P U N J A B    S T O R I E S

Punjab VOTES ’07



Dullo faces tough opponent
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Khanna, February 9
At a time when all candidates in the state are making last-ditch efforts to win, all eyes are on this high-profile reserved constituency from where the PPCC chief, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, is locked in a tough contest with Mr Bikramjit Singh Khalsa of the SAD.

Others in the fray are Mr Swaran Singh Libra of the BSP, Mr Ranjit Singh Rana of the Krantikari Samajwadi Party and the SAD (Zira)-backed Independent candidate, Mr Piara Singh Bhattian.

Having nurtured the constituency for the past three decades, Mr Dullo is a seasoned politician who knows that his prestige is at stake. That's why he is relying on one-to-one contact, especially with those who are perceived to be unhappy with him. He has succeeded in his policy of appeasement and is hopeful of emerging as the winner this time too.

Initially, he found the going uphill since his wife, sitting legislator Harbans Kaur, was sore at being overlooked for the seat and had refused to campaign for him, but things are back on track. She is now the main campaigner for her husband who is touring the state to address rallies in his capacity as party chief and the Dalit face of the Congress.

On the other hand, the youthful Bikramjit Singh has to contend with the outsider tag as he was first elected to the Assembly from Dakha in 1997. Son of the late Basant Singh, who represented the Ropar parliamentary seat, he is familiar to the rumble and tumble of politics and is hopeful of winning.

What is unique in his campaigning is that for the first time in the state, the photo of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar has been published on posters and other election material along with SAD president Parkash Singh Badal and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

While Mr Dullo has not been able to fully concentrate on his constituency, he is upbeat that he will easily win the seat. The unprecedented development that he carried out during his tenure as a legislator, minister and party chief is for all to see, he says.

“If people repose faith in me this time, I will ensure that Khanna witnesses another round of development. I will see that all promises made in the party manifesto are implemented,” he promises.

Mr Bikramjit Singh, too, says that development will be an agenda but he promises to work to accord the district status for Khanna which will include Payal and Samrala. Once this materialises, funds will not be a major problem.


It’s getting dirty in Nawanshahr
Deepkamal Kaur
Tribune News Service

Nawanshahr, February 9
Even though much canvassing is not visible in in Nawanshahr constituencies, a lot of activity is taking place in an inconspicuous way here. From indulging in mud-slinging against rival candidates to cashing in on the religious sentiments of voters, nominees from various parties have been making every effort to win the game.

The Akali candidate from Banga, Mr Mohan Lal, has got some handouts printed against the sitting Congress candidate from Banga, Mr Tarlochan Singh Soondh, and his associate, Mr Satnam Kainth of the BSM. Ever since the two got aligned, they are finding themselves in a comfortable position giving jitters to Mr Mohan Lal.

In these handouts, which Mr Mohan Lal's supporters were seen distributing among shopkeepers in the city during his foot march today, he has blamed the BSM leader for taking a hefty sum from Mr Soondh before associating with him.

He has gone a step further by blaming the Congress nominee for amassing wealth by getting fake passports made during his tenure as Passport Officer. He has even alleged that Mr Soondh was hand in glove with police officials who were recently suspended for drug trade in Banga.

Mr Mohan Lal has even tried to cash in on the religious sentiments of the voters of the constituency, many of whom are Guru Ravi Dass followers.

He and his supporters were today even seen distributing glazed posters regarding the birth anniversary of Guru Ravi Dass which fell on last Friday. The posters carry the pictures of Guru Ravi Dass and Mr Mohan Lal, projecting himself as the candidate.

The handouts and the posters do not bear the name of the printer, which is mandatory as per the norms of the Election Commission.

The supporters of Nawanshahr sitting Congress candidate Parkash Singh, too, were seen distributing copies of a Punjabi magazine in the native Kariha village of his rival Akali candidate, Mr Jatinder Singh Kariha, during a poll campaign today. The magazine carried caricatures depicting Akali defeat in the recent Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee elections.


SAD has the edge in Chamkaur Sahib
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Chamkaur Sahib, February 8
Considered an Akali citadel, this reserved constituency is witnessing a triangular contest among four-time winner SAD sitting MLA Satwant Kaur Sandhu, Congress nominee Manmohan Singh and Congress rebel Charanjit Singh Channi. The Congress has fielded a new face in Mr Manmohan Singh, denying the ticket to two former MLAs.

The constituency has 1.19 lakh electorates. Out of six elections held here since the formation of Chamkaur Sahib as a separate constituency in 1977, Mrs Sandhu had won four times. The Congress emerged victorious in 1985 and in 1992 when the Akalis boycotted the elections. In the last elections, Mrs Sandhu defeated Mr Bhag Singh of the Congress by over 9,000 votes.

Despite the fact that the segment has not witnessed much development, all candidates are raising issues of more schools, employment opportunities, construction of roads and bridges and potable water in all villages.

Mr Manmohan Singh, former Assistant Excise and Taxation Commissioner, is banking on the development carried out in the area during the Congress tenure, besides grant of sub-divisional status to Chamkaur Sahib. He has pacified two former Congress MLAs Bhag Singh and Shamsher Singh Rai in the aftermath of ticket disbursal.

The president of the Municipal Council, Kharar, Mr Channi, has become a cause of concern for the Congress. He has been drawing respectable gatherings at his rallies.


Dera move leaves parties jittery
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 9
Insertion of an advertisement in vernacular newspapers yesterday by the political wing of Dera Sacha Sauda (Sirsa) asking its followers to vote for the Congress elections has made the Opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other parties “jittery”.

The announcement, though expected, has set in motion a debate over political role of religious sects and deras. Interestingly, the Sacha Sauda Dera chief, Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, is related to the Congress candidate from Bathinda, Mr Harminder Singh Jassi. This brings Bathinda into sharp focus.

Mr Jassi faces a tough challenge from the Shiromani Akali Dal candidate, Mr Sarup Singla. If Mr Harminder Singh Jassi has the backing of “premis”, followers of Dera Sacha Sauda, Mr Sarup Singla claims the unflinching support of the Gupta-Singla brotherhood, which has almost two-third of the total votes in the constituency.

The outcome of the Bathinda seat will have a direct bearing on the future of politics in the region. Whose writ - of parties or the dera - runs in the Malwa belt in Punjab and the Sirsa belt in Haryana will be known on February 27, the day results are announced.

While the Akalis (SAD) has termed the decision of the dera as “unfortunate and in violation of the code of conduct”, the BJP sent its team of Mr Arun Jaitley and Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu to the dera chief, which came back “disappointed”.

“I do not think any political party will accept such direct interference by religious deras or sects,” says Mr Tarlochan Singh, member of the Rajya Sabha from Haryana, holding that “neither Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, nor Mr Om Parkash Chautala will wish to leave their political future in the hands of the chief of a dera .”

The region, he says, has several deras and sects who command respect from all sections , but none has ever openly sided with one political party or the other.

“How can a dera take away the fundamental right of a citizen of secret ballot ? It is a dangerous trend which needs to be checked before it assumes alarming proportions,” cautions Mr Tarlochan Singh.


Simultaneous big bytes roll out in Majitha
Sanjay Bumbroo
Tribune News Service

Majitha, February 9
Two major parties held massive rallies simultaneously here today. The Congress rally was addressed by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh while the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) rally was addressed by Mr Arun Jaitley, senior BJP leader, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, president of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), and Mr Sukhbir Badal, general secretary of the SAD.

Capt Amarinder Singh, addressing the rally in favour of Mr Surinder Singla and Mr Sukhjinder Raj Singh Lalli, candidates for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat and the Majitha Assembly constituency, respectively, called upon the masses to beware of the political stunts of the Badals.

The Chief Minister said Mr Chautala was campaigning for the SAD-BJP alliance in Punjab even though his party was opposed to the BJP and had differences with the SAD over the inter-state disputes between Punjab and Haryana.

On the other hand, Mr Jaitley addressed a rally in favour of Mr Bikramjit Singh Majithia. He said the Amarinder government had worked in the state with political vendetta and committed atrocities on people, including farmers and the youth.

Mr Chautala said the Congress regime had withdrawn facilities which were announced by SAD supremo Parkash Singh Badal during his five-year rule.

Mr Sukhbir Badal said if the SAD came to power, it would launch various development projects in the area within a month of their coming to power.

Listed dead
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 9
More than 52, 000 voters of Amritsar West are without electoral photo-identity cards (EPICs) till date. These comprise 23 per cent of the total registered voters in the area.

Whereas Punjab has attained an average of 94 per cent voters with EPICs, Amritsar West is the only constituency lagging behind at 77.16 per cent-a matter of great concern to state poll panel.

Records show that all other segments in Amritsar district have over 94 per cent voters with EPIC, Amritsar West being the only exception, raising doubts aver the correctness of voters’ list. The list also features names of those dead and those who have shifted out of the constituency.

If Returning Officer P.S. Randhwa is to be believed, as many as 6,200 voters (10 to 12 per cent) out of 52, 000 in question, are dead or married or shifted out of the constituency. Yet, their names figure in the electoral list. Another 3 per cent are untraced, confirms Mr Kamal Narain Sharma, supervising door-to-door survey of voters in the area. These have also not been deleted from the list.

Deletions of bogus votes (of the dead and shifted) did not happen despite the RO being aware of the anomalies. He says he had no time to delete votes. “We need to give a week’s notice to effect deletions or additions. I joined on January 18 after the former RO was shifted out as he was in his home district. Since the last date for finalisation of voters list was January 25, I did not have the required seven days to start the process.”

Meanwhile, Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab, has expressed concern at the huge gap between voters and those with EPICs in Amritsar West.

The CEO told The Tribune: “It is serious matter that 52, 815 voters figuring in the list have no EPICs. Although they can vote with alternative identity proof, we need to investigate why they were left without EPICs and why deletions did not happen if necessary.”


Nabha: Rebels also in reckoning
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Nabha, February 9
Even as all 12 candidates, who are in the fray in this Assembly segment, have been trying their best to make their presence felt, the main contest is among four candidates: sitting Congress MLA Mr Randeep Singh, SAD (B) candidate Raja Narinder Singh and Congress rebels fighting as Independents Ramesh Singla and Mahant Harwinder Singh.

Both Congress rebels are likely to dent the Congress vote share, making the fight difficult for Mr Randeep Singh against Raja Narinder Singh.

The recent announcement by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to set up a light commercial vehicle (LCV) unit in the Assembly segment has given an impetus to Mr Randeep Singh’s campaign.

While Raja Narinder Singh had won the elections twice since 1977, Mr Ramesh Singla and Mr Randeep Singh were elected MLA once as an Independent and a Congress candidate, respectively.

The segment, which is adjoining the Samana and Patiala segments, is a part of the Ropar parliamentary seat. The total strength of electors is about 1,60,000, residing in around 145 villages and the two towns of Nabha and Bhadson.

The BSP has given the ticket to Mr Bhagwant Singh.

In the 2002 elections, Mr Randeep Singh defeated SAD (Badal) candidate Raja Narinder Singh by a margin of around 14,000 votes. In his win, he avenged the defeat (1992) of his mother Satinder Kaur at the hands of Mr Ramesh Singla. Mr Singla contested as the NCP candidate after being denied the Congress ticket.

Mr Randeep Singh’s father and former minister, late Gurdarshan Singh, had won the seat twice since 1977. This is his third election. He has been facing a serious threat from the party rebels.

Mr Singla, who won as an Independent in 1992, enjoys a considerable support in the Congress camp. He was a confidant of late Beant Singh. Mahant Harwinder Singh, too, has been the president of the Patiala Youth Congress.

Mr Singla joined the Congress after he became MLA. He shifted loyalties to join the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and then the SAD (B). He returned to the Congress fold recently after persuasion by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.


‘Dream Girl’ attracts young & old alike
Tribune News Service

Nangal, February 9
Although she reached here six hours behind schedule, the “Dream Girl” and Rajya Sabha member Hema Malini proved to be a major crowd- puller at the rally of the SAD-BJP candidate, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, this evening.People of all ages, from schoolchildren to the old, gathered from distant villages here to get a glimpse of the beautiful actress-cum-politician.

Hema Malini was to arrive here at about 10 am, but due to bad weather, her helicopter could not land here. She had to return to Chandigarh. At the third attempt, the helicopter landed safely at 4.15 pm. However, she had to cancel campaign at four places.

In her short speech for about 10 minutes, addressing a gathering at the BBMB ground here, Hema Malini, said the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh had ignored the common man.

The CM had remained unapproachable and performed poorly, she added. She blamed the Congress for the city centre scam in Ludhiana and other mega projects in Mohali.

The BJP candidate, Mr Mittal and state BJP president Avinash Rai Khanna also spoke on the occasion.

At one point of time, the organisers had a hard time in keeping the crowd intact. People began to leave the venue. It was only on the arrival of Hema Malini that the venue saw a huge crowd.

Ram Ahsri(70) of Mahal Majra village and Satya(65) of Nangal said they were here to see Hema Malini.They talked of Hema Malini’s Hindi hit film 'Sita Aur Gita’.

Birbal of Taliwal and Deewan Kumar of Rampur Kalna said they believed in the party policies, but “for us the major attraction is Hema Malini.” 


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No outsiders after February 11: EC
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 9
The Election Commission has put restrictions on the presence of political functionaries, party workers, and campaign managers, brought from outside after the campaign period ends on February 11.

In its order, the commission has directed the election authorities and the police to ensure that all such functionaries leave the constituency immediately after the end of the campaign as their continued 
presence could hamper a free and fair poll.

The commission has further asked the police to check places where such people were lodged, set up check-posts in the constituency borders and track vehicular movement from outside.

Meanwhile, the commission has also instructed that no booth can be set up within a distance of 200 metres from the polling station. Even where more than one polling station has been set up in the same polling station location, there can be only one booth of a candidate. Such a booth cannot be enclosed by tents.

Also, each candidate wishing to set up such booths would have to intimate in writing to the returning officer the names of polling stations where such booths are proposed to be set up. He would also have to obtain the written permission of the government or local authorities like corporations, municipalities, zila parishads, town area committees and panchayat samitis.

The EC has ordered that such booths would be used only for the purpose of issuing unofficial identity slips to electors. These identity slips shall be printed strictly in accordance with the instructions of the commission on the subject without the name or symbol of the candidate or the name of the political party. Only a banner carrying the name of the candidate, his party and the election symbol allotted to him shall be allowed at each such booth.

No crowds would be allowed to collect at such booths nor shall any person who has already cast his vote at the polling station be allowed to come to the booth.The persons manning the booths would not cause any obstruction in the way of electors proceeding to the polling stations or prevent them from going to the booths of other candidates.

The commission has warned all candidates and political parties that any violation of these directions would be viewed seriously and stringent action as per the law would be taken against the candidates and their agents and workers responsible for any such violation.

The order also says that in case any officer is found to have failed to take prompt and expeditious action to ensure strict compliance of the directions, he would render himself liable to disciplinary action, apart from any penal action as may be called for against him for failure to discharge duty.


Shatrughan on a rally spree
Our Correspondent

Mohali, February 9
Film star and senior BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha said here today that the Punjab elections were important for the Indian democracy as people would throw out an autocrat ruler with the power of vote.

Mr Sinha addressed three rallies in favour of Mr Jasjit Singh, SAD-BJP candidate for the Kharar constituency. Launching an attack on Capt Amarinder Singh, he said everybody was aware of his lifestyle. He had never met anyone, but was on the roads seeking votes. Punjab had witnessed development only during the tenure of Mr Parkash Singh Badal as Chief Minister, he claimed.

The mood of the people in Punjab was different as they were waiting to throw out a “corrupt and non-performing government”. The SAD-BJP combine would usher in a new era of development.

The BJP leader, who spoke in Hindi and used phrases in his speeches, held rallies at Jagatpura village, Mohali and Balongi.


Jagraon, Kila Raipur Observers called back
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 9
Mr Ajit Kumar and Mr Bajnath Prashad, Election Observers for the Jagraon constituency and the Kila Raipur segment, respectively, have been asked by the Election Commission to report back to their home state Jharkhand.

The two 1995 batch IAS officers had reportedly accompanied Mr K. K. Khandelwal, another Election Observer, on an unauthorised trip to various places in Himachal Pradesh on January 28 and 30 while on election duty.

Mr Khadelwal, who is also from Jharkhand, had already been called back by the commission with an order to the Chief Secretary to take a strict disciplinary action against him. The Commission deputed the Election Observer of the Valtoha constituency to take charge in Jagraon and the Election Observer at Beas to take over at Kila Raipur.



8 held with weapons; councillor absconds
Our Correspondent

Barnala, February 9
The police has arrested eight persons with arms while a local municipal councillor fled from the spot.

Mr Harmeek Singh, SHO, Barnala, said today that on a tip-off that anti-social elements were hatching a conspiracy to disrupt elections, the police put up a naka near Handiaya Chowk. It arrested eight persons, including Harbans Singh, Rajbeer Singh, Bikar Dass, Kesar Singh, Kuldeep Singh, Surinder Singh and Gurjant Singh, while they were travelling in a Tata Sumo carrying arms. Councillor Karamjeet Singh Bitta, who was also in the vehicle, managed to flee from the spot.

The police seized one .315-bore pistol, five cartridges, two swords, two kirpans and two khandas. A case under Sections 399 and 402 of the IPC has been registered.


Bihar ministers do their bit
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, February 9
The Punjab Government, led by Capt Amarinder Singh, has deceived people, particularly farmers and unemployed youths, by not fulfilling its election promises. This was stated by Mr Ram Nath Thakur and Mr Narinder Narain Yadav, both Bihar ministers, here today.

They said Mr Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar, had sent them to Punjab to ensure the victory the SAD (B)-BJP alliance candidates.

They alleged that except for making false claims of development, the Amarinder government had done nothing for the people of state during its five-year rule. Agriculture was no more a profitable business in the state, they claimed.

They said they would visit all those areas where migrant labourers from Bihar were in good numbers and persuade them for voting in favour of the alliance candidates.


Behl: It will cost the Congress dear
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, February 9
Sitting Congress MLA from Gurdaspur Khushal Behl has said the Congress decision to expel him and his son will cost the party dearly all over Punjab and Gurdaspur in particular.

Mr Behl was addressing a meeting of hundreds of his supporters at his residence at Gurdaspur today. More than 200 Congressmen, including office-bearers of the party at the ward and block levels, handed over their resignations to Mr Behl.

Mr Behl said the entire drama had been enacted at the behest of Congress candidate from Gurdaspur Pritam Singh Bhinder. 


Mohali SSP transferred
Tribune News Service

Mohali, February 9
The Election Commission today transferred the SSP, Mohali, Mr G.S. Dhillon, after reports of the Mohali police website carrying a pre-poll survey were published in a section of the media today.

Mr Dhillon was summoned by the commission and given a thorough dressing down following which he apologised for the ‘mistake’ and claimed the objectionable material had been removed from the website.

The commission has asked the government to submit a panel of three names for the new SSP. In the meantime, SSP Ropar Mr Kapil Dev would also hold the charge of SSP Mohali.

The official website of the Mohali police, www.sasnagarpolice.org, had hosted an opinion poll asking visitors who they would elect.

The survey was carried on the hyperlink “elections” on the website. The visitors to the site were asked for their preference between the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal. Since the survey results showed a clear preference for the Congress, the SAD workers had registered a complaint in that regard to the Election Commission.

Mr Dhillon said, “I just want to clarify that the opinion poll part was not exclusively for political questions. The website hosting company changes the question daily. The opinion generated is of the public and not the police. But I do feel that under the present circumstances a wrong question was asked on the website. The website hosting company has been directed to remove the link. The entire portion has been removed. The SAS Nagar police has no bias against any political party. I assure all quarters concerned that full neutrality will be maintained, including during Punjab elections. If the opinion poll presentation has hurt somebody’s feelings, it is deeply regretted.”


ADC recommends action against booth-level officer

Mohali, February 9
Strict action was recommended against a booth-level officer for dereliction of duty in connection with the Assembly elections by the Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC), Mr Ajoy Sharma, here today.

Mr Sharma told Chandigarh Tribune that Mr Raghwinder Singh, who worked as a physical education teacher in a school and was given the charge of a booth-level officer, had failed to ensure that the photo identity cards prepared for the Assembly elections were delivered from door to door in Nayagaon village.

He had handed over around 25 identity cards to a PCO owner, Mr Prem Parkash Dhingra, for further distribution. He said the lapse came to notice when a compliant was made in that regard. The Election Observer, Mr V.B. Pathak, reached the spot and recovered 10 cards from Mr Dhingra. — OC


Shopkeeper held with 17 voter I-cards 
Tribune News Service

Nayagaon, February 9
Tempers flared here today as Congress and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) supporters levelled allegations against each other after a shopkeeper was “caught red handed” with 17 voter Identity Cards in his possession by the Election Observer.

While Akali Dal supporters alleged that the shopkeeper, Prem Prakash Dhingra, is a Congress worker and had “bought” these cards to indulge in proxy voting, Congress supporters said Dhingra was a social worker and was merely helping a school teacher Raghvender Singh on election duty to distribute these cards in the area. The Election Observer, Mr V.B Pathak, has asked the ADC, Ropar, to investigate the matter and submit a report.

Bhandari initially denied that he had any cards, but a physical check led to the discovery of 17 voter cards of residents of the area.

According to Mr Mahesh, SHO, Nayagaon, Mr V.B Pathak was taking a round of the area when he was told that voter I cards were being bought and sold at a particular shop in Nayagaon. The police was called and a raid was conducted at the shop. Bhandari initially denied that he had any cards but a physical check led to the discovery of 17 voter cards of residents of the area.

Bhandari, however, explained to the police and the Observer that he was merely helping a school teacher Raghvender Singh in distributing these cards. Raghvender Singh is a booth level officer responsible for the preparation and distribution of voter I cards of Booth Number 126 in Dashmesh Nagar in Nayagaon.

Raghvender Singh was called to the police station and he admitted he was taking “help” from the local residents in the distribution of these cards. “I have been given at least 1,500 cards to distribute and it is not physically possible for me to do it personally. I have been giving voter cards of the same area to someone who lives in that area,” said Mr Raghvender Singh at the Nayagaon police station. Another school teacher Ms Saroj Kumari said she also had taken help from the locals in distributing the cards.

Supporters of both the parties gathered at the police station and levelled allegations against one another. The police had to intervene to ensure that things did not get out of control. An Akali supporter Malkit Singh alleged that the brother of Congress candidate from Morinda, Jagmohan Singh Kang had last night announced in Janta Colony that people should merely come out and vote and not bother about voter I cards which would be provided to them.

On the other hand, Mr Yadvinder Singh, son of Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, denied the allegations adding that the Akali supporters were getting desperate as they were facing sure defeat. “This is a false propaganda by Akalis to defame us,” he said.

Meanwhile, the ADC of Ropar, Mr Ajoy Sharma, has, in his report to the Election Observer, recommended strict action against Mr Raghvender Singh on charges of dereliction of duty.

Mr Sharma told The Tribune that Mr Raghvender Singh, who worked as a physical education teacher in a school and was given the charge of a booth level officer, had failed to ensure that photo identity 
cards prepared for the Assembly elections were delivered properly in Nayagaon village.


Haryana FM campaigns
Tribune News Service

Ghanaur, February 9
The Haryana Finance Minister, Mr Birender Singh, today campaigned for Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Congress candidate from Ghanaur.

Addressing a rally here, Mr Birender Singh claimed that only the Congress could provide a stable government and give a fillip to the development activity in the state.

Mr Malwinder Singh, brother of the Punjab Chief Minister said during the five-year tenure the Congress had undertaken large-scale development activity in the state, including the Ghanaur segment. Mr Randhawa sought another term for the completion of pending development works.


LJSP vice-president supports Sidhu
Our Correspondent

Mohali, February 9
Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, Congress candidate from the Kharar constituency, today claimed that the vice-president of the Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJSP), Mr Harpal Singh Neeta, had come to his support.

Addressing a gathering here, he said the Akalis had spread corruption during their five-year tenure in the state. Prime posts were allegedly sold out by the Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission during the tenure of Mr Parkash Singh Badal as the Chief Minister. He said action was taken against the Chairman of the commission by the Congress government in its effort to check corruption in the state.

Mr Sidhu appealed to residents of the Kharar constituency not to succumb to any pressure from the Akalis.


Kanwaljit pressurised me, says councillor
Decides to support Balbir Singh Sidhu
Our Correspondent

Mohali, February 9
A municipal councillor and former senior vice-president of the civic body, Ms Amteshwar Kaur, today alleged that she was humiliated and pressurised by the SAD general secretary, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, to provide support to his son, who is contesting the Assembly elections from the Kharar constituency.

Ms Amteshwar Kaur said as she was agitated over the behaviour meted out to her by the former Finance Minister, she had decided she would now support Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, Congress candidate contesting from Kharar.

Narrating the sequence of events, the municipal councillor, who was addressing a press conference here, said she had been called to her friend’s house by Mr Bhupinder Singh Sandhu, her supporter, from where she was taken by Mr Sandhu to his house. There she was requested by Mr Jasjit Singh, SAD candidate, to support him during the elections.

Later, she was taken to a room where around 50 persons were sitting with Capt Kanwaljit Singh. She was asked by him and others to support his son and announce her decision in that regard immediately. She said as she had not openly campaigned in support of any candidate, she felt a bit reluctant to give her decision on the spot.

Ms Amteshwar Kaur, who was accompanied by the council president, Mr Rajinder Singh Rana, and some municipal councillors, further said Capt Kanwaljit Singh then said in case she decided not to support his son, she would allegedly have to face tough time getting development projects cleared for her ward as the hold on the civic body would change once the SAD-BJP government took over in the state.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh refuted the allegations being levelled against him by Ms Amteshwar Kaur at a press conference. He said he had met the municipal councillor late last evening, but nothing wrong had happened there. He said he condemned the propaganda being made by her as it was totally “malicious”. He said Ms Amteshwar Kaur had been “tutored” by Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu.


Ambika Soni campaigns for Kang
Tribune News Service

Kurali, February 9
The Union Tourism and Culture Minister, Ms Ambika Soni, was here today to campaign for Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Congress candidate from Morinda Constituency.

Speaking at a rally in block Majri she said during the regime of Akali-BJP government the loan of Punjab had not been remitted but it was the Congress party under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh which had remitted the loan of Rs 3,700 crore.

She further said voters should vote for the Congress in Punjab so that the Centre and the state governments can work together for the welfare of the state and its people. She added that the Congress is a 120-year-old secular party and it does not believe in any type of caste, culture and racial issues. It has always believed in the equality of people irrespective of their caste, creed and social status.

She said there was a time in 1992 when religion based and extremist parties were trying to divide the state but the Congress had saved the state from these forces and had paved the way for a progressive Punjab.

Ms Ambika Soni addressed an election rally at Morinda and Nayagaon. 


MC vice-president joins SAD
Our Correspondent

Mohali, February 9
Mr Harmanpreet Singh, vice-president of the Municipal Council, today joined the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and assured support to Mr Jasjit Singh, who is contesting the Assembly elections from the Kharar constituency.

He said he had been working for the Congress for the past nine years, but had to change his political alliance as he wanted development to be carried out in the Kharar constituency. He said Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, Congress candidate, if elected would not be able to work for the welfare of the area as he had no specific agenda and was solely involved in his liquor business.


Badal case adjourned

Ropar, February 9
The special court, Ropar, judge Mr G.S Saran, today adjourned the case of corruption against SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal and others after hearing the arguments by the defence counsel in connection with framing of charges against the accused for February 14. — TNS


Man dies in front of CM’s house

Patiala, February 9
An unidentified youth today died after setting himself on fire at NIS chowk here, near the residence of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Eyewitnesses said they saw a 25-year-old man, engulfed in flames this afternoon and immediately doused the fire. The man was rushed to Rajindra Hospital where he died. He had sustained 100 per cent burn injuries, doctors said.

When contacted DSP Patiala (city) Jagmohan Singh, in-charge of the area, said he was ignorant about the incident.

So far, the identity and reason behind the incident was not known. — UNI


Debt relief main issue in Bathinda
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, February 9
Even as farmers have credited the Congress regime for a bumper cotton crop and consistent power supply, what has disappointed them is the denial of a debt-relief package, which they were expecting to come their way ahead of the Assembly poll.

Talking to The Tribune, Mandar Singh, a farmer from Jassi Pauwali village, said they had high hopes of a package, especially with elections round the corner.

He admitted that anticipating debt relief, a majority of the farmers had even stopped paying instalments of their loan. However, when they did not see it coming, they resumed the payment of their loan.

At the same time, he said, the bumper cotton crop in the region had certainly helped the farmers reduce their debt burden to some extent.

Maghar Singh, another farmer from Shergarh village, said the peasantry should not look for an entire debt waiver, as the government, too, had its own limitations.

He said there was need for working out a system for debt waiver taking into account various factors like a farmer's repaying capacity and his track record in repayment.

"For instance, big farmers who were in a position to repay their loan also held back their loan instalments following media reports of a likely debt waiver," he added. Interestingly, they seemed content with the state government's performance on the agricultural front. On future hopes over the package, they speak in unison: "Different parties have different agenda and it is entirely up to the party which will form the next government in the state."

The district president of BKU-Ugraha, Mr Shingara Singh Mann, said the Congress government "merely misled the farmers" on the issue of debt relief. He said the powers that be could only waive off debt of big industrial houses and not poor farmers. He said the government had also talked about framing a law that aimed at regulating farm loans in the state, but nothing materialised.

The Senior Regional Manager of Punjab National Bank, Mr A.K. Jaitely, said the recovery of agricultural loans had declined drastically in the later half of 2006 and it had started picking up now.

He said the bank had also extended a helping hand to distressed farmers in the form of a one-time settlement scheme.


Pharmacists burn letter

Sangrur, February 9
Pharmacists today burnt photostat copies of a government letter, relating to bringing 906 posts of pharmacist and 1550 posts of Class IV employees under the diminishing cadre in the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Punjab, at the Civil Hospital here.

They also held a rally under the leadership of Mr Swarnjit Singh, general secretary of the Punjab State Pharmacists Association. — TNS


S.S. Grewal is SIC Secy
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 9
Mr S.S. Grewal, an officer of the Indian Defence Estate Services (IEDS), Ministry of Defence, has joined as Secretary to the State Information Commission, Punjab. Prior to this appointment, Mr Grewal was posted as Director Estates, Punjab Urban Planning and Development Authority (PUDA). 


Tribune agent dead

Pathankot, February 9
Mr Vir Chand, agent of the Tribune group of newspapers at Pathankot, died in a road accident near here yesterday.

He was 49. He is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.

He was cremated here today. The Tribune management paid tributes to the departed soul. Mr Chand had been associated with the newspaper for the last over 25 years. — TNS


1,836 bottles of liquor seized
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, February 9
Keeping in view the Assembly elections in the state, a special drive has been launched against liquor smugglers and bootleggers in the district.

During this drive, the police seized 1,836 bottles of liquor last night.

According to a senior police officer, the Tanda police intercepted a Tata 207 (No. PB-07M-7300) goods vehicle coming from Hargobindpur at a special checkpost at the Miani crossing.

During checking of the vehicle, the police seized 149 boxes (1788 bottles) of liquor.

The driver, Manmohan Singh, son of Khushi Ram, and his accomplice, Om Parkash, son of Shiv Lal, both of Hoshiarpur, have been arrested.

In another case, the Tanda police, on a tip-off, intercepted a Fiat Palio car (No. PB-08K-7675) and seized four boxes (48 bottles) of liquor. The police arrested the driver, Avtar Singh alias Tari, son of Anant Singh of Jaja.

All the accused were booked under Sections 61, 1, 14 of the Excise Act.


IT Fiesta-07
Tribune News Service

Kharar, February 9
IT Fiesta-07, a technical fest comprising events such as software and website designing, caption contest, debate, IT quiz was held at Guru Gobind Singh College for Women here yesterday. Students of 20 engineering colleges from Punjab and Chandigarh participated.

Five students from GGS College of Modern Technology, Kharar, also participated in IT quiz and web designing. First-year engineering students of the CSE branch Baltej Singh and Manjeet Singh won the second prize in web designing.


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