M A I N   N E W S

Punjab Votes ’07
Who will govern Punjab, Capt or Badal?
But weather may spoil politicians’ pitch
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 12
A day before Punjab goes to the polls, two firing incidents, minor skirmishes and recovery of a sizeable quantity of liquor and “bhukki” were reported. Besides, the SAD (A) candidate from Jandiala Guru reportedly went missing.

After the Beas firing incident in which an Akali worker was killed on January 29 and another firing incident in Sardulgarh, the campaign period has mostly remained incident-free, says the Director-General of Police, Mr Rajdeep Singh Gill.

Though a few cases of deaths due to alcohol had been reported from different parts of the state, yet there was no evidence to link these to the elections.

Talking to The Tribune, he said all cases of election-related violence had been worked out. These included a firing incident in Mehraj, native village of the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, last night.

“A gunman of an Akali candidate, Mr Sikander Singh Maluka, opened fire after a crowd of political workers gheraoed him and his supporters at Mehraj village. They were even attacked before the gunman of Mr Maluka fired a few shots in which a Congress supporter was injured in the leg. The gunman has been arrested. A case has been registered against Mr Maluka’s NRI son Gurcharan Singh, alias Charanjeet, three gunmen and an aide. Further investigations are in progress,” said Mr Gill.

The earlier firing incident in the Malwa belt was reported from Sardulgarh where the son of a Congress candidate, Mr Ajit Inder Singh Mofar, was arrested.

It was the Beas firing incident which brought the state law and order machinery under the scanner of the Election Commission. “In that case, all those named have been either arrested or have joined the investigations,” said Mr Gill.

Another firing incident was reported from Baghapurana last night. This, however, could not be confirmed. According to reports, a police party was fired upon allegedly by a group of unidentified political activists.

The police and paramilitary forces have been told to act in “fair and free manner, besides carrying out all orders of the Election Commission as well as their superiors,” said Mr Gill.

He said at some places there were minor skirmishes, sloganeering and even verbal exchanges as attempts were made to paste posters or hang banners.

The police also recovered huge quantities of liquor and drugs, including “bhukki” from different places. The largest seizure of liquor and “bhukki” was reported from Barnala from a godown opposite the main camp office of a candidate.

Mr Gill made it clear that no outsider would be permitted to stay within the polling area of any constituency as all hotels, dharamshalas and hostels had been instructed to inform the district or the local authorities of any outsiders staying there.

Police sources said for the past three days, they had been receiving a large number of calls from candidates, their workers and supporters over alleged violations by their rivals. In most of the cases, the calls were found to be bogus or minor.

“We are not taking any chances. The force will ensure a smooth, fair and free polling tomorrow,” Mr Gill added.

A report from Barnala said in the biggest-ever recovery of liquor boxes from one place during the on-going Assembly elections, the police on Monday seized 1,450 boxes of liquor (three truckloads), 12 kg of poppy husk, thousands of flags and banners of the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Morcha, besides an unspecified number of sticks from a house in Gurdev Nagar there.

The poppy husk was seized from a car parked in the complex of the house.

This house is situated just at a stone's throw (about 50 yards) from the residential accommodation of Mr Kewal Singh Dhillon, Congress candidate from Barnala and vice-president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee.

The police conducted search operations in this house on a complaint of a youth leader of the SAD, Mr Jaswinder Singh Manti.

In his complaint to the Chief Election Commissioner of India, Mr Manti alleged that the liquor, poppy husk and election material belonged to the Congress candidate, Mr Kewal Singh Dhillon, and hence his candidature should be rejected as he had violated the election code of conduct.

Mr Dhillon, however, rubbished the allegations, saying that the material had been planted by his opponent and SAD candidate, Mr Malkiat Singh Keetu, to defame him.

On the other hand, Mr Keetu told a press conference that Mr Dhillon's allegation against him was just to save his own skin.

A report from Amritsar said SAD (A) candidate Savinder Singh from the Jandiala Guru constituency was missing since Sunday evening, even as his party leadership alleged that he was kidnapped from his native village Baserke Bhaini in Amritsar district by some unidentified persons.

General secretary of the party Bhai Ram Singh said a complaint had been sent to the Election Commission in this regard and they had sought countermanding of the poll from the seat.

The SSP said action would be taken against the gunmen attached to the candidate in case he was found guilty. (Inputs from Perneet Singh, Sushil Goyal and Varinder Walia)



Seven held with voter ID cards
Tribune Reporters

Chandigarh, February 12
Apprehensions of sale of voter ID cards came true today with the police arresting party workers at different places in the state.
In Muktsar, two supporters of SAD candidate Sukhdarshan Singh Marar and five women were arrested with 18 voter ID cards. Mr Marar’s supporters allegedly hurled stones at the police station, damaging a police vehicle.

According to sources, the persons were arrested at a shop, which belongs to the relative of a confidant of Mr Marar. Later, all arrested persons were released on bail. The police arrested four persons for allegedly using money to woo voters in favour of the Congress candidate in Kapurthala. Those who have been arrested are Jaswant Singh of Mohali, Surjit Singh of Malha village in Shahkot, Jalandhar, Surinder Singh and Avtar Singh, both residents of Sector 22-C, Chandigarh.

Earlier, the Kapurthala candidate of the SAD and his workers blocked the Kapurthala-Sultanpur Lodhi road in protest against the alleged distribution of cash among voters by Congress workers.

The Faridkot police arrested 13 Akali supporters while they were allegedly buying votes in a local hotel here. Eight mobile phones and Rs 1.5 lakh were seized. They admitted that they were trying to buy votes for the Akali candidate from Faridkot, Mr Kushal Deep Singh Dhillon. All accused have been remanded in judicial custody.

Meanwhile, one of the supporters of Mr Raminder Singh Bularia, SAD candidate for Amritsar South, was detained for distributing wheat flour free of cost.

(Inputs from Muktsar, Kapurthala, Faridkot and Amritsar.)



2 more observers suspended
Tribune News Service

Action against D.S. Jaspal ordered

New Delhi, February 12
The Election Commission today suspended two Observers and ordered disciplinary action against Mr D.S. Jaspal, Secretary, Public Relations, for serious dereliction of duty.

Meanwhile, the Congress in Uttarakhand received a jolt with the poll panel taking serious view of the violation the code of conduct and issued notices to senior party leader Motilal Vora and Union Minister Suresh Pachouri. Sources said they have been asked to reply to the notice by tomorrow evening.



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