P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Wheat MSP should be Rs 900: CPI
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 7
The Communist Party of India (CPI) today slammed the Congress government in Punjab for “agrarian distress, failure of industry and burgeoning unemployment”. It criticised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying “he was spreading the bogey of revival of terrorism in Punjab to create fear in the minds of Hindus”.

Releasing the manifesto of his party here today, Punjab secretary of the CPI Joginder Dayal said, “It is sad that the Prime Minister is telling a lie just for few votes”. There is no danger, and if any danger is visible, it is due to the words of the Prime Minister and deeds of the Chief Minister of Punjab, he added.

The party manifesto says minimum support price of wheat at Rs 750 per quintal is insufficient and it should be increased to Rs 900. Besides, the MSPs of paddy, cotton and sugarcane are below input costs.

There is a need for special industrial package on the pattern of hill states and setting up of agri-based industries in the state. More funds for free education up to Class X and panchayats should be released, says the manifesto.

Meanwhile, Dr Dayal said issues like the transfer of Chandigarh and Punjabi-speaking areas to Punjab should not be kept pending for long. He blamed the BJP for the price rice.


PM remarks on terror uncalled for: Advani
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 7
Claiming that there was a strong anti-incumbency factor in the state, a senior BJP leader and former Deputy Prime Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, remained mostly confined to national issues while addressing rallies at Ropar and Nangal here today.

“There is a strong anti-incumbency factor in the state against the Congress. It’s high time arrogant Congress rulers were ousted,” he said.

He said the electorate should review the performance of the NDA and the UPA governments before casting vote.

He said the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre had failed on all fronts.

Terming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s remarks regarding fear of revival of terrorism in Punjab in case the Congress was voted out of power as unfortunate, Mr Advani and SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal blamed the Congress for terrorism in the state.

Mr Advani and Mr Badal said this while addressing a rally in support of the SAD-BJP alliance candidate from the Anandpur Sahib segment, Sant Ajit Singh, at Bela Chowk in Ropar.

Later, the duo addressed a rally in favour of the alliance candidate from Nangal Madan Mohan Mittal in Nangal.

Mr Advani said the Prime Minister should restrain from making such irresponsible statements.


Congress playing caste politics: Rajnath
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Sujanpur (Gurdaspur), February 7
The BJP president, Mr Rajnath Singh, today accused the Congress of trying to play caste and religion politics, stating that it was trying to divide the country once again by proposing reservation in jobs for Muslims despite the fact that reservation on the basis of religion was against the spirit of the Constitution.

He said this while addressing a political rally in favour of the party nominee from Sujanpur, Mr Dinesh Kumar Babu.

The BJP president lamented the statement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Muslims had the first right to the resources of the country. He said as per the Constitution, all religions had equal right over the resources. The Congress was just trying to revive vote-bank politics to capture power.

He made scathing attacks on the UPA government for dealing lightly with terrorism. Pakistan was behind all terrorism in the country and India should snap all ties with the country till it stopped aiding and abetting terrorism in the country.

He accused the government in Punjab of failing to fulfil its promises made in the manifesto in the last elections. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, remained unapproachable even to his own ministers what to talk of the general public.

The economy of Punjab was dependent on farmers, but their plight had been ignored by the Centre and the state government, he added.

On price rise, Mr Rajnath Singh accused the Congress of protecting hoarders and those selling products on the black market. Due to the protection of the ruling party, the prices of essential commodities had increased to such an extent that making both ends meet had become difficult for the poor.

Earlier, Mr Rajnath Singh was welcomed by Gusdaspur MP Vinod Khanna at the Pathankot airport.

However, Mr Vinod Khanna did not accompany Mr Rajnath Singh to the political rally at Sujanpur.

Mr Satpal Saini, a former minister of the BJP, was also present on the occasion.

Our correspondent adds from Hoshiarpur: Addressing a public meeting in favour of party candidate Arunesh Shakar at Mukerian on Wednesday, Mr Rajnath Singh said Mr Parkash Singh Badal, who was a seasoned politician and approachable to every one, would be the next Chief Minister.

He said people of the state were fed up with the “corrupt rule” of the Congress. 


BJP a poor photocopy of Congress: Uma
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 7
Dubbing the BJP as a "poor photocopy of the Congress", Bharatiya Janashakti Party chief Uma Bharti has asserted that "nobody will be allowed to build a mosque in India in the name of a foreign invader like Babar".

The sadhavi-turned-politician had a dig at the ongoing "gory" advertisement campaign by the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine in Punjab, and expressed worry over propagation of nepotism in parties like the SAD and the BJP. Ms Bharti targeted the second-line leadership of the party and termed it as violent, undemocratic and uncultured.

"The face of the BJP today is nothing but a poor photocopy of the Congress. Corruption and opportunism, known traits of the Congress, have creeped into the BJP. In fact, at times it is difficult to differentiate between the BJP and the Congress,” she said.

“The second-line leadership of the BJP has turned violent and has lost its democratic values. Earlier, I had never heard words like ‘maar daalo, kaat daalo’, but now these figure in the ‘revised culture’ of the BJP. It is a matter of solace that statesmen like Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr Lal Krishna Advani are there in the BJP. However, if the degeneration within the BJP continues, it will be left with no leader except Shilpa Shetty,” said Ms Bharti, who visited the city along with Mr Pawan Valecha, state president of her party. She also released the manifesto of her party.

Turning to Babri Masjid, Ms Bharti stressed that her party would never allow anyone to make a mosque or any other building in the name of foreign invaders like Babar in India.

"It is our firm conviction. Not even a single brick can be laid in the name of Babar or the likes of him. A masjid can be in the name of Islam, and we do not have any objection to that.”

Referring to Punjab, where her party is contesting 19 seats, Ms Bharti said the ongoing advertisement campaign by the Congress and the SAD-BJP combine had surpassed all limits of decency.

"The politics in Punjab has been made too personalised by Capt Amarinder Singh. If this dirty politics and the ongoing ego clash stays, I fear that terrorism may come back,” she added.

“Look at Badal sahib, he had opposed Sanjay Gandhi's advent into politics, and had projected it as sheer nepotism. Now, he is doing the same with his son. Punjab needs a third party, a secular one. I think our party can perform this role.” 


Warrants against Dimpa’s brother

Amritsar, February7
The ruling Congress received a major setback today when the Special Investigation team issued warrants of arrest against Mr Harpinder Singh, alias Rajan ,younger brother of Mr Jasbir Singh Dimpa, Congress nominee for the Beas Assembly constituency.

No officer of the SIT was available to confirm if warrants were also issued against Mr Dimpa and his brother Harmanbir Singh Gill, SP, Chandigarh. The police had registered an FIR against the family of Mr Dimpa and his supporters for allegedly killing Dilbagh Singh, an Akali activist, in a firing incident in Beas. — OC


Didn’t campaign, says Bhajji
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 7
“Neither did I ever campaign for Congress candidate from Jalandhar (Central) Tejinder Bittu, nor I went door to door seeking votes for him”. This is the reply of cricketer Harbhajan Singh to the Election Commission.

Meanwhile, the commission has deputed Mr Sukhwinder Pal Singh Marar, Additional Deputy Commissioner, to inquire into the controversy. Mr Marar, it was learnt, has been given a time frame of 48 hours for completion of his job.

After a delay of two days, Harbhajan filed his reply to the commission today. He has taken the plea that Mr Bittu, along with his supporters, had come to his house on February 3 and that his photographs with the candidate were clicked by certain photographers accompanying them.

“I had come home for one or two days and during my stay at home all this happened. I have never appealed public for voting for Mr Bittu. I also never went door to door on a campaign for him”, said Harbhajan.


Jaitley targets Manmohan, Amarinder
Our Correspondent

Abohar, February 7
The BJP secretary and in charge of party campaign in Punjab, Mr Arun Jaitley, has said that empty chairs and non-responsive audience at the election rally of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Patiala yesterday were indicative of the election trends in Punjab.

Mr Jaitley was speaking at a workers’ meeting here this afternoon. He said the Congress had given the country “most weak” Prime Minister and an “arrogant and autocratic” Chief Minister in Amarinder Singh. The Chief Minister had failed in persuading the Prime Minister to sanction an economic package on a par with other states.

He said terror writ large on the faces of urban voters in Abohar as the Congress legislator followed the Chief Minister’s style in day to day working. People were hesitant in displaying banners and flags of other political parties out of fear psychosis, he observed.

The BJP leader blamed the Chief Minister for sheltering liquor barons and land mafia besides indulging in loot and plunder. 


SAD-BJP upbeat in Garhdiwala
Naveen S. Garewal
Tribune News Service

Garhdiwala, February 7
The Garhdiwala (SC) Assembly segment that was keeping candidates guessing about their prospects has begun to throw up clearer indicators.

Initially, it showed mixed trends across its diverse socio-political background and diversity of topography ranging from kandi (bordering Himachal Pradesh) in the east to the heart of Doaba on the west. The last few days have, however, consolidated the position of the SAD-BJP alliance.

The hitherto triangular contest between the Akalis, the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is now being viewed as a direct contest between the SAD and the Congress with others being unable to spread their influence beyond pockets.

Despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to the region on Monday, the mood in the Akali camp is upbeat, giving little reason for the Congress to cheer.

Traditionally an Akali seat that the SAD has been retaining since 1985, except when they boycotted the elections in 1992, the contest this time is between sitting SAD MLA Des Raj Dhugga and Jasbir Singh Pal of the Congress.

Pal replaces Pawan Kumar Adia, who had contested this seat during the 2002 poll and lost by 7,901 votes in a constituency that has nearly 1.25 lakh voters.

What is peculiar about the constituency is that different areas in the constituency have their own problems and demands ranging from lack of development in the kandi region to high density of selenium in soil in the areas closer to the Doaba heartland. Almost the entire constituency has small landholdings and a large number of people from here now live abroad.

Interestingly, in his affidavit Dhugga has revealed that he has no agricultural or any other land. All he owns is a five-marla house.

With talk about the Delimitation Commission recommending the abolition of this reserved Assembly segment and retaining Mahilpur and Sham Chaurasi in Hoshiarpur district as such, people have made this a big poll issue.

This has caused some resentment against the ruling Congress with Opposition leaders promising to oppose it, if elected. Corruption, inflation and poverty are some other issues.

There are five candidates in the fray. Besides the candidates of the SAD and the Congress, the BSP has fielded Shamsher Singh, the Democratic Bharatiya Samaj Party has fielded Ashok Kumar Malik, while the only women candidate, Harbhajan Kaur, is contesting as an Independent.


Arhtiyas back Kanwaljit
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, February 7
The anti-industry and anti-trader policies of the Congress have forced the industry to migrate from Punjab. This was stated by Capt Kanwaljit Singh, SAD candidate from Banur, at a public rally at Lalru Mandi today.

He assured the industrialists that a special package on a par with the Himachal Pradesh Government would be given, generating more jobs. Special policies would be framed to bridle price hike after the SAD forms government, he added.

Extending support to him, the Arhtiya Association of Lalru Mandi today weighed Capt Kanwaljit Singh against coins.

Capt. Kanwaljit Singh also visited 12 villages in Lalru and Dera Bassi circles, where he was weighed against coins and sweets. 


Support for SAD-BJP combine
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 7
An emergency meeting of the All-India Bahawalpur Ekta Samaj was held here today under the chairmanship of Mr Prem Mehta, which was attended by Mr Madan Lal, Mr Mahesh Nagpal and other representatives from Rajpura, Samana and Dakala.

It was observed that women from the community had jumped into the election campaign because they were more concerned over the rising prices and neglect of their community despite their honesty and hard work. They were working for the success of the Akali-BJP candidates in the Assembly elections. 


Mill misery for SAD-BJP
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Mansa/Budhlada, February 7
Two closed mills in Mansa district may spin out misery for the SAD-BJP candidates in the four Assembly constituencies.

The candidates have not been able to assuage people's anguish over the closure of a co-operative cotton mill in Mansa and a sugar mill in Budlada during the Akali regime.

These two mills were the only semblance of industrialisation in the district. Started with immense promises of prosperity in 1995-96 when the Congress government ruled the state, the mills’ closure in late 1997 not only caused monetary loss to farmers, but also shattered their dreams of prosperity.

As the mills closed when the SAD-BJP government, led by Mr Parkash Singh Badal, was in power, people hold them responsible for it. They point towards the mills when Akali candidates seek votes on promises of development.

The remnants of the mills speak of neglect. The co-operative cotton mill in Mansa, with 8,500 farmers as investing members provided jobs to 2,500 workers.

However, due to alleged mismanagement, political apathy and failure of crop, the SAD-BJP government not only closed it down, but sold it for a mere Rs 4.51 crore.

Most of the investing farmers are still fighting to get their dues back even after a decade of the mill’s closure.

At Budhlada, a co-operative sugar mill was also lying closed for over a decade. For three years, farmers had sown sugarcane crop owing to ready procurement next door. The farmers were pained that the SAD-BJP government quietly moved the mill machinery to Malout instead of making any effort to run it.

Mr Mothu Singh Kotara, a farmer leader, said the SAD-BJP government did not support farmers for growing cotton and sugarcane.

"Procurement was poor and there was no supply of good quality seeds. Besides, the price given for the produce also discouraged the farmers.”

He said though the Congress government that came to the power in 2002 also did not do anything for the mills, the farmers are generally holding the Akalis responsible for not providing conducive environment for the sowing of crops for the mills.

Mr Manjit Singh Jhalbutti, an Independent candidate from Mansa, is reminding the voters about the lost mills while promising that he would do something in this regard.


Cong violating law on poll expenses: BJP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 7
The Bharatiya Janata Party today drew the Election Commission's attention to violation of Section 77 of the People’s Representation Act by the Congress and asked the commission to initiate action against the party.

In a letter to Chief Election Commissioner N.Gopalaswami, the BJP said since the Congress had not submitted the list of its leaders who would campaign for the party in the Assembly elections in Manipur, Punjab and Uttarakhand, it was requested that the total expenses incurred during the campaign by their national leaders be filed in the expense register of the respective candidates.

The letter, signed by BJP vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, national secretary Balbir Punj and spokesman Rajeev Pratap Rudy, asked the EC to include the expenses related to travel and arrangement of Congress President Sonia Gandhi to the Assembly constituencies in the account of the Congress candidate of that particular constituencies.


It’s between Congress and BJP in Nangal
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Nangal, February 7
It’s a direct contest between Chief Minister’s confidant and sitting Congress MLA K.P.S Rana and BJP stalwart Maddan Mohan Mittal in this Assembly segment of Ropar district. Flags of both parties fluttering on rooftops of houses and shops suggest a keen contest between the two parties.

Both candidates have told their supporters to display as many party flags as they can in their respective areas. Some supporters, who do not want to annoy any of the parties, have displayed the flags of both parties at their places.

Both candidates have been canvassing door to door, holding corner meetings and addressing rallies in villages every day.

Mr Mittal has won three times from here.

Mr Rana, who won the elections for the first time in 2002, has been Chairman of the Punjab Pollution Control Board and Parliamentary Secretary (Industries and Commerce).

Both had practised as an advocate in the District Courts, Ropar.

In the last four Assembly elections, the Congress won in 1985 and 2002 while the BJP in 1992 and 1997.

Local issues include development, grievances of the BBMB staff and rehabilitation of the Bhakra Dam oustees. Besides, the local Truck Union, one of the major unions in Punjab, is another factor in the elections.

Mr Rana is seeking votes on development carried out in the area and proposed sub-divisional status for the segment.

On the other hand, Mr Mittal is banking on the anti-incumbency factor. Another issue Mr Mittal is focusing on is the alleged implication of residents in false cases.


Virbhadra campaigns in border seats
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, February 7
The Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Mr Virbhadra Singh, today rallied in favour of Congress candidates in border constituencies of the district.

The Chief Minister started his day inaugurating the Chaki bridge connecting Punjab and Himachal on the Pathankot-Kangra road.

Mr Virbhadra Singh addressed rallies at Sujanpur and Donera in favour of the Congress candidates, Mr Raghunath Sahay Puri and Mr Ashok Sharma.

Addressing the rallies, Mr Virbhadra Singh accused the SAD-BJP of bringing terrorism to Punjab. He said only the Congress had brought peace and prosperity to Punjab. A former Congress Chief Minister, the late Beant Singh, laid down his life for the country and brought peace to the trouble state.

The SAD-BJP had always flared communal passions for capturing power. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, had taken the state on the path of progress, he said.

Mr Puri, while addressing the rally, claimed that crores had been spent on development of the Sujanpur constituency. 


Preneet Kaur warns Congress rebel
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, February 7
Ms Preneet Kaur, wife of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has warned Mr Madan Lal, a Congress worker who is contending election from Ghanaur Assembly constituency as a rebel, that necessary action would be taken against him at the party level.

Addressing mediapersons after a public rally for seeking votes for Mr Hardial Singh Kamboj, a Congress candidate from Rajpura, she claimed that action would be taken against him if he did not withdraw in favour of Mr J.S. Randhawa. Mr Madan Lal is a contractor by profession.

She called Mr Raj Khurana corrupt, who had recently joined the BJP after quitting the Congress. Accusing him in the urea scam, she stated that the BJP-SAD had lodged a complaint against him and now the same alliance was projecting him as its candidate.

Meanwhile, a group of seven members from Sachha Sauda Dera led by Mr Karam Chand Badal and Ms Kavita Rani, president of BJP Mahila Morcha, have extended support to the Congress candidate. 


Mehraj can’t forget Raja’s meharbani
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Mehraj (Bathinda), February 7
Delighted over the performance of the son of their soil on the development front, residents of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s ancestral village of Mehraj are praying for his return to power.

The village has witnessed unprecedented development in the past five years. A majority of the villagers wish to see Capt Amarinder Singh retain power in Punjab. And their support is reflected in the number of village youth and elders thronging the party’s election offices.

Mr Mahinder Singh, former Sarpanch, says: “Captain has rejuvenated our village by giving us metalled roads, access to potable water, proper education and health amenities, all within the past five years. His work needs no testimony, as you can see it for yourself.”

Mr Jeeta Singh, another resident, says the kind of roads their village has now “are only to be seen in Chandigarh”. “Our support is more for the Captain and less for the party,” says a group of men playing cards.

Their overwhelming support would not surprise anybody if one glances at the funds pumped in for the village's development: Rs 5.79 crore for potable water and sewerage system, Rs 4.3 crore for streets and sewers and Rs 2 crore for a modern hospital. A farmer training centre and a biotechnology centre, having 70 vermiculture units, have been established at a cost of Rs 1.5 crore.

For students, a computer training centre, skill upgrade centre and more rooms in senior secondary school have been set up. A milk chilling centre, post office and 24-hour power supply have also been ensured for the village.

The village, which has nine panchayats and four “pattis”, has around 11,500 votes.

On the poll battle in their Assembly segment of Rampura Phul, farmer Baljeet Singh says: “Capt Amarinder Singh has left no issue with the SAD, as he has done a lot on development and agricultural fronts. We will support Congress candidate Gurpreet Singh Kangar.” He is frank enough to admit: “In our village only the Captain matters and not the party candidate.”

The villagers term a bumper cotton crop, termination of river waters agreement, hassle-free procurement of agricultural produce, increasing land rates and transparency in recruitment process as feats of the Amarinder regime. “He has done us proud and we are confident of another stint for him as the Chief Minister,” they add.


Congress candidate’s son booked
Tribune News Service

Mansa, February 7
The Mansa police today booked Mr Vikram Singh Mofar, son of Congress candidate Ajit Singh Mofar, from the Sardulgarh Assembly constituency, his gunman Balbir Singh and Mr Rajesh Garg, vice-chairman, Market Committee, here, for their involvement in a firing incident at Jhuneer village late last night.

The incident led to tension in the area with activists of the SAD-BJP gheraoing the Jhuneer police station, seeking immediate arrest of the accused. The SSP, Mr Ram Singh, said the gunman had been arrested while SHO Nachhattar Singh had been suspended for not taking timely action.

The case was registered on the complaint of Youth Akali leader Gursewak Singh. He alleged some persons had opened fire on him near Tibbi Hari Singh village when he was returning home from campaigning. He and his friends saved themselves by driving straight into the Jhuneer police station.

Mr Vikram Mofar is the Managing Director, Central Co-operative Bank, Mansa. He is a relative of the late Beant Singh.

The Congress leaders led by Mr Mofar protested against the registration of the case. 


Vote against capitalist parties: Pandhi
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 7
The Politburo member of the CPI (M), Mr M.K. Pandhi, today said the ruling Congress and the SAD both are trying to woo votes on false promises. He said if the Congress government wanted to provide subsidised foodgrain why did it not do so in the last five years.

He was canvassing for party candidate from Verka Surinder Singh. Mr Pandhi asked why providing wheat at Rs 4 and pulses at Rs 20 per kg was not be possible for the government in the last five years.

Both Congress and SAD had remained unconcerned on the unemployment created due to the collapse of textiles units in Amritsar. The government was increasing sales tax and VAT on every commodity but reducing income tax for capitalists like the Birlas, Ambanis and

Mr Pandhi said for uplift of the poor, communist parties needed to come to power.


Cong, SAD have failed to check corruption: MP
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, February 7
Mr Mohammad Salim, MP and member of the Central committee of the CPM, said the SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress had failed to control unemployment and corruption in the state.

He was addressing a public rally seeking support for Mr Inderjit Singh Bhagrana, a candidate of the third front from Rajpura, here today. He claimed that to restrain the BJP-SAD alliance from making the government, expose the Congress for its involvement in various scams and strengthen the party were the three main election issues of the party for the Punjab elections. The party will fight on 52 seats, he added.

Prof Balwant Singh, state president of the CPM, stated that anti-trader policies of the Congress had ruined the industry in the state.


BSP could be decisive factor
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Guru Har Sahai (Ferozepore), February 7
Mr Mohan Singh Phallianwallan goes about his campaign with a smile on his face. There is no cavalcade of vehicles accompanying him. On reaching a village or a hamlet, he alights from his vehicle and walks through dusty bylanes meeting people and patting cattle on his way. Men folk of all ages hug him while women fold their hands in respect.

There are no airs about being a twice MP from Ferozepore. Mr Phallianwallan of the BSP is the man who could prove to be the decisive factor in the constituency that abuts the Indo-Pak border. The Congress candidate, Rana Gurmit Sodhi, and the Shiromani Akali Dal candidate, Mr Paramjit Singh, know his strength and have accepted it as a triangular fight.

Unlike other leaders, he takes calls on his mobile phone personally and there is no personal assistant accompanying him. He travels in an old jeep and not in swanky SUVs preferred by leaders.

He belongs to the Rai Sikh community and wants to help his community in achieving a good literacy level.

The community has been struggling for its basic rights since Independence which include inclusion in the Scheduled Castes category, he says, adding that “we have got only false promises from other parties”.

Such is his support base that he has polled more one lakh votes in each of the six parliamentary elections conducted since 1989. In 1998, he polled 3.45 lakh votes but lost. He won in 1992 and 1996. Ask him why he wants to be an MLA now, and he says: “My party wants it, and it’s not strange as we want to win it.”


Wide open in Dhuri
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Dhuri (Sangrur), February 7
The contest here is wide open. Anybody could be the winner. The SAD and Congress are both talking of development, which seems to be the key issue here.

The case against SAD nominee Gaganjit Singh Barnala will not harm him in any way. Nobody is talking about it. Here local issues alone matter. Residents want a government college for girls. The town has no government degree college. The residents also want an under-bridge at the main railway crossing in the main bazaar here.

Another issue is reinstatement of hundreds of workers of Oswal Furane Agro Limited, Bhasour (now owned by KRBL Limited).

The Congress candidate, Mai Roop Kaur Bagrian, and an Independent and rebel SAD candidate, Mr Iqbal Singh Jhundan, promise voters a government college for Girls at Dhuri if voted to power. Mr Dhanwant Singh, BSP candidate and two-time former MLA, is emphasising on overall development of the constituency.


Respite to voters sans photo cards
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 7
The Election Commission today clarified that all voters who had been issued electoral pictoral identity cards (EPICs) would have to produce these to exercise franchise in the Assembly elections as well as the bye-election for the Amritsar parliamentary constituency.

In a respite to the voters, who have not been issued EPICs, the EC decided to allow them to vote after providing proof of identity by way of documents such as passports, driving licences, PAN cards, service identity cards with photograph issued to the employees by the state/Central Government, public sector undertakings or public companies, passbooks issued by public sector banks/post office and kisan passbooks.

Property documents such as pattas, registration deeds, ration cards issued on or before December 31, 2006 with photograph, SC/ST/OBC certificates issued by the competent authority on or before December, pension documents, freedom fighter identity cards, and arms licences issued on or before December 31, 2006, would also be accepted.


Purvanchalis count in 4 dists
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, February 7
Come elections, parties start wooing over 15 lakh migrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh. A majority of them live in the districts of Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Patiala.

There are pockets in the Ludhiana Rural and Jalandhar North constituencies, which are known as mini “purvanchals” as these have considerable population of migrant labourers.

Though their number is large, only 10 per cent are on the voter lists. For this reason, parties use them for odd jobs but never do anything for their welfare.

In the absence of any residential proof, most of the labourers do not have voting right, said Mr Lalji Bharadwaj, general secretary of the Hind Mazdoor Kisan Panchayat. Hailing from Ajamgarh district of UP, Mr Bharadwaj has been fighting for the rights of the migrant labour for the past several years.

Actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar's Rashtriya Jan Morcha and UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party have fielded Mr Shambhu Kumar Singh and Mr Sunder Lal, respectively, from Ludhiana Rural. Both candidates hail from UP.

Mr Bharadwaj said “purvanchalis” faced problems in getting their ration cards prepared. They were asked by the department concerned to produce certificates confirming surrender of their ration cards at native places.

They had to buy one litre of kerosene for Rs 25 on black market whereas its actual price is Rs 10 a litre at ration depots.

Labourers working in different electroplating, pipe-fitting, rubber and leather industries were not even paid minimum wages of Rs 2,470 per month, he alleged, adding that they were deprived of their rights under labour laws.


Ex-Sarpanch’s death due to liquor at poll rally?
Kulwinder Sangha

Mohali, February 7
A former Sarpanch of Bhagomajra village, near Kharar, died last night allegedly after consuming liquor at an election rally even though the police and the hospital authorities have denied allegations attributing his death to the consumption of liquor.

According to information available, Surinder Singh (37) was taken to the Kharar Civil Hospital last night after he developed some complications related to his health. He, however, later died at the hospital.

His father, Mr Surjit Singh, had reportedly alleged that his son had attended an election meeting in the village where liquor was served. When he came home in the evening he suffered health problems and could not even eat his food. As such he was taken to the hospital. A brother of the deceased had also reportedly alleged that Surinder Singh had died due to consumption of liquor. The body of the deceased was cremated without a post-mortem examination.

However, the family had not lodged any complaint with the police in this regard. Even the hospital authorities had not suspected any foul play in the death of the former Sarpanch.

Dr Deepak Bhatia, SMO in charge of the Kharar Civil Hospital, told this correspondent that the doctor who was on emergency duty when Surinder Singh was brought to the hospital, had stated that the patient suffered from diabetes and had suffered a heart attack. Dr Bhatia said he was told that Surinder Singh could not swallow food and as such had to be brought to the hospital. As the doctor attending on him had not suspected anything, a postmortem on the body of Surinder Singh was not conducted, he added.

Ruling out the possibility of Surinder Singh’s death due to consumption of liquor, Mr Bhupinder Singh, SHO, Kharar, said the former was at home and having his food when he developed health problems. Allegations were being levelled as there was groupism in the village.

Meanwhile, a resident of Gharuan village, Mr Devinder Singh, was admitted to the Kharar Civil Hospital last night as he had allegedly consumed too much liquor.

The SMO of the hospital said he was referred to the General Hospital, Sector 16, Chandigarh, on his own request.


Authorities tighten noose
Put up nakas to curb liquor smuggling
Our Correspondent

Mohali, February 7
Reacting to the allegations by candidates contesting the Punjab Assembly elections that liquor was being served at poll rallies, the district administration has taken stringent measures.

Complaints were made to the Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Election Officer, Mr Tejveer Singh, by various candidates that liquor was being served at election rallies to woo voters.

Mr Tejveer Singh said he had been receiving such complaints for the past about one week. He said as such seven teams, comprising officials from the Excise and Taxation Department, had been constituted to carry out special checks. The police had also been asked to put up more nakas so that the smuggling of liquor from Chandigarh, where it was sold at much lower rates, was curbed.

He said a meeting was also held with the Deputy Commissioner of Chandigarh which was attended among others by the election observers for the Mohali district to ensure that similar steps were taken by the Chandigarh Administration as well. It was also being probed whether the sale of liquor from vends located on the UT- Mohali boundary had picked up.

The Deputy Commissioner said raids were conducted on receiving complaints but not much quantity of liquor was found.

The election observers were also moving about in the district at night to keep an eye on the activities of the candidates.

Mr Gurtej Singh, Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner, SAS Nagar, said the checking had been intensified in view of the elections. He said his department had been given 28 personnel belonging to the Central Industrial Security Force to lay more nakas to check the illegal sale and smuggling of liquor.

He said six teams laid nakas between 4 pm to 9 pm at various points connecting Mohali to Chandigarh while one mobile team checked other areas.


Coins make way for ladoos
Sarbjit Dhaliwal & Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 7
Coins are passe. Voters and supporters of candidates are now latching on to newer options while showcasing their support to their leaders. So out go good-old coins and in come “ladoos”, other sweets and, strange but true, blood.

“Coins are difficult to get these days. Moreover, even if you do manage to get hold of somebody with coins, they come at a premium. Though they weigh much, in the end, the candidate doesn’t get much. Ladoos are a better option as they are cheaper and the candidate generally distributes these on the spot among voters, making him popular,” says Mr Rajpal Singh of Majri. He recently weighed Punjab Minister Jagmohan Singh Kang, Congress contestant from Morinda, against ladoos.

Crorepati candidates like Mr Sarup Chand Singla of the SAD from Bathinda are being weighed against sweets alone. Explains a supporter: “He doesn’t need our money. As for sweets, they are a token of love.”

But, it is blood bottles, perched delicately-one over the other on the weighing scale, while a beaming candidate sits on the other. Yesterday, the Shiromani Akali Dal candidate from Barnala Malkiat Singh Keetu was weighed against blood, donated by his supporters. Another candidate weighed in blood is Mr Sikandar Singh Malooka, SAD (B) nominee from Rampura Phul.

In the last election, Mr Malooka’s opponent, Mr Gurpreet Singh Kangar, who is the Congress candidate, was weighed against blood at Bhagata Bhaika, a short distance away from Rampura Phul.

The common practice is for supporters of the candidates to organise a blood donation camp and, after collecting the blood, weigh the candidate against the same.

“An average candidate — 70-75 kg — is equal to the weight of 140-150 units of blood,” said a supporter of Mr Keetu.

However, it is not just sweets and money that voters are showering on their candidates as this candidate from Pucca Kalan constituency found to his dismay.

Peeved over the non-performance of their candidate, whom they had elected in the last election, voters at Pucca Kalan invited him for a weigh-in. However, sensing something amiss, when the candidate insisted on checking the contents of the bags placed on the parallel scale, he saw old shoes instead of ladoos.


poll bytes

Vajpayee may campaign too

AMRITSAR: The state BJP has requested former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to campaign for the party candidates. He is likely to address a rally here on February 10 in support of Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu. — OC

BCs not to support SAD

AMRITSAR: Backward Classes have decided to oppose the SAD-BJP combine for its opposition to 27.5 per cent reservation for them in educational institutions.

Mr Kehar Singh, president of the Backward Classes Sangharsh Committee, Punjab, said on Wednesday that they had appealed to the people to defeat the SAD-BJP candidates, particularly Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu. — TNS

DSP shifted

CHANDIGARH: The Election Commission on Wednesday ordered the shifting of DSP, Guruharsahai, Kashmira Singh Bhinder. — TNS


Ugrahan taken in custody
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 7
Mr Joginder Singh Ugrahan, state president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan), was today arrested by the Sunam police under Sections 107 and 151 of the CrPC. He has reportedly been taken in custody in connection with the call, given by the farmer organisations to enter the 321 acres (acquired by the Punjab Government for the Trident Group in Fatehgarh Chhanna and Dhaula villages, near Barnala) on February 9.

Mr Ugrahan was today produced before the Sunam SDM, Mr Navtej Singh, who sent him in judicial lock up-up to February 12.

A family member of Mr Ugrahan said that Mr Ugrahan had been taken in custody by the police today when he had been tying his turban in his house in the village.



Protest held as 3 youths jailed
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 7
A large number of youths this evening blocked vehicular traffic at the traffic lights chowk, near main bus stand, here for an hour in protest by alleging that the local SDM had denied bail to three youths. These youths had reportedly produced themselves before the SDM to get bail under Section 107 and 151 of the CrPC. However the SDM sent them to judicial lock up.

Mr Ashok Kumar Rajja, a former president of the local municipal council, told this reporter at the blockade site that Amanjot Singh, alias Jeetan, Sukhwinder Singh, alias Sukhi, and Ravi Charan Singh Deol had been sent to judicial lock up though they were ready to deposit Rs 1 lakh for granting bail to them.

Mr Mohan Lal, SDM, said these youths were already involved in so many cases.


Freedom fighter cremated
Tribune News Service

Hoshiarpur, February 7
Freedom fighter Natha Singh was cremated with honours at his village, Rajpur Gehot in Hoshiarpur district, yesterday. He died in Ludhiana on Monday after a prolonged illness.

He is survived by wife and three sons. He was 87. His funeral was largely attended.


Chief Justice lays stone of judicial complex
Our Correspondent

Malerkotla, February 7
The Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Mr Vijender Jain, today laid the foundation stone of a judicial courts complex on Quila Road here today and declared that judiciary was taking all major steps to provide speedy justice to all sections of society.

The double-storeyed block would have six courtrooms, 110 chambers for advocates and residences for judicial officers.

Mr Mohd Ayaz, secretary of the Bar Association, said the total cost of the project would be Rs 5 crore and it would be completed by 2008.


Rs 1.14-cr Markfed fraud detected
Tribune News Service

Moga, February 7
The police has booked two field officers of Markfed after embezzlement worth Rs 1.14 crore was detected in the district branch of the government undertaking.

According to the police, the District Manager of Markfed, Mr Randhir Singh, filed a complaint with the police in which he alleged that wheat worth Rs 1. 14 crore was found missing from the storehouse that was under the supervision of field officers Inderjit Singh and Jasvir Singh. Besides, Markfed suffered huge losses as a major portion of the stored wheat had got decomposed due to the negligence of the two officers.

Following the revelations, the department dismissed the two officers and asked the police to register an embezzlement case against them.


Duo held for kidnapping
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 7
In a major success, the Patiala police today claimed to have arrested two persons for allegedly abducting a minor girl near Nial College in Patran here. Jagsir Singh and Kuldip Singh, both residents of Patran, were arrested from near Nial College by a police party led by SP S.K. Asthana and SP J.S. Kahlon. According to police sources, both the accused had abducted Rupali (9), daughter of Mr S.K. Garg of Patran from her house when Rupali and her mother were alone at home, at pistol point on February 5 and demanded Rs 10 lakh as ransom for her release. The duo made a call from a cell phone to the father of the girl and demanded that the amount should be delivered at a place near Nial College. The phone was tapped by the police which encircled nearby sugarcane fields adjoining the college.

The father of the girl gave the ransom amount of Rs 10 lakh to the abductors at the nearby sugarcane fields near the college. After receiving the ransom, the duo was on their way to release the girl near Nial College as promised. The police in a swift action nabbed both the kidnappers and confiscated the ransom amount. The police also claimed to have recovered a .315 bore pistol and a dagger from their possession.

Cases of abduction and under the Arms Act have been registered against the accused. 


Students given tips on Gurmat sangeet
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 7
To create a balance between academics and religious tradition of Gurmat sangeet, a two-day Gurmat Sangeet Sammelan concluded at Gurudwara Sahib of Punjabi University today. The theme of this sammelan, which was organised by Gurmat Sangeet, Department of Punjabi University, was "Gurbani Path Bodh".

Giani Gurbachan Singh, Head Granthi of Sri Harmandir Sahib, and Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, Jathedar of Akal Takht, participated in this sammelan. While inaugurating the function S. Swarn Singh Boparai, Vice-Chancellor, said that Punjabi University would continue working for preserving the religious tradition of Gurmat Sangeet and string instruments. He expressed the need to promote Gurmat Sangeet at the global level. Giani Gurbachan Singh expressed his views on the historical background of tradition of Kirtan at Sri Harmandir Sahib. Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti, while interacting with the students, emphasised on the right pronunciation of Gurbani. He provided tips to the students about the right pronunciation of 'Aasa Di Var'.

Dr. S. S. Joshi presented his lecture on the grammar of Gurbani. Bibi Jasbir Kaur Khalsa advised the students to practice regular recitation of Gurbani for correct pronunciation. Apart from the faculty of Gurmeet Sangeet Department, Dr. Gurnek Singh, Head, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Studies Department. Dr. Parmveer Singh. President, Gurdwara Sahib, Punjabi University, Dr. Devinder Singh, Dr. Rajinder Singh Lamba, Bhai Jasbir Singh (Ludhiana), Dr. Sarbjinder Singh, Dr. Harbir Singh, Principal, Khalsa Singh, Prof. Kanwarjit Singh, Principal, Gurmat College, attended the sammelan.


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