L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S

Fate of 132 candidates to be sealed today
Amarjit Thind and Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 12
As voters of the 12 Vidhan Sabha constituencies walk to the polling booths on Tuesday, their minds will already be made up in respect of the candidates and parties.

They will have gone through various permutations and combinations besides weighing the pros and cons of the parties and candidates in the fray. After three weeks of acrimonious campaigning and media blitzkrieg, the fate of 132 candidates will be sealed in the voting machines by the evening.

Most of the constituencies here have witnessed three cornered fierce contests. Besides traditional rivals, the Congress and the Shiromini Akali Dal (SAD) BJP alliance, other political parties like SAD (A), CPI, NCP, BSP, SP, Jan Morcha, Panthers Party, RSP, have also put up their candidates. There are about half a dozen rebels within both the Congress and SAD in the fray.

Among the hot seats in the state, all eyes will be on Khanna (Reserve) constituency which has witnessed a very keen contest between PPCC chief Shamsher Singh Dullo and Mr Bikramjit Singh Khalsa of the SAD. The former is seeking election for the third time while his opponent is a first timer from here. Khalsa had earlier won from Dakha. Mr Dullo is a seasoned politician and was the Excise and Taxation Minister in the Beant Singh Government. Battling the outsider tag, Mr Khalsa has been able to put up a spirited fight with his opponent but it remains to be seen for whom the voter votes. The BSP has fielded Mr Swaran Singh from here.

Another important constituency is Payal which returned the late Beant Singh to power and is now being represented by his son and former minister, Mr Tej Prakash Singh. His opponent is SAD’s Maheshinder Singh Grewal who has found the going tough in the face of rebel Akali candidate Jagjivanpal Singh Gill.

Mr Kartar Singh Bowani is the CPI nominee while Mr Gurchet Singh is the BSP candidate. Mr Tej Parkash Singh is facing a rebel in Amrik Singh Rauni who was once loyal to Mr Beant Singh and is likely to affect the Congress votes. Mr Grewal will have the advantage of the CPI, BSP and the rebel Congress nominee being in the fray.

Kila Raipur is another rural constituency which has witnessed a gladiatorial contest between the SAD nominee and sitting MLA Jagdish Singh Garcha and Mr Jasbir Singh Khangura, a son of Mr Jagpal Singh Khangura, Congress in charge of the constituency.

Mr Jasbir Singh Khangura surrendered his British citizenship to seek election from this constituency. Kila Raipur has been a pocket borough of the Akalis and has never returned a Congress candidate since 1967 when this constituency was carved out.

History seems to be in the making if the Congress wins this time. The Khanguras have nurtured this constituency during the past five years with money and started several new projects.

Mr Garcha too is leaving no stone unturned to maintain the status quo. Both the opponents have been running a bitter ad war against each other and it remains to be seen whether the effort pays up.

Similarly, the case is no different in Dakha where the Akali candidate, Mr Darshan Singh Shivalik, is locked in a direct fight with Mr Malkiat Singh Dakha, the Congress candidate who has won on two earlier occasions. Mr Shivalik ran a concerted media campaign against Mr Dakha, but the latter did not react on a day-to-day basis.

Here, both the Congress and the Akalis are worried at the prospects of the support being garnered by Mr Harinder Singh Khalsa of the Third Front and comrade Amarjit Mattu of the CPI. Both have reportedly made inroads into the vote bank of the Akalis and the Congress respectively.

In Jagraon, two time sitting Akali MLA Bhag Singh Mallah is locked in an straight fight with Mr Gurdeep Singh Bhaini of the Congress. While the campaign of the former picked up in the initial days he is facing problems from Third Front candidate Gurdeep Singh Moti. Anti-incumbency, too, is stated to be a major reason.

For Mr Bhaini, whose campaign peaked in the concluding days, his undoing could be the Gurcharan Singh Galib factor. The former MP, who was refused the party ticket this time, has refused to work for Mr Bhaini and this could reflect on the outcome since Mr Galib enjoys considerable influence in this area.

In Raikot, sitting Akali legislator Ranjit Singh Talwandi is battling it out with Harmohinder Singh Pradhan of the Congress. In a neck and neck fight, both the candidates are making it a matter of prestige to win the seat.

While Pradhan is a wealthy liquor contractor and is ensuring that nothing is left to chance, Ranjit too is trying to match his opponent in equal terms besides banking on the developmental works in the constituency and the influence of his father, former SGPC chief Jagdev Singh Talwandi.

Samrala constituency has Mr Amrik Singh Dhillon as the Congress nominee and he is seeking election for the third time. He is facing Mr Jagjivan Singh of the SAD and Mr Himmat Singh of the SAD (Amritsar). Mr Dhillon initially faced some problems from Jagjivan but managed his campaign quite well. He is likely to retain his seat since he has served his constituency well.

In Kum Kalan, sitting MLA Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal is facing tough competition from Mr Isher Singh Meharban of the Congress. They were in a neck and neck fight and it remains to be seen who pips the other at the hustings.

This bet area constituency has been nicely nurtured by Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal who also represented this constituency in the past.

In the Ludhiana North seat, the “Bagga factor” would weigh heavily on the outcome of Ludhiana North constituency in the coming Assembly elections, where Congress candidate Rakesh Pandey is pitted against Mr Harish Bedi of the SAD-BJP combine. The rebel Congress leader turned Independent candidate, Mr Madan Lal Bagga, who withstood many pressures to stay on course, can even prove to be a dark horse if people decide to vote against Mr Pandey.

Mainly causing a dent on the vote bank of Mr Pandey, Mr Bagga can tilt the balance in favour of Mr Bedi in this constituency, known as a Congress stronghold. Interestingly, the electorate of this segment has returned Congress candidates to the Assembly for eight times while it went to polls for nine times.

Ludhiana West constituency is heading for a direct contest between the Congress stalwart, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, and SAD nominee Harish Rai Dhanda. The sitting MLA and minister, Mr Johar, has won from this seat thrice in 1985, 1992 and 2002. He had, however, lost to Akali leader Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal in 1997.

The Ludhiana Rural constituency, the biggest in the state, is all set for a direct contest between the sitting Congress MLA, Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi and SAD candidate, Mr Hira Singh Gabria and two candidates from BSP and Rashtriya Jan Morcha may affect the mandate.

Ludhiana East is again locked in a direct contest between sitting MLA, Mr Surinder Dawar, and BJP old war horse Satpal Gosain.



Disillusioned, they will not vote
Lovleen Bains

Doraha, February 12
A large number of disillusioned voters seem to be absolutely clear about their voting option this time. It is not that they shall be staying back. On the contrary, they shall be walking up to the election booth but refuse to vote for any candidate.

Talking to a cross-section of voters, it was noticed that the common man is literally fed up with the shrewd policies and strategies and false promises of various political parties. A resident of Doraha opined: "I shall be going to the election booth but at the same time shall not exercise my right to vote as it my decision and nobody can compel me to do so. But my vote would be very much registered in the register of the voters. It would send a message to the contenders that the voters will no more be lured by their false promises."

"The candidates who are today claiming that they would leave no stone unturned if voted to power, shall surely enjoy a complete five-year hibernation. Today, the ones who stoop to every level of humility and generosity are surely going to become unapproachable to one and all after they are voted to power. I fail to understand as to why the ignorant voters are taken in by the tall talk of these shrewd politicians every time as they are very well aware that by doing so they are digging their own graves. I shall advise voters that they would be best serving democracy if they refuse to exercise their right to vote," a voter added.

Another voter contended: "I am completely dissatisfied with any of the political parties as no single party has ever talked sense. All are engaged in leg-pulling and back-biting. One is condemning the other for 'misappropriation' and the latter condemns the former for 'inaction.' The political parties seem to have no other poll manifesto but to criticise and let each other down by hook or crook. Each day through print or electronic media, what one finds is nothing but the hullabaloo raised by these parties by way of each other’s condemnation. The anti-party campaign is more prevalent rather than the party campaign for general good. I live in a democratic set-up and I am at least free to exercise my right to vote which I would not be exercising at all."

Another disillusioned voter finds no candidate fit to become the ruler of the masses. "As almost all the contenders are contending either by means of money or through their powerful associations, none is fit to understand and resolve the miseries of the common man. Gone are the days when candidates were finalized on the basis of their merit and noble deeds performed by them. Today, most of them are a blot on the fair name of democracy. As I am in no mood to vote in favour of such candidates, I shall definitely refuse to vote on the very spot."

In a booklet issued to the presiding officers, it has been mentioned that an entry of such a voter should be made in the remarks column against the entry relating to that elector in the register. Going by Clause No. (XVIII) at page No. 5 of the broad outlines of duties given in the handbook for presiding officers released by the Election Commission of India, 2004, "the signature or thumb impression of the elector should be obtained on the register of voters (Form 17A) before he is allowed to record his vote. If an elector refuses to put his signature or thumb impression on the register of voters, he shall not be permitted to vote and an entry 'Refused to vote' will be made in the 'remarks' column of the register of voters."

Also, according to Clause 23.1 at page No. 81 of the same booklet, there is an instruction for the presiding officers: "Do not press or compel an elector to vote if he decides not to vote after his particulars have been noted in the register of voters. Make an entry to that effect in the remarks column against the entry relating to that elector in the register." 



Negligent driver gets10 years’ RI
Rammed van into train at unmanned railway crossing
Rajneesh Lakhanpal

Ludhiana, February 12
A driver, who snuffed out two young lives due to his negligent and careless driving, has been awarded ten years’ rigorous imprisonment.

The aggrieved families were little consoled as the accused, Gurvinder Singh of Dugri, responsbile for the untimely death of their beloved children, Geetanshu Sharma (5) and Twinkle (12) was handed down the sentence.

The orders were pronounced by Mr HPS Mahal, Additional Sessions Judge, Ludhiana, who also imposed a fine of 3500 on the accused.

The incident took place in 2004. A number of students of Shri Guru Harkrishan Public School were returning to their houses in the van being driven by the accused. The accused while driving his van in a rash and negligent manner had rammed it into a train at an unmanned railway crossing between Ludhiana and Gill village.

Resultantly, two chidren had lost their lives and around 15 recieved injuries.

Initially, the accused was booked under Sections 279,337,338,304-A, IPC, and under Section 161 of the Railways Act at the GRP police station, Ludhiana. Later, a trial court had found that there was sufficient evidence against the accused for trying him under Section 304 of the IPC. Then the case was referred to the Sessions Court.

The Additional District Attorney, Mr A S Chadha, informed that the prosecution had examined as many as 16 witnesses to prove the guilt of the accused. The train driver, Mr Amar Nath, had deposed before the court that he had started blowing the whistle of the train but the accused did not care. First the accused stopped the van but later on tried to cross the railway track but got stuck in between.

However, the accused had pleaded his innocence. It was pleaded by the defence counsel that the accident had occurred due to the growth of trees on both sides of the railway track, which made the tracks invisible. But after appreciating the evidence on record, the court held that the plea was not tenable. The eye-witnesses had categorically deposed that one three-wheeler was already waiting for the train to pass but the accused overtook it hurriedly without waiting for the train to pass, observed the court.



UCPI supports Congress
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 12
For continued constructive development and communal amity between different communities, the United Communist Party of India (UCPI) is supporting the Congress party in the Assembly elections in Punjab.

Mr Charan Gill, general secretary of the UCPI, said at Khanna, that to advance the secular policies of the UPA Government, the victory of the Congress was necessary.

He said communal forces were trying to expand their base in Punjab through the Akali-BJP alliance. “Off course these forces will seem to pick up issues for the common man and will conceal their fangs tactically. He cautioned the Left forces not to be complacent as these communal forces tend to bare their true fangs when firmly entrenched.”

Mr Gill said that the 'third front' policy of the CPI-CPM had confused the cadres of these parties and in fact this would indirectly help the communal forces. These parties are rightly supporting the UPA Government at the Centre and the same reasons existed in Punjab for them to have supported the Congress here. They shouldn't forget their earlier hobnobbing with the BJP in the nineties. He said that Narendra Modi was the true face of the BJP and the Left parties shouldn't even remotely be seen supporting the modern day Nero.

He said the UCPI workers all over the state are active in campaigning for the Congress with Mr Sukhinder Singh in the lead at Faridkot and Moga, Mr Baljit Bhullar in Bathinda and Muktsar and Mr Charan Gill and Mr Raghbir Singh at Khanna, Payal, Patiala and Sangrur. He said they were receiving good support from the cadre of Left parties. 


Punjab VOTES ’07

Offices, schools, colleges closed today
20.6 lakh voters to decide fate of candidates
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 12
As many as 20.6 lakh voters will decide the fate of 132 candidates as the Ludhiana Assembly segment goes to polls tomorrow. The district administration has completed its preparations and more than 7,000 police personnel apart from paramilitary forces would take care of law and order in the 12 constituencies in this segment.

While offices and educational institutions remain closed on account of elections tomorrow, political parties are required to adhere to strict instructions, including not taking constituents to polling booths in their vehicles. Electronic Voting Machines have been sent to various polling booths.

For voters who did not receive their voter identity cards the Election Officer has said that they can use their passports, driving licenses, PAN cards and other identity cards issued by Central Government departments and public sector undertakings.

This Assembly segment has 729 polling booths which have been identified as sensitive and very sensitive by the administration. Of the 20.6 lakh voters, 9.79 lakh are female voters. There will be a total of 2,057 polling stations.

Apart from 195 supervisors taking care of 195 patrolling teams and other staff for security, over 10,000 polling staff has been deputed as presiding officers and assistant presiding officers.

In terms of number of voters, Ludhiana rural has the highest of 4.7 lakh while Ludhiana east has the minimum number of 91,217. There are around 1.48 lakh voters in Jagraon constituency, 1.25 lakh in Raikot, 2.87 lakh in Dakha, 1.29 lakh in Quila Raipur, 1.34 lakh in Ludhiana north, 1.37 lakh in Ludhiana west, 1.23 lakh in Payal, 1.47 lakh in Koom Kalan, 1.17 lakh in Samrala and 1.50 lakh in Khanna.

The number of polling stations would be 145 in Jagraon, 121 in Raikot, 280 in Dakha, 129 in Qila Raipur, 139 in Ludhiana north, 144 in Ludhiana west, 100 in Ludhiana east, 436 in Ludhiana rural, 124 in Payal, 152 in Koom Kalan, 124 in Samrala and 163 in Khanna. The number of sensitive booths is the highest in Ludhiana rural at 95.



When only voter cards are not enough
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 12
Despite possessing valid voter cards, they will not be able to cast their votes tomorrow. A number of residents today complained that their names were not in the voter list although they have the voter cards.

Just a few hours before the city would go to polls, some residents of Model Town Extension said their names were not in the voter list this time. This despite the fact that there was no change in their residential addresses. They said they had been residing there for the past many years and had cast votes during the earlier elections.

Ms Manjeet Sodhia, former Principal, Government College for Women, said she was shocked to find that her name was not in the list. She said she had a voter card that was prepared in 2004 and she had always cast her vote earlier.

A resident of 176-B, Model Town Extension said she came to know about it when she called up a candidate stating his slips had not reached her. ‘‘It was only then that he checked up about it on the Election Commission’s website. My name is not there. I cannot do anything at this hour,’’ she said.

She said she was pained to find that her name was not there. ‘‘Every vote makes a difference. A number of persons have been deprived of the right to vote just because of clerical errors or the irresponsible attitude of authorities concerned.’’ She said many of her neighbours’ name were also not in the list this time.

Similarly, Mr Rajiv Mehra, a resident of 112-B. Sarabha Nagar, said his and her wife Seema Mehra’s name was not there in the list. ‘‘We have the voter cards. We were happy that we had got prepared our cards years ago and we did not have to run around this time. But we were shocked to see that our names were not there in the list.’’ He said they were staying in that house for the past six years and their name was in the list during earlier elections. ‘‘How can they delete our names without finding out whether we are there or not?’’ he said. Had he not logged on to the website, he would have come to know about it only tomorrow after going to the polling booth for casting his vote, he added.



Razia gets support from overseas body
Our Correspondent

Mandi Ahmedgarh, February 12
Ms Razia Sultana, Congress nominee from Malerkotla, received a shot in the arm when members of the Indo-American Progress Council, an overseas organisation, announced to support her in ensuing Assembly elections. Claiming that their organisation was non-political, the organisers maintained to have approached voters through 150 associates who were spread over many countries.

Mr Nirmal Singh Sandhu, president of the organisation, claimed the decision to support Ms Razia was taken in recognition of the exemplary development projects undertaken by the councillor.

He said the relatives and friends of the members of the council had shown great response to their appeal to support the Congress nominee. “As the Congress government, led by Captain Amarinder Singh, has succeeded in bringing development in all sectors during the past five years, people have responded positively to our appeal,” said Mr Sandhu.

Mr Sandhu claimed the associates of the council, including doctors, engineers and scientists, had impressed upon their friends and relatives to support candidates with clean image in their respective constituencies. 



Election campaign in door-to-door mode
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 12
With just a few hours left before Ludhiana would go to the polls and electioneering coming to an end, the candidates of various parties tried to woo voters by establishing personal contact with them throughout the day.

The candidates remained on their toes to meet people and strike a personal rapport with them as a last-ditch effort.

‘‘It is better to meet people and get over anxiety. While on the move, it provides a satisfaction that at least we are doing something in that direction. Rest is up to the electorate,’’ said a candidate.

It being a sunny day, the candidates heaved a sigh of relief that they had got some more time to request for votes. ‘‘With the request, we were able to carry slips giving voters numbers. This way we helped the residents. Otherwise, they would have to waste a lot of time finding their names in the list,’’ said Mr Jagmohan Singh, Sanjha Morcha candidate.

Mr Madan Lal Bagga, an Independent from Ludhiana (North), said he did not have to address a rally or a meeting today and he had enough time to be with the people. ‘‘I started the day at 7 am. I plan to continue knocking at their doors till late evening,’’ he said.

His rival, Mr Rakesh Pandey, sitting MLA and Congress candidate, also went from door to door to meet residents of Talab Wali Gali, Gulchaman Gali, Bagh Wali Gali and many other areas and urged upon them to vote for him.



Valentine’s Day shopping rains profit for gift shops
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 12
As the young and old make a beeline for gifts for Valentine’s Day it is the shops offering these that are raking in moolah by selling a wide variety of gift items. Despite the prevailing election fervour the city markets are wearing a festive look for the Valentine’s Day.

Shops in Ghumar Mandi, Sarabha Nagar and other areas are colourfully decked up and are showcasing a wide range of items right from greeting cards to jewellery, watches, garments etc for the special day.

For shop owners it is celebration time as after Divali it is the Valentine’s Day that they look forward to for a jump in sales. "We had thought that due to elections the Valentine’s Day spirit would be low but actually people have purchased their gifts in advance and sales have already witnessed an increase. Last year we recorded more than 100 per cent jump in sales and this time too a similar trend is being expected," a shopkeeper in Ghumar Mandi said.

The media hype around this time of the year normally pushes up sales. Even though this year the hype has not been that much, yet it is boom time for these shopkeepers.

For college goers, popular gifts are normally the low-budget innovative ones. "I cannot afford costly jewellery but I will gift perfume and cosmetics to my girlfriend. It is innovation that is important. Price is not what matters when it comes to expressing love," said Vipul Kumar, a student.

The young working class, however, is going in for "uniqueness" and high budget stuff. A large number of people are also opting for online purchases. The market is full of offers from jewellers, home equipment manufacturers for gifts to make Valentine’s Day a special occasion.

Apart from couples, there is no dearth of people who are buying gifts for their siblings, friends and other near and dear ones. 



Cash, jewellery worth Rs 1.25 lakh stolen
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 12
In a complaint to the police, Mr Shakti Gandhi, a resident of Vikas Nagar Extension on Pakhowal Road, said his house had been burgled and the burglars had left with cash and jewellery worth Rs 1.25 lakh on February 9.

He said he was away to his office and his wife and children had gone to their respective schools on that day. On returning, they found their house had been burgled.

He added that the lock of the main gate was intact and the burglars had scaled the boundary wall and broken into the drawing room.

He claimed that the thiefs had broken open the almirah and had taken away Rs 15,000 cash and gold and diamond jewellery. The police has registered a case.



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