P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Voters to have the last word
We will put Amarinder behind bars
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Lambi (Muktsar), February 11
SAD chief Parkash Singh Badal and Congress candidate Mahesh Inder Singh Badal, both cousins, concluded their poll campaign on a confident note here today.

While the former Chief Minister roped in star campaigners like Shatrughan Sinha and Rajastahan CM Vasundhara Raje Scindia, true to his earthy personality, Mr Mahesh Inder held corner meetings in Sarawa Bodhla, Adhnia, and Khudia.

Addressing an election rally in Malout, Mr Badal launched a scathing attack on the Congress government.

“We will put Capt Amarinder Singh and a group of his ministers behind bars as we’ve adequate proof of corruption against them,” he said.

At the same time, he said nobody would be implicated in a false case. He accused the Chief Minister of being inaccessible to the people. He flayed the Congress government’s approach on the waters issue and refuted its claim of reviving the cotton crop in Malwa.

Projecting himself as a sympathiser of the farmers, he said farming was no more a profitable avenue and there was a need to extend subsidy on agricultural inputs.

His party would give amenities like free power and water to reduce the burden of the farmers.

He came down heavily on the Congress regime on issues ranging from rising prices to farmers’ woes.

In his address, Mr Shatrughan Sinha exhorted the electorate to reject the Congress whose government rained lathis on farmers, the jobless and women protesters. He claimed that their government would restore the “sheen” of Punjabis.

Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje Scindia said all sections were fed up with the Congress regime and it was high time Mr Parkash Singh Badal was handed over the reins of the state.

Mr Mahesh Inder sounded confident that the people would vote for the Congress policies, which had ushered in an era of growth and prosperity.


Wipe out SAD-BJP alliance
Our Correspondent

Ferozepore/Guru Harsahai, February 11
The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today gave a clarion call to the electorate to “wipe out the SAD-BJP alliance” and cautioned them to beware of “political stunts” of the Badal family.

Inclement weather notwithstanding, the Chief Minister kept his date with voters of this border district where he addressed election rallies in support of party candidates Hansraj Josan from Jalalabad, Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi from Guru Harsahai and Ravinder Singh Babbal from Ferozepore Cantt.

Addressing the gathering at Ferozepore, the Chief Minister accused Mr Parkash Singh Badal of exploiting the religious sentiments of Punjabis in the name of the Panth.

He said the SAD-BJP alliance had no vision for the development of Punjab and was involved in petty politics just to garner votes to promote their own clan.

He said the people of Punjab had realised that no party except the Congress could serve the masses with zeal.

He said the Congress had implemented all 66 poll promises made in its last election manifesto.

He said the Akalis were responsible for the staggering debt of Rs 54,000 crore which was brought down to Rs 24,000 crore by his government’s sincere efforts.

He said the Congress took a bold stand in safeguarding the interests of the farming community by annulling all previous agreements on river waters that saved about 16 lakh families of Patiala, Sangrur, Mansa, Bathinda, Barnala, Ferozepore and Faridkot districts.

On the other hand, he said, Mr Badal intentionally delayed this issue and bartered away the interests of Punjab for the sake of his friendship with former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala who was now campaigning for Mr Badal and his party.

In the previous Assembly elections, Capt Amarinder Singh, who was then heading the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, virtually faced no contest as both SAD and the All-India Shiromani Akali Dal fielded lightweights in the shape of Mr Sarup Singh Sehgal and Mr Jaswinderpaul Singh Chaddha, respectively.


Notices to CM, Kohli
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 11
The Election Commission has served notices on Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr S.S Kohli for violating the instructions pertaining to the use of vehicles.

After watching the video clips of the alleged violations, the Expenditure Observer, Mr T. Kipgen, asked the Returning Officer-cum-SDM, Mr Bhupinder Singh Rai, to serve notices on both candidates.

On earlier occasions, too, the EC had pulled up Capt Amarinder Singh for violations of the Model Code of Conduct. They have been asked to file replies within next 48 hours.

Meanwhile, Mr Kohli has complained to the EC that liquor was being offloaded at the official residence of the Chief Minister.


Amarinder files reply
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 11
The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, today submitted his reply to the Election Commission, saying that he did not say anything at a rally in Chamkaur Sahib that was beyond the party’s manifesto.

The Chief Minister has said his speech at the rally did not contain anything that was not mentioned in the manifesto, hence it did not violate the Model Code of Conduct. The Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab, has forwarded the reply to the Election Commission of India.


‘Rani’ holds fort in Patiala
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 11
The mascara on Ms Rishma Kaur’s eyes is as crisp as the mood on the final day of campaigning. She has everything in place - the make-up, the finery and the charm. This royal bahu knows the contours of the Patiala constituency like the back of her hand.

“Let me show you the places I covered,” she says, flanked by other women of the family, who’ve been camping at Moti Bagh Palace for a month. They’ve all put crucial tasks on hold to spruce up Capt Amarinder Singh’s campaign. While Ms Jainder, his daughter, has left behind her son preparing for the crucial board exams , Ms Amarinder, daughter of CM’s younger brother Malwinder Singh, has made Patiala her temporary home.

Giving them company are Ms Haripriya and Ms Sukriti Kumari, wives of Mr Malwinder Singh and the ‘Raja’ of Nalagarh Vijayinder Singh, respectively.

Ahead of the 5 pm deadline on a soggy day, the women lend the final touches to the campaign. The CM has been home only four times, campaigning, for other candidates.

Leading them all is CM’s wife Preneet Kaur, on whose shoulders rests the fate of several constituencies. She has toured Samana, Dakala and Ghanaur. In Rajpura where rebel Raj Khurana is in a tough fight, she has made several rounds to blunt the challenge.

Back home, she seems at peace. She starts her day by visiting the dera at Alipur Araiyaan. She has also paid obeisance at Nirmala Akhara in the walled city. “The Nirmalas are the best teachers of the Sikh religion,” she says, before halting at Ramdev Temple.

Blessings sought, she moves on to a tougher task - addressing rallies across the city. At every such gathering, after a measured speech comes a frenzied farewell. But Ms Preneet Kaur’s day is not yet over. She must assign poll duties and ensure the rain doesn't dampen spirits.


Price rise due to corruption: Malhotra
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 11
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Mr V.K. Malhotra, today said the rise in prices of essential commodities was related to “corruption”. The UPA government had allowed speculators a free run while trading in foodgrains on the commodities exchange.

Mr Malhotra, senior leader of the BJP, criticised the UPA chairperson, Ms Sonia Gandhi, saying “she keeps expressing concern while doing nothing on the issue”.

The Opposition would raise the issue in the Budget session of Parliament, he said.

“It is ironical that prices of essential commodities have been rising despite Ms Gandhi expressing concern over the issue at her parliamentary party meeting and writing three letters to the Prime Minister”, Mr Malhotra said while addressing a press conference here this afternoon.

The UPA should answer why the country was forced to import wheat. There was huge bungling because they wanted to benefit an Australian firm, Mr Malhotra alleged.

The issue of price hike would spell doom for the Congress in the Punjab elections, he said. The price hike had heralded “the beginning of the end of the UPA.”

The Opposition would also raise the issue of internal security. “Our Defence Minister said yesterday the Siachen issue would require action on the ground by Pakistan while at the same time the government maintains that relations with Pakistan are on the upswing.”

He accused the Congress of trying to raise the bogey of terrorism just before the elections in the state.

Mr Malhotra attacked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his statement that Muslims should have the first right on resources.

Asked what would be his party’s stand on water-sharing if the SAD-BJP came to power, he said the party would favour a tribunal on the issue.

He alleged the Uma Bharti-led Bharatiya Janshakti Party was being “helped and financed” by the Congress.

He said while the Congress was trying to portray itself as a secular party, it was “openly claiming support of a religious group”.


CM most arrogant: Advani
Our Correspondent

Fazilka, February 11
Calling Capt Amarinder Singh the most arrogant Chief Minister, Mr Lal Krishan Advani, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, drew a parallel between his regime and the Emergency imposed by late Indira Gandhi.

Mr Advani was addressing a rally in support of SAD-BJP candidate Surjit Kumar Jyani here today. He recalled that during the Emergency he had been jailed for no fault of his and the news of his arrest was censored. Following the Emergency, the Congress could not even open account in many states in the Lok Sabha elections.

He said the two Congress legislators Raj Kumar Gupta and Raj Kumar Khurana, who had quit the Congress to join the BJP, had said they quit the Congress as Chief Minister Amarinder Singh did not have time to meet them.

Development would be the priority of the SAD-BJP combine, if it was voted to power, Mr Advani added.


Touch and go in Gurdaspur
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, February 11
With the campaigning for the Assembly elections coming to an end today, the stage is set for a tough contest on most seats in the district.

The Congress is trying to protect its citadel in Gurdaspur. It had bagged 10 of the 11 Assembly constituencies in the last elections.

Rain played spoilsport with some candidates today. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, was to participate in an election rally at Fatehgarh Churian today. However, due to bad weather, he failed to turn up.

The Fatehgarh Churian border constituency is being considered as one of the toughest contested constituencies. The Congress candidate, Mr Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, and the SAD nominee have matched each other in harnessing votes in the areas.

In the Qadian constituency, the Chairman of the Pollution Control Board, Mr Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, is facing the SAD candidate, Mr Lakhbir Singh Lodhinangal. SAD rebels, including Mr Amarjeet Singh Bajwa from Qadian and an SGPC member, Mr P.S. Shampura, are making things difficult for the SAD candidate.

From the Kahnuwan constituency, the powerful Congress minister of the area, Mr Pratap Singh Bajwa, is locked in a keen battle with his archrival and former minister of the SAD, Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan.

From Gurdaspur, where a former DGP, Mr P.S. Bhinder, is facing his own protege, Mr Gurbachan Singh Babaehali of the SAD, the urban voter will be the deciding factor.

From Sujanpur, it is experience versus anti-establishment. Congress minister Raghunath Sahay Puri is facing BJP greenhorn Dinesh Kumar Babu. The BJP candidate has proved to be a novice in terms of campaigning before the powerful and old warhorse Congress minister.

From Dhariwal, the contest is between two Akalis. A former minister of the SAD, Mr Sucha Singh Langah, is facing his archrival and Independent candidate, Mr Sucha Singh Chottepur. The Congress candidate is a weak third.

In Shri Hargobindpur, there is a direct and close fight between Mr Fateh Jang Singh Bajwa of the Congress and the sitting SAD MLA, Mr Balbir Singh Badh.

In Pathankot, Narot and Dinanagar constituencies, the Congress candidates are on the backfoot against their BJP counterparts.

Meanwhile, the Gurdaspur police today confiscated about 70 trucks of liquor that were procured by contesting candidates to woo voters.


Sham Chaurasi MLA claims 80 cr spent on development
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 11
The Sham Chaurasi election agent for the Congress candidate has claimed that the MLA had spent approximately Rs 80 crore on rural development in the constituency over the past five years. The election agent has also claimed that the population of the township is much larger than reported in these news columns.

A look at the voters’ list for this township falling under the Sham Chaurasi (48) constituency, however, is contradictory to the claims. The latest list says that the township has two polling booths. Booth No. 28 has 1,230 registered voters and Booth No. 29 has 928 registered voters.

Both polling booths will be set up in the Khalsa Higher Secondary School’s east and west wings. This makes the number of voters in the town 2,058. The total “banyia” population of the area as reported is also found to be correct.

The people of the area have not been able to name a single new project started by the sitting Congress MLA during his tenure. His claim that “approximately Rs 80 crore have been spent/sanctioned for rural development” is all not substantiated by naming the new projects.

The claim has not named a single project. The Tribune reporter stands by the report.


Tarn Taran: Deras may affect outcome
Saurabh Malik and Gurbaxpuri
Tribune News Service

Tarn Taran, February 11
It’s a fight between the untried politicians and the experienced leaders in the border district of Tarn Taran.

For giving a new look to the freshly carved district, the Congress has fielded “faces new to Assembly elections” on all four seats. On the other hand, the SAD-BJP alliance has reposed its faith in the experienced statesmen.

In the absence of “campaigning by senior Congress leaders” for them, the going is apparently tough for the party candidates.

Compared to the other districts, Tarn Taran has more gurdwaras. It is also known for a large number of “deras’’ of different sects, wielding considerable influence over voters. Their support would have made all the difference. The area has always been perceived as an Akali bastion. During the last Assembly elections, the SAD bagged seats in three of the four constituencies going to the polls on February 13. In the Tarn Taran constituency, Independent Harmeet Singh Sandhu emerged victorious in 2002. This time he is contesting on the SAD ticket. Seven candidates are contesting from Tarn Taran, while the number of electors is 1,40,073.

A keen contest is expected between Mr Sandhu of the SAD and Mr Manjit Singh of the Congress. Mr Amrik Singh of the Lok Bhalai Party, too, has a strong supporter base. The other contestants are Mr Avtar Singh of the BSP, Mr Balwant Singh of the BSP (Ambedkar) and Independents Gurdev Singh and Rajbir Kaur.

In the reserved constituency of Khadoor Sahib, the fight is more or less between sitting SAD MLA Manjit Singh Mianwind and Tarsem Singh of the Congress. A retired Indian Revenue Service officer, Mr Tarsem is expected to give a tough fight to the SAD nominee. Eight candidates are in the fray and the number of voters is 1,23,532.

The other candidates are Mr Gurdiyal Singh of the CPI, Mr Jagtar Singh of the BSP, Mr Kawaljit Singh Gill of the BSP (Ambedkar), Mr Jaswant Singh of the Democratic BSP and Independents Sukhdev Singh and Surta Singh.

In Naushahra Panuwan, SAD nominee Ranjit Singh Brahampura is hoping for a hat trick. The competition is tough as Congress candidate Dharmbir Agnihotri Sheron has a strong following.

In Patti, sitting MLA Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, a relative of former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, continues to be a strong candidate. His Congress rival Harminder Singh Gill has been active in the students’ politics. In fact, he has been the president of the All-India Sikh Students’ Federation. 


Promises defy ground realities
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 11
Punjab’s future in agriculture is a big issue in the elections and parties have been claiming to be pro-farmers. However, election promises by main parties, aimed at the welfare of farmers, are contrary to ground realities.

A major promise in the manifestos of the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal is tubewell connections on demand. With farmers getting power free of cost, another promise of both parties, readily available tubewell connections will encourage further exploitation of the already depleting groundwater. It could lead to a grim water situation in the next 10-15 years, warns a senior soil scientist with the government.

The farmer of the state is at the crossroads: should they diversify from the traditional wheat-paddy cycle or not?

Both parties are silent on how they will financially help the farmers going for diversification. There is no promise if there will be minimum support prices for crops other than wheat, rice and cotton.

The SAD says it will “facilitate marketing” of potatoes and other vegetables. Also it will lay “special emphasis” on food processing. It does not say either if any MSP will be fixed for crops that consume less water and need minimum pesticides and fertilisers.

The Congress manifesto says the party will “encourage recharge of groundwater and take steps on its conservation”. The very next promise of the party is “to get deep tubewells sunk in the Kandi area….”

The party also says it will ensure diversification of agriculture and a system to fix MSPs for other crops. Which crops will be covered under the MSP system? It does not say anything. What financial incentive will farmers get for diversification? Again the party is silent.

One year ago the country had to import wheat for the first time in decades. Mr Hazara Singh of Laduka in Ferozepore says, “I wanted to grow vegetables but the lucrative price of wheat nowadays has forced me to adopt wheat-paddy cycle again”.

The Congress and the SAD have been demanding a market-linked or remunerative price for various crops. The Union Government, already facing flak for spiralling prices of wheat flour and rice, can ill-afford to hike the MSP to match the market price. 


Dealers turn power brokers
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Kharar/Morinda, February 11
Whatever may be the outcome of the Assembly elections in Kharar and Morinda, property dealers have already been “voted” to power here. With farmers getting unprecedented rates for their land in the past three years, the local property dealers are their “gods”, who, in turn, are using their hold on villagers to the utmost in the elections.

In Kharar, at least four candidates are property dealers. Claiming hold on large numbers of rural families, whom they helped sell their land and make crores, these dealers have the potential to tilt the political scales in these areas on the Chandigarh’s periphery.

Mr Anil Kumar, whose family has struck a number of property deals in the past few years, is the Bhartiya Janshakti Party candidate for Kharar. Mr Bhajan Singh Shergill of the SAD (1920), too, is a developer while Independent candidates Nichattar Singh Baidwan and Tarlochan Singh Mann are in the same profession.

“Dealers like Mr Harjinder Singh, Mr Major Singh are my campaign managers. Thanks to the Congress regime, they have been able to change lives of the rural population here”, said Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu, Congress candidate for Kharar.

The cost of land in these areas has increased so sharply in the past two years that these abound in rags-to-riches stories. A villager, who would not expect more than Rs 15 to Rs 20 lakh per acre from the government in case of acquisition by the government, has sold an acre for over a crore or more.

Two main contenders in Morinda, Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang of the Congress and Mr Ujagar Singh Badali of the Shiromani Akali Dal, have sought the support of local property dealers. “Most of the property dealers here are residents of the area who have made it big in the past decade. Their hold among voters is rather good,” said Mr Kamal Kishore, chairman of the Ilaka Sudhar Committee (Ghaar). He is supporting Mr Badali.

“Mr Arjun Singh, former Sarpanch of Kansal village, Mr Gurdhian, Mr Gurbachan and Mr Kesar Singh, all from Nayagaon, deal in property. They, too, are supporting Mr Badali. In the last elections, they were with Mr Kang. Mr Harbans Singh Bajwa, former Sarpanch of Nayagaon and property dealer, is Mr Badali’s supporter,” said Mr Kishore.

Property dealers are the lifeline of Mr Kang’s campaign. “Mr Harmesh Kumar and Mr Roshal Lal, alias Rosha, of Kansal, Mr Mukhtiar Singh, alias Mokha, and Mr Dalbir Singh from Nayagaon are supporting Mr Kang,” Mr Kishore said.


Rampura Phul charged
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Rampura Phul (Bathinda), February 11
Former minister in the Akali government Sikander Singh Maluka is engaged in a fierce poll battle with SAD-rebel-turned-Congman Gurpreet Singh Kangar in this constituency.

Contesting as an Independent, Mr Kangar defeated Mr Maluka by over 2,500 votes in the last elections. He spent over three years in the SAD and joined the Congress in 2005.

Both candidates are seeking votes by drawing a parallel between works done during their tenures as MLA. While Mr Kangar claims to have carried out more development in the area compared to his archrival, the former minister accuses him of being a turncoat and making false promises to people.

Mr Maluka is also banking heavily upon his party's development agenda, promising potable water, uninterrupted power supply, metalled roads and jobs to the youth.

On the other hand, the Captain card has tilted the scale in favour of Mr Kangar in the Chief Minister's ancestral village Mehraj, which has over 11,000 votes. The decision of Dera Sacha Sauda to support the Congress candidates will also work to his advantage. He highlights issues like bumper cotton crop and a smooth procurement during the Congress regime to voters in the rural areas.

The Congress campaign is likely to gather steam after AICC president Sonia Gandhi’s rally here tomorrow.

The seat has 36, the maximum number of very sensitive polling booths in the district.


Names deleted, allege Bagrian voters
Sushil Goyal
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, February 11
In a representation submitted to the Returning Officer of the Dhuri Assembly constituency, Mr Dilawar Singh, son of noted historian and Sikh scholar Bhai Ashok Singh Bagrian and resident of Bagrian village in the Dhuri constituency, has complained that six votes of their family members, including Bhai Ashok Singh Bagrian, have been deleted by the authorities concerned from the voters’ list though their names were in the list in 2003.

Mr Dilawar Singh has also appealed to the Returning Officer to rectify the “mistake” to enable them to exercise their right to vote.

Talking to The Tribune over the phone, Mr Dilawar Singh alleged that the Congress was behind the deletion of their names as they were basically Akalis.

Mr Rishi Pal Singh, SDM-cum-Returning Officer of the Dhuri constituency said a woman numerator had told him that she had gone nearly 10 times to the residence of the complainant at the time of preparation and revision of the voters’ list but every time except a servant no one was in the house. 


Vote for third front: Sarna
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, January 11
Mr Parmjit Singh Sarna, president, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), claimed that the third front would play a pivotal role in forming government in the state.

Addressing a press conference here today, he said the ‘magic of Panthic agenda’ was not working for Mr Parkash Singh Badal, Shiromani Akali Dal supremo.

Lashing out at Mr Badal for allegedly trying to buy executive members of the DSGMC, he wondered whether he (Mr Badal) wanted to loot ‘Guru ka Goluk’. Appealing to the people to vote for the third front to save the Sikh community and the Punjab, the DSGMC president said Mr Badal had done nothing for Sikhs who had shifted from Afghanistan during the Taliban rule.

He said the issue of release of Sikh youths lodged in the Nabha jail was not taken up by SAD even though it was a state subject. 


‘Jaago’ voter
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 11
Don't mistake it for a wedding if you come across girls taking out “jaago” through lanes and bazars. With campaigning coming to an end, parties have started using unique ways to bolster their poll campaigns.

“Jaago” was organised by womenfolk in support of the Congress candidate for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, Mr Surinder Singla, in posh colonies.

Meanwhile, the BJP-SAD candidate, Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, had to cancel his cycle rally due to inclement weather.

The Citizens Forum also took out “jaago” in Maqboolpura, where many deaths were reported due to drug addiction, with womenfolk urging voters not to vote for those who distribute drugs or liquor.

A former president of the Durgiana Management Committee, who resigned from the Congress and is contesting the Assembly elections on the BSP ticket, has been campaigning in the Amritsar Central constituency on a bicycle, saying that he does not have much resources at his disposal.

The young SAD-BJP candidate from Majitha, Mr Bikram Singh Majithia, organised a massive road show to conclude his election campaign.

Interestingly, supporters of Mr Arun Kumar Mehra, a Congress rebel from the Amritsar Central seat, today went door to door with lighted candles asking people for votes.


Three Independents back Capt
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 11
Three Independent candidates for the Patiala City Assembly segment announced their support to Capt Amarinder Singh here today.

According to the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, the Independents are Ms Amarjit Kaur, Mr Budh Singh and Mr Rakesh Kumar.

The segment is witnessing a straight fight between Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr S.S. Kohli of the SAD-BJP combine.

Ms Surinder Kaur, president of the All-India Mahila Wing (Bhauchara Sangathan), and Ms Gurmeet Kaur, general secretary of the Naujawan Mahila Wing, Patiala, too, have decided to support the Congress, the PPCC claimed.


District status key issue
Kiran Deep
Tribune News Service

Anandpur Sahib, February11
It’s going to be a tough fight between SAD patron Sant Ajit Singh and two-time winner Congress MLA Ramesh Dutt Sharma at Anandpur Sahib. What could bother the Congress here is the presence of the Congress rebel who has entered the fray as an Independent while for the SAD, denial of ticket to former minister Tara Singh Ladal could cost it dear.

Out of the eight elections held here since 1967, the Congress has emerged winner four times and the SAD two times. In the last Assembly elections, Congress nominee Ramesh Dutt Sharma defeated the SAD candidate, Mr Tara Singh Ladal.

The Congress candidate is highlighting the development works carried out by the Congress, including the Khalsa Heritage Project. For the SAD, the carving out of Mohali as a separate district without compensating the people of the district is the key issue.

What has become a cause of concern for the Congress is the chairman of the Zila Bachyo Sangharsh Committee, Dr R.S Parmar, who has extended support to the SAD nominee. Dr Parmar, who has a good hold over urban areas joined the SAD recently in protest against the decision of the Congress government to remove Mohali from Ropar district.

The Congress candidate is trying to minimise the damage that could be done due to the presence of the rebel candidate Amarjeet Singh Saini. The SAD, too, is putting in extra efforts for the Sant, a former chairman of the SAD parliamentary affair committee, who has returned to active politics after 15 years.


Vote for development, says minister
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, February 11
Union Minister Ashwani Kumar addressed a number of rallies in favour of Congress candidate Ashok Sharma here today. The Union Minister said in the next Five Year Plan, a sufficient fund would be allocated for Gurdaspur district.

He said a food processing unit and an advanced leather work training centre would be set up here.

Lashing out at SAD president Parkash Singh Badal, he said in his regime corruption was at its peak. It was Capt Amarinder Singh, who took steps to check corruption. He appealed to the people to vote for the development of the state.

In comparison to the BJP candidate, Mr Mohan Lal, who played Ravana in a Ram Lila, Mr Ashok Sharma, who played Lord Rama, is the best choice, he added.


Official suspended over code
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 11
A senior official of the Ajnala Cooperative Sugar Mill, Mr Jaswant Singh, has been suspended on the recommendation of Poll Observer M.P. Singh for campaigning in favour of Mr Sukhjinder Raj Singh Lalli, Congress candidate for the Majitha constituency.

The Returning Officer, Mr Vimal Setia, said Mr Jaswant Singh was the first government official in Punjab who had been placed under suspension for violating the Model Code of Conduct.


3 die as bus with supporters hits jeep
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, February 11
Three persons were killed and one was injured when a bus of Akali supporters rammed into a jeep on the Sadiq road, near here, this afternoon.

According to the eyewitnesses, the accident took place when the driver of the bus lost control over the vehicle and hit a Trax jeep head-on. Gurpreet Singh, Narinder Kaur and the driver of the jeep, who could not be identified, died on the spot. Another person, who was travelling in the jeep, sustained injuries and was admitted to a hospital in Ludhiana. All victims belonged to Sangrur. The bus was carrying supporters of SAD candidate Kushal Deep Singh.


Congress harps on Akalis’ poor progress report
Tribune News Service

Kharar, February 11
“Please do not leave in the rain. There is arrangement for everyone to be dropped in cars and buses. Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu has wished that no one should get drenched while travelling back,” announced a supporter of the Congress candidate from Kharar. Obviously not taking any chances with the fickle voters, Mr Sidhu today made a last-ditch effort to garner support from Kharar residents.

Rain played spoilsport at the Congress rally, the venue of which was shifted from Phase 8 Dasehra Ground in Mohali to the Anaj Mandi in Kharar. Though Mr Sidhu managed to pull in crowds at his last rally before the campaign ended this evening, their long wait for Captain Amarinder Singh and the Chief Minister of Haryana, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, remained endless.

Union Minister of State for Finance Pawan Kumar Bansal kept his word and shared the stage with Mr Sidhu in the rally. Making a strong appeal to his voters, Mr Sidhu said the Akali regime had brought destruction in its wake and had led to no development. “The SAD candidate Jasjit Singh Bunny and his father Captain Kanwaljit Singh don’t even know the name of villages of Kharar, how do you expect them to do any development?” he said.

He added that during the time when Captain Kanwaljit Singh was the Finance Minister he had failed miserably. “Akali leaders in the area had made promises of grants to villages here but no grants have reached. The employees were not given salaries,” he said further. 


Weather plays spoilsport on last day of campaigning
Chander Parkash & Ravi Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 11
Inclement weather conditions dashed the hopes of candidates of all political parties to take their campaign to a feverish pitch to garner maximum support on the last day of electioneering today.

Overnight rain, soggy weather conditions and an incessant downpour throughout the day kept the voters indoors and washed away the high voltage political speeches planned by various political parties.

While some candidates of different Assembly segments of the district managed to hold their respective rallies against all odds on the last day of campaigning, another section was left with no option but to cancel the rallies in the absence of star campaigners.

Former Union Home Minister and BJP bigwig L.K Advani was scheduled to address a gathering at Sher-e-Punjab market today afternoon to garner support for the SAD-BJP candidate, Mr Surjit Singh Kohli. However, apprehending a poor turnout due to rain the organisers deemed it prudent to cancel the rally.

The Anardana Chowk was the venue selected by the BSP think tank to hold a rally in favour of the party's candidate, Bhai Paramjit Singh, from this segment. The rally, which was addressed by Mr Narinder Kashyap, national general Secretary of the BSP, too was marred by adverse weather conditions.

Bollywood star and Rajya Sabha member Hema Malini who was expected to lend her magic at a rally to be held at Devigarh in favour of the SAD candidate from Dakala, Mr H.S Tohra, late last evening, too failed to turn up. In her absence former Delhi Chief Minister, Mr Sahib Singh Verma, held fort in the presence of several other district-level leaders.

However, Ms Hema Malini was present at a rally organised by the SAD at Rose Garden yesterday evening. For once, the electorate cut across party affiliations to listen to the film actress who made it a point to tell Patialvis that her husband, Dharmendra, had paid his regards to the people of the city. She also appealed to audience to vote for the SAD-BJP if the people "were to get rid of the Congress."

The Congress, perhaps through some divine intervention, seemed to have a premonition that the rain gods would disrupt proceedings on the last day of canvassing and thus had chalked out no such elaborate plan to woo the voters. The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, was away to Ferozepore district for seeking votes for party nominees while his kin was left to do some last minute door-to-door canvassing here.

Meanwhile, Mr Ajay Thapar, Secretary, PPCC, today claimed that three contestants from Patiala Assembly segment had announced their support to the Chief Minister and Congress candidate, Capt Amarinder Singh.


Jasjit makes last bid
Tribune News Service

Mohali, February 11
SAD-BJP combine candidate Jasjit Singh campaigned in villages on the last day of campaigning whereas his wife Sanjit Kaur and father Capt. Kanwaljit Singh, who is also the general secretary of SAD, campaigned in the city.

Jasjit addressed about 12 meetings at Khanpur, Mundi Kharar, Shampur, Gobindgarh, Janta Nagar, Barouli, Simble Majra, Valmiki Majri where he addressed gatherings urging people to vote for the SAD-BJP combine.

After winding up canvassing in villages, he held door-to-door campaign at Sohana.

Capt. Kanwaljit Singh also held rallies at Sugar, Dehri, Manakpur, Premgarh, Manoli, Saini Majra, Chilla, Mouli, Raipur Khurd and Kambali.

Meanwhile, the Pothohar Sabha led by its president S.S. Chandhok announced its support to Jasjit Singh. They handed over a resolution of their organisation to Capt. Kanwaljit Singh.


Cong symbolic of growth: Hooda
‘Badal minted crores and invested abroad’
Tribune News Service

Mohali, February 11
Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda addressed an election rally late last evening at Naya Gaon in the periphery of Chandigarh in favour of the Congress candidate from Morinda Assembly constituency Jagmohan Singh Kang.

He said the Congress was symbolic of development while SAD - BJP have always led to annihilation. Parkash Singh Badal had minted crores of rupees from the state and invested it abroad and in Haryana by joining hands with Mr Om Parkash Chautala.

He said in order to woo voters, Badal was making Utopian promises to the electorate. “Why couldn’t he implement these when there was Badal Government in Punjab,” asked Mr. Hooda. As a matter of fact, he said, during the Badal Government farmers were badly affected, as their produce was not lifted on time and farmers used to suffer for days together in mandis, power supply was quite erratic and jobs used to be sold for lacs of rupees.

Mr Hooda said history of past 50 years was testimony to the fact that whenever the country or states have progressed, it was only during the regime of the Indian National Congress. He said Congress party was National party whereas SAD was a regional party. He appealed to the people that in order to maintain the tempo of development, progress and prosperity, they should exercise their franchise in favour of the Congress.

He added that Mr Kang had made a lot at the state as well as at national level for according Nagar panchayat status to Naya Gaon, Nada, Kansal, Karoran and Janta Colony, which is in the vicinity of Chandigarh.

Mr Laja Ram, Himachal Pradesh MLA from Doon, called upon the Gujjar brotherhood to vote in favour of Mr. Kang.

Addressing the gathering, Mr. Kang said that he had unflinching faith in the people of his constituency that judging my record of the past 5 years, they would do justice on 13th February.


Last-ditch wooing efforts
Tribune News Service

Dera Bassi, February 11
Even as the election din for the February 13 Punjab elections ended today, the security forces organised a flag march to instill a sense of security among the electorate of the Banur Assembly segment.

With the winter virtually staging a comeback, the principal rivals, Capt Kanwaljit Singh(SAD-BICEP) and Mr Rakish Shermy(Congress), made last-ditch efforts to woo the voters. In the wake of yesterday's experience, when major rallies were washed out, the candidates did not organise any major rallies apparently due to inclement weather.

The entire focus shifted to the corner meetings and door-to-door campaigning. While Mr Shermy concentrated on the Zirakpur area, Ms Sarbjit Kaur and Ms Manpreet Kaur Dolly, wife and daughter, respectively, of Capt Kanwaljit Singh, campaigned in the constituency.

The supporters gave finishing touches to their strategies, including the preparation of the voter slips, to be distributed among the voters .

The official machniery geared itself for the D-day as the security forces organised flag marchs. The borders of Punjab with Haryana had been sealed and a strict vigil is being maintained on the anti-social elements.

All liquor shops were ordered to be closed at 5 pm in the Assembly segment. Similarly, the liquor vends falling in the vicinity of Punjab in the Haryana areas were also closed. 


Intense canvassing witnessed
Tribune News Service

Ropar, February 11
Intense canvassing was witnessed on the last day of campaigning in three Assembly constituency here today in spite of incessant rain.

The candidates of various parties preferred to address the rallies rather than go for door-to-door campaigning. Out of 25 candidates in the fray in the different Assembly segments in the district, the Congress used its heavyweights from outside the state to campaign for party candidates.

While for the SAD-BJP alliance former Deputy Prime Minister L.K Advani, SAD Chief Parkash Singh Badal, actor and Rajya Sabha member Hema Malini, SAD General Secretary, Sukhbir Badal, had already campaigned for candidates here earlier.

The Congress managed to bring Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde to Nangal and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh to Nangal and Anandpur Sahib to campaign for the party candidates. Besides these two, Himachal Pardesh Minister Ram Lal Thakur and MLA Mukesh Agnihotri also campaigned for the Congress candidate from Nangal constituency.

Union Minister for Steel, Fertilizers and Chemicals and president of Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) Ram Vilas Paswan, addressed a rally for party candidate Magar Singh in Nangal.

Two Independent candidates- Amarjeet Singh Saini from Anandpur Sahib and Charanjit Singh Channi from Chamkaur Sahib- who are reportedly giving stiff competition to other candidates, also canvassed with all their resources to prove their strength.


Five vehicles impounded for code violation
Tribune News Service

Rajpura, February 11
The local police today impounded five vehicles of Mr Karnail Singh Panjouli, an Independent candidate from the Rajpura segment, for violation of model code of conduct.

According to sources, Mr Panjouli was taking out an election rally without the permission of the Returning Officer, Mr A.P.S Virk. As many as five vehicles were found to be violating the model code of conduct and the Election Observer, Mr Vijay Arora, ordered that these should be impounded.

Mr Panjouli had already been issued a show-cause notice for violating model code of conduct, Mr Virk added.


Schools closed today

Sangrur, February 11
In view of the Punjab Assembly elections, Sangrur Deputy Commissioner S.R. Ladhar today ordered the closure of all government, private and public schools on February 12 in Sangrur district.

The Deputy Commissioner said the closure of the schools was necessitated as most of the teachers had been on election duty. tns


17 liquor vends to be closed
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 11
In wake of the elections in Punjab on February 13, the UT Excise Department has announced closure of 17 vends located on the border with Punjab. The vends will remain closed from February 11 (5 pm ) to February 13 (5 pm). 


Indira Gandhi inspired me, says Mt Everest conqueror
Our Correspondent,

Fazilka, February 11
PadmaShri and Arjun award winner Bachendri Pal, first Indian woman to scale Mount Everest, is leading a 12-member woman team of First All-Women Expedition Across the Thar desert entered the Punjab frontier yesterday at Nezeke check post of Fazilka sector. Ms Pal is leading the expedition for women’s empowerment. She was given a warm welcome here today by Mr Ajaib Singh, DIG, BSF, Mr Sunil Kapoor, Mr S.P.S.Sandhu, Mr S.V.Mukerjee, Mr R.S. Tanwar, Ravi Kant all Commandants of BSF battalions. Talking to reporters at Nezeki check post Ms Pal said main motive of her team was to create confidence and feeling of empowerment amongst women.

She said it was essential for the women to adjust themselves according to the present and changing global scenario. For this the women should get rid of mental blocks. She lamented since ancient times women had been considered weaker gender but now the women had contributed in all spheres and established their identity. She revealed she got inspiration to scale Mount Everest from late Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi. Since her childhood she aspired to get an opportunity to be with Indira Gandhi who she considered to be her role model. For this she was determined for an adventurous feat. When she decided to climb the Mount Everest she first of all, had to cross hurdles and barricades of her family which were no less than the Mount Everest itself. Her dream was fulfilled in 1984 when she reached Mount Everest, the highest peak of the world. Thereafter she got opportunity to meet Mrs Gandhi.

Pleading 33 per cent reservation in politics for women Ms Pal denied she was keen on entering politics. She called upon women to emulate Kalpna Chawla, P.T. Usha, Sunita William and bring in desired change in society.

Ms Pal who started her expedition from Rann of Kutch from January 17 will end the expedition at Wagah check post. She appreciated the BSF for performing duty in difficult situations. She also addressed a meeting at border village Roop Nagar and later witnessed the Retreat Ceremony at Sadiqi joint check post in Fazilka sector.


4 die in pile up

Moga, February 11
At least four persons were killed and three injured seriously following a pile up of two trucks and a car at Kili Chalan village on the Moga-Ludhiana road today.

The accidents took place after a truck applied brakes and another mini-truck following it rammed into it. A car also hit the mini-truck from behind, the police said.

The deceased were identified as mini-truck driver Gurcharan Singh and conductor Mander Singh and two car occupants Avtar Singh and his mother-in-law Parvinder Kaur.

Mr Gagandeep Singh, Ms Manpreet Kaur and their mother Rajinder Kaur (all occupants of the car), who were injured seriously, were hospitalised. A case has been registered. — PTI


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