The big, fat Nakodar poll party hits a new ‘high’
Vishal Gulati
Tribune News Service

It is said to be the costliest election in Punjab. It is also said to be the only one in which the two main contenders for the Nakodar Assembly seat are allegedly supplying liquor, poppy husk and a cocktail of other intoxicants to the electorate in order to woo them to their side. Cash offerings are equally rampant.

It is also the only campaign which is more underground than overground, is lackluster during the day but starts to swing after sunset.

Estimates of the spending spree vary from one mouth to another. The lowest is pegged at Rs 1 crore and the highest at Rs 10 crore. Whatever the real figure, and despite the election observers’ presence in the constituency, the town of Nakodar and the 108 villages which comprise the Assembly seat are agog with excitement over the party of their lifetime. It doesn’t have an address. The party is everywhere.

The sitting Congress MLA, Mr Amarjit Singh Samra, has represented the constituency for the last 13 years. He was a minister in the outgoing government and has built up an impressive track record of entrepreneurship. He reportedly owns a bank which has 15 branches. Besides, his landholding and buildings in and nearby Jalandhar are all prime properties. Mr Samra in his election declaration has submitted assets worth Rs 17 crore only.

His rival, Akali veteran Mr Kuldip Singh Wadala, is an equally rich landlord. His has declared assets worth Rs 9 crore in his own name alone. The contesting duo, in fact, is the richest candidates in Punjab, several notches higher than even the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and the former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal.

The stakes are, therefore, as high as they can get. Mr Wadala has re-entered the fray after a hiatus of about 20 years. Interestingly, he had lost the 1980 poll by 600 votes and won it in 1985 with 600 votes.

He, therefore, doesn’t want to take any chances this time. He believes the Congress has flooded the entire constituency with liquor, opium and poppy husk and is also doling out cash incentives to secure votes. On his part, he is more than willing to match his rival.

Inaugurating his election office in Jhajja Kalan last week, Mr Wadala assured his electorate, “Is bar Akali Dal is kam vich peeche nahi rahuga.” He reportedly said if he became the Excise minister in the Akali government, he will ensure that liquor is not only reasonably priced but is also of good quality.

Addressing a gathering in Sidhwa village on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Wadala again dwelt on the role of liquor and money. He solemnly advised against liquor consumption and then added, “But if you can’t resist it, take it. Take their liquor and give me your vote.”

On vote-buying too Mr Wadala did not want to hurt a poor man’s need for cash. Take the money but don’t give your voter card to them, he said.

The BJP’s functionaries in the city claimed that Mr Samra has put up 36,000 small and big hoarding and neon signs across the constituency.

“Each one costs Rs 500. You can calculate the total cost yourself,” they said.

Intriguingly, Mr Wadala has not complained of his rival’s excesses to the election observers. He has a job to do – match his rival – and doesn’t want to waste his time in legal nit-picking.

The Samra camp has its own take on Mr Wadala’s allegations. They claim it is the Akali Dal and not the Congress which is indulging in unethical practices.

“Mr Samra has been winning for 13 years and he doesn’t need to resort to such tricks. People know he delivers and that’s why he will romp home again.” 



Poll compulsions propel Ambedkar project
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

The construction of Dr B.R. Ambedkar Bhavan in the district administrative complex here, which had remained unattended for years together, now seemed to have suddenly started gaining momentum during the elections.

The foundation stone of the bhavan was laid in 1999 and funds came in 2006, but the construction work began after a function was organised by Mr Mahinder Singh Kaypee, Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes, in mid-December, hardly two weeks before the election code of conduct came into force.

Since then, the work has been going on at good speed.

Probably targeted at wooing the Dalit vote bank, there is a long list of the Scheduled Caste candidates, who can expect some goodwill from the voters in return.

The candidates included Mr Kaypee, Ch Jagjit Singh, the candidate from Kartarpur, and his brother, Ch Santokh Singh, from Phillaur. The Congress leaders did not take interest in the project earlier as the foundation was laid by Mr Badal. After much pressure from Dalit organisations, a new stone was laid by Mr Kaypee on December 16.

An announcement over the use of funds to the tune of Rs 50 lakh allocated from the Punjab Nirman funds was made at that time.

When the project was initiated in 1995, it was proposed that it be constructed within the boundaries of Gandhi Vanita Ashram on the Kapurthala road. Later, it was pointed out that the ashram had a little space to offer owing to its own needs and another site was suggested within the administrative complex. 



A lesson from Sonal Mansingh
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Sonal Mansingh
Sonal Mansingh. — Tribune photo by Pawan Sharma

Students of Police DAV School and the Apeejay College of Fine Arts got an opportunity to take a lesson in Odissi and Bharatnatyam dance forms as the leading exponent Sonal Mansingh put up a show and interacted with students on the PAP campus in Jalandhar on Thursday. The event was organised by Spic Macay.

The youngest recipient of Padma Bhushan, she told the students that it was kala that bonded the Indians together despite so much diversity in dharma and beliefs. She said there was a taal in everything, including our breathe and if it ended there was no life.

She further added that the earth and the nature could be best described in dance.

The 64-year-old danseuse defied her age as she gave an energetic performance on Vande Mataram.

“My Vande Mataram differs from that of A.R. Rehman’s. To me, it means a devotion to mother earth which has so much resilience. It keeps on giving back to us even if we hurt it,” she said like a teacher.

She made the students laugh as she told them: “Do the jap of the almighty rather than remembering the Big B or the Small B.” Sonal’s enchanting performance highlighting the scene of Gopi-Krishan and Gajaraja won much applause. Her expressions and movements delighted one and all, including officials from the PAP and their wives.



Prosperity out of Punjab, says Irani
Anil Jerath
Tribune News Service

Samriti Irani

Actor-turned-politician and Tulsi of TV serial “Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi,” Samriti Irani is surprised to see the deterioration in Punjab. She said prosperity had gone out of the state and “jungle raj” had taken over.

Samriti claimed that the situation was so bad that no woman could now dare to walk freely in streets and bazaars of towns and villages. Drug and land mafia had developed their business freely in the state under the Congress rule, she alleged.

She was in Phagwara on Thursday to address two election rallies in support of the BJP candidate, Ch Swarna Ram.

Samriti also alleged that agriculture in Punjab was now in dire straits and as a result farmers were being forced to commit suicide. She expressed concern over the delay of the construction works of much-awaited Satnampura railway overbridge and Mehtan-Mehli bypass and held the Congress responsible for this undue delay causing great inconvenience to the people.

She urged the voters, especially women, to caste their votes in favour of the BJP candidate so the present corrupt regime could be ousted from power.

“The Congress has only increased corruption during five years of its rule in state,” she added. Earlier, Samriti was received by Ch Swarna Ram near the Gol chowk from where she took round of various villages and bazaars of the town in an open jeep with a cavalcade of vehicles decorated with BJP flags.



First-time voters indifferent
Anil Jerath
Tribune News Service

The new generation of voters, particularly those voting for the first time, appears to be either indifferent or unaware about the elections.

The indifference and unawareness appears to have stemmed from cynicism and lack of expectations from political parties of all shades and hues.

A cross-section of youth and first-time voters The Tribune spoke appeared to be disillusioned with the political parties.

They did not have much faith in any of the leaders either. Most of them observed that the change of regime, if it takes place, hardly made any difference because they think politicians cutting across the party lines pursued only the personal agendas at the cost of public welfare.

Vinay Pasricha, a college student, said voting or no voting did not make much difference.

“It is like wasting your vote because all political leaders are busy making money for themselves. They have set their own agendas and targets to get maximum benefit in the coming five years. Problems like poverty, unemployment, lack of development works, etc, do not seem to be in the priority list of leaders,” he believed.

Another student Chetna Sharda showed absolute unawareness about the major parties or players contesting in the elections.

She said she got her voter identity card made because of her father.

“The card is really helpful. It can be used as an identity proof for various purposes.

Now that it has been made, I am eager to cast vote for the first time. But I will vote for the candidate of my father’s choice,” said Chetna.

But certain first-time voters had some common expectations.

They wanted incomplete development projects in the town to be completed soon as the delay had already created a lot of nuisance to the common man. Some of them expected the new government to work with honesty and transparency. The youth also hoped to get a plenty of job opportunities by the party in power.



Just a thought
Claw your heart, it is vote time again
R. Jaikrishan

The winter has mellowed down just to a nip in the air. But even for a short stroll after dark one still needs to put on a pullover.

For devotees of Bacchus who line up hang-outs on the Cool Road or Ramesh Chopra Marg after dusk, one too many is still less. More so when candidates in the poll fray are luring voters with liquor and poppy husk. Some are promising better and cheaper liquor. But the voters are keeping the candidates guessing even as guzzle. Either they have made up their mind or they are waiting to swing at the last minute.

Even after providing free rides to voters to the rally venues most such gatherings turn out to be damp squibs. Going by the turnout at rallies addressed by the Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh it seems that the voter is reluctant to walk an extra mile to listen to made-to-be -broken poll promises.

The electronic media has played a decisive role in unmasking the money and muscle power of the candidates. It has turned the voter into a couch potato, who prefers watching the election soap in the warmth of quilt or in a swanky pub gobbling French fries. With mobiles in both hands Doaba residents are deleting SMS’ from candidates.

The picture of mass society would have been complete had the voters in villages given slip to SAD chief. They take the trouble of listening to him for he speaks in the idiom, though fantastic but palatable to them.

NRIs have descended to their places of origin to support their candidates. They are promising the Doaba youth, ever ready to go abroad, work permits for casting votes in favour of their candidates. The not-so- well -off are promised education for their children abroad. In a Phagwara village an NRI from Canada narrated how he had given employment to 300 youth from the village in his factory.

It is time when contestants hop in choppers and make allegations far and wide. All this trouble is for gaining assets –which are in real estate. State governments (read Chief Ministers) are making profits by acting as middlemen in the land deals between farmers and industrialists. Surveys reveal that the real estate prices in our country are many times over than those in the US or Europe. The country seems to be slipping into the hands of land mafia.

Its vice-like grip is like the one in the US of the twenties.

Instead of industrialization ,we are having urbanization where the poor are being pushed away from the margins to the abyss of pauperization.

Instead of poll heat, there is disenchantment everywhere. Paash described it thus years ago:

I fear this world

Looking haunted like empty chairs,

Thinking how much amiss is all this

How sadly centuries have passed,

But bread, labour and cremations

Hold that we are only at their mercy.

No wonder with a leg in one camp and peg in another, the voter is burping choicest abuses at every candidate .Cynicism is now all pervasive and Paash is also no longer with us to give voice to it.



Hat trick for Bibis in Kapurthala district
Dharmendra Joshi
Tribune News Service

While there are several other candidates trying their luck on the four seats of Kapurthala district, main contest is expected between the SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress candidates.

The SAD candidates had won from Bholath and Sultanpur Lodhi seats, whereas the Congress emerged as victorious from Phagwara (SC) and Kapurthala seats in 2002.

Now it is hat-trick chance for two Bibis of SAD, Jagir Kaur and Upinderjeet Kaur, from Bholath and Sultanpur Lodhi seats, respectively. Will they be able to make hat trick of their victories or Congress candidates Sukhpal Singh Khaira and Navtej Singh Cheema will make their debuts in the Punjab Assembly, it will be clear only on February 27.


Bholath is considered as strong citadel of the SAD as it won five of the last six Assembly elections since 1977. The Congress could win here only in 1992 when the SAD had boycotted the elections.

A former SGPC chief, Bibi Jagir Kaur, of the SAD is facing District Congress Committee president Sukhpal Singh Khaira for the third time on the Bholath seat. Khaira is giving tough fight to Bibi this time.

Bibi defeated Khaira in 1997 and 2002. While she secured 53,168, Khaira could get only 25,141 votes in 1997. Thus, Bibi had registered her victory by a huge margin of 28,027 votes. However, the margin of victory was reduced to 11,378 votes in 2002. Bibi got 41,937 and Khaira 30,559 votes in 2002.


The two main candidates, Mr Joginder Singh Mann (Congress) and Chaudhury Swarna Ram (BJP), are facing each other for the fourth time in a row and giving tough fight to each other.

As far as earlier results are concerned, the Congress has a bit upper hand as it won four (1980, 1985, 1992 and 2002) of the last six Assembly elections here.

Anyhow having contested last three polls against each other, Mann emerged victorious twice in 1992 and 2002, whereas Swarna Ram won only once in 1997.

Mann (31,601 votes) defeated Swarna Ram (30,415) with a thin margin of 1,186 votes in Phagwara in 2002, whereas Swarna Ram (50,176) defeated Mann (23,553) by a huge margin of 26,623 votes in 1997. Similarly, Mann defeated Swarna Ram by getting 36.27 per cent votes in 1992.

Interestingly, Mann also contested from this seat in 1985 and defeated Janata Party (later changed as the BJP) candidate Sadhu Ram by getting 49.47 percent votes.

Sultanpur Lodhi

Like Bholath, the Sultanpur Lodhi seat is also a bastion of the SAD as the Congress could win here only once in 1992 of the last six elections, that too when the SAD had boycotted the poll.

While some other candidates are also in the fray, however, the direct contest is expected between Bibi Upinderjeet Kaur (SAD) and Navtej Singh Cheema (Congress) this time.

Bibi defeated Rajanbir Singh (Congress) by a margin of 21,926 and 5514 votes in 1997 and 2002, respectively.


A former minister Raghubir Singh (SAD) and Jalandhar MP Rana Gurjit Singh’s wife Rajbans Kaur (Congress) are facing each other for the first time on this seat.

Rajbans became the Congress candidate by default as she had filled her papers as a covering candidate and the papers of official Congress candidate and sitting MLA Sukhjinder Kaur Rana were rejected as several discrepancies were found in her papers.

Sukhjinder (47,890 votes) defeated Raghubir (34,600) in October 2004 by-election, whereas in 2002 elections Rana Gurjeet Singh defeated Raghubir.

Raghubir had won from this seat twice in 1980 and 1997 by getting 50.80 and 46.52 percent of polled votes, respectively.



Young World
Sports week ends

Euro Kids, a playway school, organised a sports week which concluded with a tug of war. A series of activities were organised in the week in which there were races, balling treasure hunt and a football match.

Ms Nandita Das, Principal, and Ms Neerza Mayor, director, gave away trophies and certificates to children.


The Department of Commerce, Lovely Institute of Higher Studies, organised a guest lecture on practical aspects of banking.

Mr B.J. Chopra, Chief Manager, State Bank of India, Rourkela branch, told the students about various types of bank accounts and how they could open and operate these. He told them how to fill pay in slips for depositing, withdrawal and demand draft.

The Department of Political Science of Kanya Maha Vidyalaya, organised a lecture on “Korean nuclear test and Iran’s nuclear issue: Challenges to US effort of securing nuclear non-proliferation”.

Dr Rajesh Kumar from School of Social Sciences, Guru Nanak Dev University, discussed with the students issues related to India’s foreign policy and nuclear status of Iran, Iraq and the USA. Farewell — TNS



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