal Jain whose supporters took up the matter with Mr Gigga.

Latter Punjab BJP youth unit activist Mr Vineet Joshi and several partymen raised slogans against the airport authorities.

Mr Jain, who was elevated as member of the BJP national executive, refuted the accusations.

Fatehgarh Sahib: The SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and the president of the BJP, Mr Rajnath Singh, addressed an impressive election rally in support of Mr Didar Singh Bhatti, SAD candidate from the Sirhind Assembly constituency, here. 
In his address, Mr Rajnath Singh lashed out at the Central Government as well as the state government. He said while the Prime Minister had failed to control the price rise, the Chief Minister had failed on the law and order front. 


Vote for change: BJP chief
Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, February 5
The SAD chief, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, and the president of the BJP, Mr Rajnath Singh, addressed an impressive election rally in support of Mr Didar Singh Bhatti, SAD candidate from the Sirhind Assembly constituency, here.

In his address, Mr Rajnath Singh lashed out at the Central Government as well as the state government. He said while the Prime Minister had failed to control the price rise, the Chief Minister had failed on the law and order front. He said the state was marching towards anarchy. He claimed that while the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, did not meet even his ministers and MLAs, what to talk of the common man, Mr Badal was a man of the masses and always remained with people. 


Doors open to upper castes: Maya
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, February 5
Ms Mayawati, president of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), today stated that her party had never been against the upper castes or the Hindu religion. She said we were branded as anti-upper castes and anti-Hindu by “manuvadis”.

Ms Mayawati was addressing an election rally in support of her party candidate Parminder Singh Goga for this Assembly constituency at the grain market here.

The BSP chief said the party leadership had decided to give ticket to more members of upper community in all future elections. The party had given representations to almost every community in the Punjab elections.

She claimed that the people of the state were disenchanted with the Congress and the SAD. They were looking for an alternative, which the BSP was ready to provide for.


Badal women do their bit
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 5
After Ms Preneet Kaur, Congress MP and wife of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, it is the turn of another Parneet Kaur, popularly called “Biba Ji”, daughter of Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who has launched a door-to-door campaign in favour of her husband, Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, former Akali minister, in the border constituency of Patti.

Like her father, Parneet Kaur loves campaigning. Having a computerised data of the constituency, she tries to know the problems of the people. She has tall promises to make with the voters of the constituency of her husband.

She tells the voters that the constituency was first nurtured by a former Chief Minister, late Partap Singh Kairon. But, after that it has remained neglected for a long time. “Now the grandson of the legendary Chief Minister (Mr Adesh Partap Singh Kairon) is making sincere efforts to nurture the constituency.”

Another woman star campaigner of the Badal family, Ms Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, has come all the way from Badal village to campaign for her brother, Mr Bikram Singh Majithia, who is the SAD nominee for the Majitha constituency. She is being introduced as “daughter of the soil”. Elderly women of Majitha were seen blessing her wherever she went for canvassing.

Ms Harsimrat Kaur Badal is accompanied by Bibi Gurpreet Kaur Majitha, wife of Rajya Sabha member Rajmohinder Singh Majithia, and local women-folk. She promised the voters to uplift the women lot of the constituency if the SAD-BJP was voted to power.

Ms Surinder Kaur Badal, wife of SAD supremo, has already been in the thick of campaigning in the Malwa region, including Bathinda and Muktsar districts.


Rosy Bhattal may spoil party
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Dhanaula (Barnala), February 5
Though there seems to be a triangular contest in the Dhanaula Assembly constituency among sitting MLA Gobind Singh Longowal of the SAD, Mr Simranjit Singh Mann of the SAD(A), and Mr Kuldip Singh Bhattal, Congress candidate and younger brother of Ms Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Deputy Chief Minister, there is another Independent candidate, Ms Rajwinder Kaur, alias Rosy Bhattal, a niece of the Bhattals, who has attracted the attention of many by jumping into the poll fray after the denial of the party ticket to her by the Congress.

Ms Rosy is nowadays delivering speeches against Ms Bhattal, holding her responsible for the ills of her (Rosy’s) family after the death of her father Manjit Singh Bhattal, a former Congress MLA from Dhanaula.

She had staked claim to the Congress ticket from Dhanaula, being the daughter of the former Congress

MLA.Ms Rosy is trying hard to ensure the defeat of her uncle. Besides, she also wants to see the defeat of Ms Bhattal in the Lehra constituency.

She addressed SAD rallies in the Lehra constituency recently in favour of SAD candidate Prem Singh Chandumajra.

However, Mr Kuldip told The Tribune that Ms Rosy was making statements against him and his sister out of frustration as she could not get the Congress ticket from Dhanaula.


Debate: Anything but Patiala
Chander Parkash and Ravi Dhaliwal

Patiala, February 5
Honours were shared between the Patiala Member of Parliament, Ms Preneet Kaur, and the SAD candidate, Mr Surjit Singh Kohli, in what turned out to be an intellectually hollow debate organised by a private TV channel at the Gymkhana Club here today.

Nobody expected the debate to go the Sidhu-Singla way but at least the two leaders were expected to give an insight into the state of affairs of the city.

Both leaders, invited to discuss issues pertaining to Patiala town, ended up the 30-minute debate without even discussing a single issue plaguing residents of the town.

The debate, anchored by Ajay Kumar, was witnessed by a motley crowd and most of the questions put forth by the audience turned out to be hollow and baseless.

The proceedings started with the anchor asking Ms Preneet Kaur to throw light on development projects initiated in the city under the stewardship of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, whose Assembly segment this is.

The Patiala MP said enough development projects had been brought to the city by the municipal corporation and the Patiala Development Authority set up by the Chief Minister for the purpose.

Mr Kohli, in his rustic style, countered the claims of the Patiala MP, saying that the local bodies were instrumental in ushering in developmental projects and that neither the Chief Minister nor his wife had anything to do with the so-called development.

After the first round, the debate was still pegged at the state level and no mention was being made about issues plaguing the town.

An SAD supporter made a reference to a former president of the Rajiv Gandhi Parontha Market, the late Gopal Krishan Kashyap, whose suicide in full media glare had made headlines.

Mr Kohli said if the Congress, as it was claiming, had given enough concessions to rehriwalas like Kashyap, things would not have deteriorated to the extent where Kashyap was forced to commit suicide.

To this, Ms Preneet Kaur replied that the "incident was really unfortunate, and that family members of Kashyap had now been fully rehabilitated by the government."

Interestingly, Mr Harchand Singh Barsat, Political Secretary of the Punjab Chief Minister, could be seen actively participating in the debate and went a step ahead by asking questions from the Chief Minister's wife.


Sacha Sauda: CPI complains against Cong
Sarbjit Dhaliwal Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
The Communist Party of India (CPI) has lodged a complaint with the Election Commission of India (EC) seeking disqualification of some Congress nominees for using religion to further their electoral prospects.

The CPI has also demanded that pending inquiry, the elections in constituencies from where the “erring” candidates are contesting be deferred.

Among those whose disqualification has been sought are Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Mr Harminder Singh Jassi (Bathinda).

The complaint, filed by CPI national council member and former secretary, Punjab, Joginder Dayal and farmers’ leader Bhupinder Sambar, says these persons were among the Congress nominees from the districts of Patiala, Sangrur and Moga who attended a religious congregation organised by a religious sect, Dera Sacha Sauda, yesterday.

The head of the Dera, which has its headquarters at Sirsa in Haryana, issued a diktat to all its followers to vote for the Congress nominees. The dera has a substantial following in the Malwa belt. Its chief is also related to Mr Jassi, who is the Congress nominee from Bathinda.

The Constitution specifically bars mixing of religion with politics for electoral gains.

It says that even the Representation of People’s Act forbids a candidate in any election from seeking votes in the name of religion, says the complaint.

Yesterday, the seven-member committee of the Sacha Sauda had announced support to all Congress nominees of Sangrur district.


EC reviews law and order
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 5
The Election Commission today reviewed the law and order situation in Punjab and order sealing of its borders close to the election day.
Punjab Chief Secretary K.R. Lakhanpal and Director-General of Police Rajdeep Singh Gill met the three-member poll panel headed by Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami. Sources said the commission inquired about specific instances incidents of violence reported from Beas and the sale of photo identity cards in some parts of Punjab in general and Ferozepore in particular.

The commission took a strong view of these incidents and directed the Chief Secretary and the DGP to take stern action against those responsible for the incident, the sources said, adding that the EC had also decided to direct the Chief Electoral Officer and poll observers to keep a watch on violations and take immediate steps to rectify the situation to conduct free and fair polls.

The sources pointed out that the three-member panel spent much of the time in assessing the law and order situation and the deployment of security personnel to ensure smooth conduct of elections and ensuring confidence amongst the electorate to exercise their franchise without fear. The EC has decided to deploy 200 companies of paramilitary forces in the state in addition to about 50,000-strong force of the Punjab police.

The chief secretaries of all neighbouring states, Haryana, Rajasthan, J&K and Himachal Pradesh, have been asked to seal the respective areas bordering Punjab to prevent infiltration of disruptive elements.


Cong caught in family tussle
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sunam, February 5
In this Assembly constituency, Mr Rajinder Deepa is contesting against his brother-in-law (saala) as an Independent after being denied the Congress ticket. Mr Aman Arora, son of late minister Bhagwan Dass Arora and younger brother-in-law (saala) of Mr Deepa, has been allotted the Congress ticket.

In the 2002 elections, Mr Arora was denied the Congress ticket and he contested as an Independent against her sister and official nominee Sonia Deepa Arora, wife of Mr Rajinder Deepa. However, he withdrew from the contest in favour of his sister, but not before the last date for withdrawals. He was polled 565 votes while her sister lost to Mr Parminder Singh Dhindsa, SAD candidate, by a margin of 18,675 votes.

It was then alleged by many that Mr Arora had not supported her sister whole-heartedly.

This time, Ms Sonia Arora is campaigning for her husband while Ms Parmeshwari Devi, mother of Mr Arora, has been campaigning for her son. Thus the split in the family might help the SAD candidate Parminder Singh Dhindsa in a big way.

Mr Deepa and Mr Arora both are banking upon the political legacy of late Bhawan Dass Arora. Their banners and posters carry photographs of the late minister.

Many persons are of the view that as Mr Deepa had got a lot of development works done here in the past five years, he will get a big share of the Congress votes.


Resolute Sultana goes door to door
Amrita Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Malerkotla, February 5
As the only Muslim MLA in the region, and that too a woman, Ms Razia Sultana of the Congress is least affected by the fact that she enjoys a power that many in her religion would be envious of. She, however, doesn’t feel that she had to struggle very hard for it. Born and brought up in Malerkotla, she says the people only gave her a chance to give something back to them.

A determined Razia Sultana is unruffled by the numerous hands that extend to her. She makes it a point to shake each as she canvasses door to door in her hometown. All set to celebrate her fortieth birthday tomorrow, she hopes the saying “life begins at forty” comes true with a second innings in the Vidhan Sabha.

Interestingly, in the last Assembly elections it was the only constituency where the votes polled by women voters were more. “The stature of woman in society here has changed in the past five years. Earlier, they would not go to any meetings, now they speak their mind and participate in every activity,” she states as she stops to sip tea at a supporter’s house.

Accompanied by her gunmen, she canvasses on foot in tiny alleys, before being driven to another ward.

While in the last elections Ms Razia Sultana had to battle it out alone, with many opposing even her nomination, she is now accompanied by her daughter Nishat Akhtar, a BA first year student, in canvassing.

Ms Razia Sultana is the wife of Mohammad Mustafa, IG Police (Border Range), Amritsar. Though the stature of her husband has an effect on the electorate, it seems to be of little significance to her. “it’s the people’s support and love that I am concerned about, the rest is momentary,” she states.

With lyrics, penned by Javed Akhtar in Ms Razia Sultana’s praise, playing from loudspeakers, we looked around in the otherwise quiet town for signs of development.

When women complained of sewerage problems apart from other woes, she told us that she had got a sewerage project sanctioned for the town. “Lot of money has already been sanctioned for various works. Lot of work still needs to be done. Nothing was ever done before my tenure.” Claiming that the shagun scheme is one of her biggest achievements, she wants to set up a medical college as soon as she comes to power again.


It is razor sharp in Guru Har Sahai 
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Guru Har Sahai( Ferozepore), February 5
It is an enthralling contest here with caste, money power and development issues proving as decisive factors. The Congress nominee here is Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh’s close ally Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, sitting MLA and a former Chief Parliamentary Secretary.

A two-time MP from Ferozepore seat, Mr Mohan Singh Phallianwala, is contesting on the BSP ticket. The Shiromani Akali Dal have fielded Mr Paramjit Singh, who has the knack of winning hearts with his humble demeanour.

Then there is former MP Dhian Singh Mand, who won the Lok Sabha elections in 1989, defeating stalwarts like Mr Jagmeet Brar and former Deputy Prime Minister of the country, the late Devi Lal. Mr Mand had contested as an Independent then.This time, he is the nominee of SAD (Amritsar) . Mr Mand and the CPI candidate, Mr Surinder Kamboj, hold sway over at least a few thousand votes each and these can be crucial for the poll verdict.

There are a total of 1.60 lakh voters out of which about 55,000 belong to the Rai Sikh community. The community is angry at the Congress for not having ensured SC status to it. Mr Phallianwala, is from this community and is passionate about ‘equality’ for the Backwards in society.

Expect in 1992, the constituency has recorded up to 70 per cent voting. Political observers opine that the three main parties - the Congress, the SAD and the BSP - could be fighting for a share in about 95,000 votes. The rest of the 20,000 votes could be cast to other parties and Independents.

Mr Sodhi claims to have a few thousand Rai Sikh votes with him. He passionately talks about the railway overbridge that is nearing completion in the congested mandi at Guru Har Sahai as also the Government College he established. His dream is to have auto component manufacturing unit established in the region and adds “the border with Pakistan at Hussainiwala will open and that will transform the area ”.

A section of traders is backing the SAD-BJP nominee, Mr Paramjit Singh. Notable among them are a couple of disgruntled Congressmen. The SAD nominee says the much-talked-about railway overbridge was not needed and was waste of resources. 


Money: Some have it, some don’t
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Manse, February 2
The four Assembly constituencies in Mansa district has candidates with varied financial health. Records with the district election office reveal that Mr Balwinder Singh Bhunder, SAD-BJP candidate from Sardulgarh, has assets worth Rs 3.91 crore. He owns a Santro car, a bungalow in Chandigarh, 36 acres of land and plots.

His rival , Mr Ajitinder Singh Mofar, has shown wealth totalling Rs 1.5 crore, including an Innova car, houses and 34 acres of land.

From the Joga constituency, Mr Jagdeep Singh Nakai (SAD-BJP), has worldly goods amounting to Rs 3.90 crore. He has 32 acres of prime land, besides cars, tractors and godowns in Mansa, Bathinda and Badrukhan. His closest rival Narinder Singh Bhaleria has shown assets of 1.16 crore.

Mr Mangat Rai Bansal (Cong) from Budhlada has assets worth Rs 1.28 crore. Rebel Congress leader and Independent candidate from Mansa, Mr Manjit Singh Jhalbuti, has furnished details of property worth Rs 1.35 crore.

In the "lakhpati" group, Mr Sher Singh Gagowal, congress candidate from Mansa constituency has shown property worth Rs 56 lakh. His rival SAD-BJP candidate, Mr Sukhwinder Singh Aulakh, claims to own property worth Rs 26 lakh.

SAD-BJP candidate from Budhlada Harbans Singh Daatewas has produced record of valuables and property worth Rs 18 lakh only. Mr Hardev Arshi, CPI leader and candidate from the same constituency, has a house and a car worth Rs 36 lakh.

Quite distinct from this group are those who are not even a 'pati'. These candidates are relying on friends and supporters to campaign for them.

CPI(ML) candidate from Budhlada Bhagwant Singh is unmarried and does not own any land or has valuable assets. His partner in this group is Mr Satwant Singh Behviwal, contesting from Sardulgarh.

And there are some ‘karzdaars' (debt-ridden) too. Thirteen such candidates in the poll fray from four constituencies owe lakhs of rupees to banks or financial institutions.

BSP candidate Gurdev Singh Mansahia from Mansa has not paid Rs 6.60 lakh for use of government accommodation. Congress candidate from Joga Mr Narinder Singh Bhalria, who has assets worth over Rs 1 crore, is yet to pay Rs 1.14 lakh to the Nathana Co-operative Bank.

SAD-BJP candidate Mr Harcharan Singh Burjheri from the same seat has a debt of 1.92 lakh Rebel Congress leader Sukhraj Singh has to pay Rs 15 lakh to Agriculture Development Bank and to repay a car loan of over Rs 4 lakh.

From Budhlada, Mr Hardev Arshi of the same party has to return two loans of Rs 58,000 and Rs 1,14 lakh to two banks. Independent woman candidate Jasvir Kaur is under a debt of Rs 60 lakh.


Nepal, Bhutan to send poll officials
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
Two countries will be sending their election officials to oversee the ensuing Punjab Vidhan Sabha elections so as to get a feel of how the democratic system works towards free and fair elections.

According to top sources in the Government of India, Bhutan, which will depute 40 officials who will oversee the next elections in Nepal, is sending 18 officials.

Sources said the Election Commission of India would make arrangements for the stay of these officials, who would be allowed access to rallies and polling stations and accompany observers appointed by the EC. The officials would attend training programmes being organised by the EC to educate the election staff. It may be recalled that both Bhutan and Nepal are taking steps towards democracy. The 40-member group from Bhutan may include members of the Constitution Drafting Committee, headed by the Chief Justice of Bhutan.

“These two countries are serious about holding free and fair elections, something which has already made India a vibrant democracy.

However, a source said owing to inadequate infrastructure, the Nepalese delegation had been invited for the election in the Valtoha constituency on February 24.


The panch who snatched voter cards
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
The Punjab Police has booked three persons, including a former panch, for their involvement in the alleged snatching of Election Pictoral Identity Card (EPIC) in the Jalalabad constituency on February 1.

According to information available here, two separate cases have been registered by the Jalalabad Sadar police on the complaints of Mr Tara Singh and Mrs Piaro Bai.

Both alleged that at around 8 pm on February 1, Mr Dalip Singh, a former panch, came to the houses of the complainants along with two others and asked them to show their EPICs.They offered to buy their cards.

The complainants alleged that when they refused to do the same, the accused snatched their cards , threw money at them and fled.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission, which had ordered a probe into the alleged sale of EPICs by some voters, as claimed by a private news channel, has said that no such incident took place.

Checks had been carried out with special focus on Kathgarh, which had been mentioned in the TV report. No evidence of EPIC card sale had been found.

The Deputy Commissioner, Ferozepore has announced a reward to anyone providing information leading to the arrest of those guilty of such practices.

The EC has reprimanded Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Sports Minister Jagmohan Singh Kang for violation of code of conduct.

On January 30, the EC had issued show cause to the minister with regard to the speech that he delivered at the Republic Day function at Muktsar.


Zing thing missing
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 5
The voter, they say, has the last laugh. This time round, Punjabis are weighing their options very carefully. People attribute the general indifference of the voter to disillusionment and the absence of a zing in electioneering. And this has had the candidates worried.

A senior politician complained that the face of the voter says it all. During a quick tour of villages in the district, guarded responses of voters greeted one at numerous hamlets across the countryside. The communicative womenfolk were reluctant to express their opinion, the sole exception being youngsters who had made their choices and were frank in naming party candidates of their choice. Unlike previous elections, they were no party banners, bunting and posters.

The hustle, bustle and din related to the election was missing. Some cited strict EC directions as the reason but the party cadres distributing election material in Samrala and Payal said that the people were reluctant to let them affix flags on rooftops or paste posters on their walls. “ Even the bunting or banners put by us at entrance gates of villages are sooner or later removed. It seemed that no one wished to disclose his political leanings. The election offices of candidates, too, by and large were manned by a handful of workers as compared to the large gatherings during the earlier elections. 


Kharar: Tough fight on cards
Tribune News Service

Electorate: 245274 (men: 1,28,284; women: 116990)

Polling stations: 220


Jasjit Singh (SAD)

Balbir Singh Sidhu (INC)

Anil Kumar (Bharatiya Janshakti Party)

Jaswinder Singh Jassi (BSP)

Swaran Singh (BSP-A)

Joginder Kaur (SAD-Amritsar)

Bhajan Singh (SAD-1920)

Tarlochan Singh Mann (Independent)

Ishwar Kaur (Independent)

Gurnaam Singh (Independent)

Nichattar Singh (Independent)

Pramod Kumar (Independent)

Mohali, February 5
A tough fight is on the cards for the Kharar legislative Assembly seat between Shiromani Akali Dal candidate Jasjit Singh Bunny and Congress candidate Balbir Singh Sidhu . The “complete novice” image of Jasjit is one of the biggest factors working against him while the “liquor baron” image of Sidhu, too, does not seem to be doing him much good, especially among women voters.

On the other hand Jasjit has the distinct advantage of the anti-incumbency wave. Sidhu has the advantage of cashing in on the Congress achievements in the constituency, mostly in terms of the crores that farmers made from selling their land to developers.

While both Sidhu and Jasjit are facing opposition within their camps, for Sidhu his own party members are proving to be a more formidable force than Jasjit. Supporters of sitting MLA Bir Devinder, OSD to Chief Minister Lakhvinder Kaur Garcha and Gharuan have made it clear that they will not support Sidhu. Many of them have also gone to the extent of openly joining hands with the Akalis or helping one or more Independent candidates.

Among the Akalis while Padiala is supporting Jasjit, Kang is yet to make his presence felt in the Akali campaigning. Also in the picture is the Akali rebel candidate Tirlochan Singh Mann, who is contesting elections as an Independent. If not an outright win, Mann is in a position strong enough to make a serious dent in any decisive winning edge that the SAD candidate may get from the Congress infighting.

Sitting Congress MLA Bir Devinder Singh had defeated Sidhu in 2002 by 1,500 votes. The Akali vote bank at that time was divided between Kiranbir Singh Kang, SAD candidate, and Rajbir Singh Padiala, SAD rebel candidate.

This time, too, there are 12 candidates in the fray but the electorate has gone up from 1.76 lakh to 2.45 lakh. In the last elections a little over 60 per cent of the electorate had cast their vote.


And, some rallies abroad

Vancouver, February 5
Representatives of Punjab’s political parties are busy campaigning and fundraising in British Columbia among the sizeable Indo-Canadian community, especially Sikhs, ahead of the February 13 Assembly elections.

The party members are focusing in British Columbia’s Lower Midland area where there is a large Indo-Canadian population.

Although Indo-Canadians are not allowed to vote in Indian elections, the campaign leaders are hoping to influence them enough so that they are able to sway votes back home among relatives, the CBC reported.

Among the parties campaigning in Surrey is the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar). Its leader Simranjit Singh Mann attracted more than 700 Indo-Canadians last week at a banquet when he gave a speech via webcam from India.

Indo-Canadian Paul Brar, whose father-in-law is one of the candidates for the elections, organised a rally of more than 100 people in Surrey.

“They (Indo-Canadians) can affect the outcome of the elections because sometimes the victory is decided by 1,000-2,000 votes, and a call from here is very important. People do listen to people from Canada and they vote that way,” Mr Brar said.

“It’s not legal for political parties in India to accept contributions from a foreign source. But he said Indian citizens living abroad can make political donations,” according to Ashok Kumar, Consul-General of India in Vancouver.— IANS


Here girls are not allowed to vote
Anil Jerath
Tribune News Service

Nakodar, February 5
It may sound incredible, but it is true that certain communities in rural Punjab do not allow their unmarried daughters to exercise the right to vote.
This came to light when this correspondent talked to a number of girls in nearby villages here to enlist their views on the elections.

"Though we are aged above 18, our parents have not got us registered as voters," said a few girls, showing their anguish.

"What can we tell you about the elections when we can't vote," they said. A girl of Dargabad village, near here, said: "There is an old custom in most Gujjar families not to allow unmarried girls to go to polling stations to exercise their franchise. Such girls use their constitutional right only after marriage.”


RSS leader joins Congress
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 5
Senior RSS leader and former Deputy Commissioner Sarbjit Singh today joined the Congress here today. He had conducted Operation Black Thunder to flush out militants from the Golden Temple.

Talking to The Tribune, he said he was annoyed with the BJP and RSS leadership for ignoring “loyal workers”.

Meanwhile, Mr Sukhdev Singh Shehbazpuri, former Congress minister, who was annoyed with the party for denying the ticket from Khadoor Sahib, assured the Chief Minister to work for the Congress. Similarly, Mr Sunil Dutti, Mayor, Municipal Corporation, would now support his bete noire Om Parkash Soni, a party nominee.


No party is talking schools

Nangal/Anandpur Sahib, February 5
In spite of the fact that several government schools in the area lack adequate facilities and have shown poor results, better education for the children is not on the priority list of any of the candidates campaigning here.

The Tribune team visited the government school in Dugri village. In this school 85 students took the Class VIII examination and 83 failed. In Class X 31 students out of 45 failed. This not the story of one school. A number of schools in the district here showed a dismal pass percentage last year. — TNS


Jaspal Bhatti at it again
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Mohali, February 5
“Chak rupayiye panj hazaar, vech le apna voter card, bhangra pa le mere yaar, baad jhute rehne laare, aate daalan de khilare, naiyon saste milne bazare, nakdi sauda paiya tyyaar....”

Punjab’s comedy King Jaspal Bhatti mocked at the electoral system in his inimitable style opening a “vote purchase centre” at Mohali this evening.

Mr Bhatti had recently launched his “Land Grabbers and Dealers Party” when elections were announced in the state. Today, he said his party was open to buying voter identity cards for cash. “Today the election scene is such that almost everything can be purchased with money.

With money power you can buy voters, you can buy votes and with money you can even buy voter cards”, he announced.

Causing quite a stir in the Phase 3B2 market here, Mr Bhatti, accompanied by his wife Savita and a host of other artistes, sang to the beats of a dhol announcing that he was ready to pay cash for voter identity cards.

We would go to the poor people and give them liquor, drugs, TV and radio sets, blankets, opium or cash to purchase their votes. For the voter’s convenience, we are therefore opening our first vote purchase centre here. This is being done to bring in a transparent working system where no middlemen are involved, he said.

The cards sold will be returned after the elections are over, promised Mr Bhatti. “We assure the common man that the leaders of our party have stooped to the lowest levels of morality. So it is advisable that everybody respectfully comes to purchase centre so that we are not forced to resort to goonda tactics,” he jeered.

And for those who come in “groups” will get a special offer. “We want to ensure that even if you do not vote for us at least you will not vote for anyone else either.”

And a parting message to the Election Commission: “If in any way we have violated the Model Code of Conduct we are ready to apologise in whichever way it please them. After all they have also got to complete their paperwork.”


SSP holds meeting with candidates
Our Correspondent

Mohali, February 5
In order to discuss the law and order situation in SAS Nagar district, a meeting was held with the candidates contesting the Punjab elections from three constituencies by Mr Gurinder Singh Dhillon, SSP, here today.

The meeting was attended by about 25 persons, including candidates from the Kharar, Banur and Morinda constituencies who brought some problems to the notice of the police.

Some Independent candidates had complained that discrimination was being done against them as their flags and posters were removed by government employees while those put up by candidates belonging to political parties remained untouched.

Mr Dhillon said the police would be making all efforts to remove the grievances of the candidates while hoping that they would also contribute towards maintaining law and order during the elections, especially on the day of the poll.

He said the gathering was made aware of the common guidelines and the response of the candidates was also compiled. They had been informed that they should not try to show their money power or muscle power in the elections which should be held in a free and fair manner.


75 poll officials absent from rehearsal
Kulwinder Sangha

Mohali, February 5
As many as 75 officials put on election duty remained absent from the second rehearsal carried out for the polling staff of the Kharar constituency at Shivalik Public School here today.

Out of the officials who remained absent at the poll rehearsal were 20 presiding officers and 55 polling officers. They would be issued notices under Section 134 of the Representation of the People Act.

The three Election Observers, Ms Anita Karwal, Mr VB Pathak and Mr Farhat Quereshi, who attended the poll rehearsal, along with the Deputy Commissioner, Mr Tejveer Singh, constituted a three-member team to monitor that the code of conduct was not being violated.

While Mr JS Thind, Executive Officer of the Mohali Municipal Council, would take care of areas falling in Mohali, Mr Sunil Gulati, Executive Officer of the Kharar civic body, would keep a check in areas falling in Kharar. 


37 Taksali families back Lalli
Tribune News Service

Majitha, February 5
The Congress candidate, Mr Sukhjinder Raj Singh Lalli, today received a shot in the arm when 37 Taksali Akali families of Gonsal village joined the party here today.
Welcoming the families led by Chaudhary Sulakhan Singh Buddatheh, Mr Lalli said the people in the area did not trust the Shiromani Akali Dal led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

He said Mr Badal was only promoting family interests by giving tickets to close relatives. He urged the new entrants to vigorously campaign for the party so that Mr Bikramjit Singh Majithia, an outsider, was defeated.



Nirpal’s useful work on Indian diaspora
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
With dedication and zeal, Mr Nirpal Singh Shergill has been working in a most difficult area. He has been collecting data with regard to the Indians abroad. To accomplish the task, he has visited several countries. Though settled in London, Mr Shergill is a frequent visitor to India. He belongs to Patiala district.

He started his career in London by publishing a monthly magazine in English, “The Politics”. Political issues concerning India were given prominence in that magazine. However, later, he started writing in Punjabi and became a freelance writer. He has written about 1,000 articles on various issues concerning the NRIs in the UK, Canada, the USA and other countries.

And the work done by him with regard to the collection of data about Indians abroad is worth appreciating. He first published a directory of information regarding all important Indians, especially Punjabis, settled in various parts of the world. In that directory, he also provided information regarding various Sikh and other religious places of Indian communities abroad.

That directory has now turned into a big book. Mr Shergill has published the ninth edition of the directory under the title, “Indians Abroad and the Punjab Impact”. “I have included A to Z of the Sikh world that is a complete list of Sikh organisations from Afghanistan to Zambia and Australia to the USA. It is an international publication”, he says. “Through the book, I have also tried to highlight the new developments in the Indo-European relations and India-UK business partnership”, he adds.

He has provided international codes of all countries and their important cities, addresses of all embassies and high commissions in New Delhi, Indian diplomatic missions abroad and other information regarding India and the European Union.

There is also detailed information of telephone numbers of Indian organisations, newspapers, law offices, immigration services, insurance consultants, manufacturers, travel and tour consultants, hotels, restaurants, caterers and banquet halls outside India.

Most part of the publication is in English, but it has also information in Punjabi. It has some information articles contributed by persons such as Mr Bhupinder Singh, who is based in Holland and has done a lot of research work on Indian regiments that were engaged in the western front ( France and Belgium) during the World War I. He has collected the names of India soldiers, many of whom were Sikhs, who lost their lives in that war on the western front. The number of Indian soldiers who lost their lives in World Wars I and II in France and Belgium is said to be close to 9,000.

“I will continue to make further new additions in the next editions of the publication”, he says. “The purpose is help people come closer", he adds.


Badal case hearing put off
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 5
The hearing in the corruption case against the SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal, his family members and others, was today adjourned by the Special Court Judge, Mr GS Sarna, for further arguments of the defence on the framing of charges for February 9.

The defence counsel completed arguments in respect of one of the accused in the case, Narrotam Singh Dhillon, contending that the charges were not admissible. 


EO of Mahilpur Nagar Panchayat arrested
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, February 5
The Police has arrested Mr Sarabjit Singh, Executive Officer of Mahilpur Nagar Panchayat, town under Section 295 of the IPC following the blockade of traffic and dharna by members of various Ravi Dass Sabha of adjoining areas before the Mahilpur police station, 24 km from here on the Hoshiarpur-Chandigarh road today.

More than 400 members of Ravi Dass community led by Mr Rachpal Singh Raju, BSP candidate from the Garhshankar segment, Mr Dalip Singh Sodhi, Independent candidate from Mahilpur segment and local leaders of the Congress, the BSP and the BSM staged dharna at Mahilpur bus stand at 10:50 am today in protest against Mr Sarabjit Singh, the executive officer of Panchayat allegedly for removing hoardings of Guru Ravi Dass from the town. They were demanding arrest of the executive officer and adding of more sections of the IPC in the case.

Later, they shifted the dharna before the police station and blocked traffic on the Hoshiarpur-Chandigarh Road. After the arrest of the EO they lifted the dharna and traffic resumed at 12 noon.

According to police sources, section 335 of the IPC had been added in the case and Mr Sarabjit Singh was produced in a court at Hoshiarpur which fixed January 6, for granting him bail.

Following agitation by Dalit Samaj last evening, the Mahilpur police had registered a case against the Executive Officer.


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