L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S

Minor skirmishes during polling
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 13
Beating up of a close aide of SAD candidate for Ludhiana West, Mr Harish Rai Dhanda, an advocate in the wee hours at Jawahar Camp, set the tone for the Assembly poll in the city today. Besides many other skirmishes were also reported, mainly in the Ludhiana West segment.

Mr Dhanda's supporter, Mr Harish Narang, was beaten up badly at 2 am allegedly by Congress workers in the area, who counter-alleged that he was distributing freebies to voters to woo them. His jaw bone was fractured and he had to be rushed to the DMC Hospital. He was operated upon in the morning today.

The police has registered a case under Sections 323, 341,148,149,506 and 120-B, IPC, against Mr Raj Kumar Mehra, a Congress worker and husband of area councillor Santosh Mehra.

While the Congress camp denied having any role in Mr Narang's beating, Mr Dhanda's camp alleged that he was beaten up as he was keeping a watch on the activities of Congress men.

High drama was witnessed at Sarabha Nagar Convent School at around 1 p.m. today when Mr Dhanda's supporter, Mr Dinesh Kumar, alleged that Mr Johar's daughter-in-law had brought some migrants to the polling booth in a truck and was trying to make them cast votes in Mr Johar's favour.

Mr Dinesh Kumar allegedly detained the migrants and reported the matter to the police. Mr Johar's son, Mr Ajay Johar, said the migrants were their supporters and had reached the venue in a confusion. He said they had lost voter I-cards and were seeking help from his younger brother.

SHO Sarabha Nagar police station Kanwarjit Singh said there were eight migrant women who were handed over to him by Mr Dhanda's workers. He said they were made to sit in the police station till 5 pm so that they did not create any trouble.

At Arya College for Women, a SAD worker marred the environment of the polling station when he started raising slogans against Mr Johar who had visited the area.

Skirmishes were also reported from Model Gram area where Congress workers had an argument with Akali workers in the afternoon. Similar reports were also received from Sita Mata Mandir in Daresi Ground, where Akalis and Congress men had an argument. Later they indulged in sloganeering against each other marring the environment. Heated arguments were reported from Shimla Puri also.

Last evening, the Congress candidate and sitting MLA from the constituency, Mr Harnam Dass Johar's house was searched by the police twice before midnight after a report by an Election Observer. Nothing incriminating was found from his house.

Police officials said that they had searched his house following directions from an observer who had reports that he was storing narcotics and liquor in his house to be distributed to the voters at night. But nothing could be found from there.

Meanwhile, Mr Johar alleged that Mr Dhanda's supporters laid siege to his house at 10 pm last night when only his grandchildren, women folk and he himself was at home. ‘‘Mr Dhanda's supporters were raising slogans against me and I informed the police. The police came 45 minutes late and that too with a search warrant. After the search, they could not find anything,’’ said Mr Johar alleging that he was being harassed by the administration as well as the rival candidate.

The police has registered a case against 200 workers of Mr Harish Rai Dhanda under Sections 188, 296, 506, 148, 149 of the IPC for laying siege to the house of Mr Johar.



70 pc voter turnout despite incessant rain
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 13
Despite inclement weather the average voter turnout in the district remained a little above 70 per cent with people choosing to remain indoors in the face of incessant rain.

While the urban segments of the city witnessed a higher percentage of voting, it was the rural areas which saw the people showing their reluctance in giving the whole process a go by. In many of the villages, hardly few votes were cast by 10 a.m. Polling staff cited the heavy overnight rain as the main reason why people did not venture out.

A quick tour of some of the segments of the 12 Assembly constituencies of the district revealed that the booths set up by the candidates in the urban areas were a beehive of activity since polling began at 8 a.m.

Interestingly, at most of the places, women were present in large numbers to cast their vote since morning. The men only started trickling in the afternoon and the reason given by the workers was that the men wanted to ensure that the womenfolk voted in the morning so that they could attend to household chores later in the day.

In many of the urban areas, the percentage was above 30 by 1 p.m. This included towns and big villages of the predominantly rural constituencies. In the case of Samrala, Khanna, Payal, Jagraon, the percentage was also above 30 by noon.

On the contrary, the voting percentage in the rural areas, particularly in the bet and interior areas of the district, was only 10-15. At Machhiwara town, the poll managers could be seen asking their supporters to take to the streets to get the voters out of their houses. Every vote counted in this tough contest.

As is the wont in all the elections, the poll code was thrown to the winds as the party workers could be seen ferrying the voters to the polling booths. While exemptions are allowed for the infirm and the elderly, it was the womenfolk who were seen demanding a ride as they did not want to get wet.

A group of women at Kila Raipur were seen joking to a group of party workers that a ride was a small comfort as compared to the three-week-long booze party the candidates had been hosting for their menfolk. Needless to say they got their due with a smile.

In many of the villages groups of workers could be seen going from door to door to urge the people to come out to exercise their franchise. The voters were also told that in case they needed a ride or any other facility, they could come to the party booth near the polling centres.

Due to the downpour, many of the party workers had made make shift arrangements to distribute voting slips from the back of trucks and vans. One positive aspect was that piping tea and pakoras were being served to all and sundry to beat the chill.

Strict security arrangements had been made for the smooth conduct of the polls and no major incident, barring minor skirmishes, were reported in the district.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Ashok Kumar Gupta, District Election Officer, and Mr. A S Rai, SSP, took a joint tour to the polling booths in the district.

The DEO inquired from the voters standing in the long queues regarding the availability of EPICs with them.

Later, Mr Gupta along with Ms. Kamaljit Kaur Brar, ADC (G), supervised the polling process while sitting in the District Control Room situated at the Mini Secretariat.

Mr Gupta informed that the polling in all constituencies was almost peaceful and there was no major untoward incident or disturbance.

He said due to continuous rain in the morning, the turnup of voters at the polling booths remained slow, but it started picking up and reached the peak level in the second half of the day.

Immediate remedial steps were taken by the Returning Officers/ Supervisory parties, wherever even a minor problem was reported in the whole district.



They did not cast their vote
Shveta Pathak
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 13
Lack of faith in the system of polling might have kept thousands away from exercising their franchise but there also is a section of voters who, despite the disillusionment, decided to make an effort and go their polling booth to communicate this decision by opting for 'refusal' to chose any candidate.

"I was quite disappointed and felt that no political candidate is fit to represent us. Frequent reports on wrong submission of facts by candidates also put me off. However, it was also my desire that such a wish should be communicated to those who matter, which is why after seriously thinking about it. I decided to exercise my right to refuse my vote to the candidates in the fray. I exercised this option for the first time," said Mr Sanjay Goel, a leading city based architect.

The option to withhold acceptance for any candidate is not new though it is this elections that saw awareness being generated on the issue, largely by the media. The option is there under Section 49 O of the Representation of People’s Act giving a choice to a voter to deny voting for any political candidate citing his reasons.

"Earlier, we were not even aware of this option. But this time we know that we can actually go to our booth and convey that we do not want to vote for any candidate who is in the fray,” a voter said.

For those who want to exercise this option, unlike the case of selecting a candidate of their choice by pressing a button on the Electronic Voting Machine, here they do not have to press any button. After reaching the polling booth concerned, one can intimate the poll staff about his choice, who then take his signature.

The awareness generated about the choice to withhold one’s acceptance to cast vote to any political candidate is likely to manifest its results in future elections, say experts.

“Poor turnout is an indicator of people’s lack of faith. The resentment has been brewing in many voters’ hearts. However, not many had earlier known that they could go to their respective booth and communicate that they do not wish to vote. Awareness of this option, which is expected to be exercised by a larger proportion of people in future, also helps them give vent to the resentment,” an expert said.



Candidates heave a sigh of relief
Vimal Sumbly
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana February 13
After a month’s hectic schedule, candidates contesting from various Assembly segments, today heaved a sigh of relief. After winding up the election arrangements and ensuring that the electronic voting machines were properly sealed and handed over to the officials, the candidates straightway headed home for a complete rest with their fingers crossed. They have to wait till February 27 for the votes to be counted.

Tired and worn out these candidates said it would take at least a couple of days for them to resume the normal routine. "We would go to bed at around two in the night only to wake up a couple of hours later at around four or half past four", said Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, the SAD candidate from Payal. He said even his rivals worked like that as nobody wanted to take any chance and everybody wanted to meet as many people as possible.

The Congress candidate from Ludhiana East, Mr Surinder Dawar, also shared the same experience. Unlike Mr Grewal, his constituency was within the city. Still he started his day at around six till 12 midnight. After that he would review the day's progress and plan for the day. "I would not go to sleep before two,” he said adding that he was ready for the next day by 5 am. He said tonight he would be having a sound sleep, without bothering to wake up early tomorrow.

Mr Rakesh Pandey, who has been winning from Ludhiana North for several terms, maintained that there was nothing new for him as he had contested so many elections. "But election days are always hectic and tiring as you forget everything else,” he said, while adding, "you get some additional energy during these days.” Probably facing tough competition for the first time, Mr Pandey said, he had always given his best and got the best and hoped to get the best this time as well.

Mr Madan Lal Bagga, an Independent candidate from Ludhiana North said: "Practically I did not have a good sleep for the past one month.” Contesting as a rebel candidate after he was denied the ticket from Ludhiana North, Mr Bagga had planned his campaign quite earlier. He said: "I hope to go to sleep in time tonight and wake up late tomorrow morning.”

So were their supporters like Mr Sunil Datt, who campaigned with him round the clock all these days. He remarked: "It was more tiring for us as we had to manage the whole show.”


Punjab VOTES ’07

Voters too smart to be influenced
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 13
The high-pitched campaigning by different political parties notwithstanding, a number of people had made up their mind about whom to vote for much before the date of elections. In fact, they said, they had committed choices and had not been influenced by the propaganda carried out by political parties.

People still preferred to be aligned to particular political parties and ideologies and were hardly influenced by the amount of work done or not done when it came to voting.

A number of people the TNS talked to today, after they cast their votes, said it was the party that mattered to them much more than the candidate.

"Individual candidates in our democratic system do not matter much as it is the collective action of political parties what matters," said Mr Darshan Kumar, a senior citizen of Civil Lines. He did not even mind disclosing the name of the party he voted for today. In fact, he said he had always voted for the same party for the past many elections.

The rains and thundershowers failed to dampen the spirit of the voters in the city today. Huge rush could be witnessed since morning with voters making queues in front of their respective polling booths.

The first time voters were full of enthusiasm and excitement. It was interesting to see some of them asking people on duty how to cast vote. Tanu, a first time voter, said she always accompanied her mother during elections and was happy that now she could also exercise her right.

Besides first timers, the old ones, accompanied by their sons and daughters, were also enthusiastic to exercise their right. An Octogenarian, Mr D.P. Gupta, Retired Assistant Commissioner, Custom and Central Excise and a resident of Rani Jhansi Raod, said voting was one's right and everyone should exercise it. "Though it has been raining heavily and it is difficult for old people like us to get out of our homes, but like committed voters we had to cast our vote. For the particular party, I have been casting my vote for the last 40 years," he said.

85-year-old Sarita Kapoor felt that one must choose candidate of one's choice. She said when the right had been given to every citizen, it should be well utilised. Fully drenched, Ms Kapoor came to vote all alone in a rickshaw. High in her spirits, she said her's was a committed vote. "It does not matter whether the party wins or loses, I always cast my vote in favour of the same party. Perhaps this would be my last voting but I will be committed to the same people," she said.



Minor scuffles mark polling in Malwa region
Mahesh Sharma

Mandi Ahmedgarh, February 13
Incessant rain did not deter people from casting votes at about 400 polling booths in this part of Malwa. Except some minor scuffles polling was reported to be peaceful. However, some cases were registered at various police stations before the start of polling.

About 70 per cent voters in Malerkotla constituency used their right to vote at the local town, surrounding villages and Malerkotla. Referring to information received from Mr Mukesh Sharma, Duty Magistrate, and Mr Yogi Raj Sharma, in charge security, Mr Jaskiran Singh, SDM, Malerkotla, said polling at all 159 booths was conducted peacefully. As the administration had deputed extra force at 65 booths that had been declared sensitive, no untoward incident was reported from these polling stations.

The political fight between Congress nominee Razia Sultana and Abdul Gaffar, SAD candidate, is said to be close.

In Payal constituency the turnout was reported to be more than 55 per cent. The administration had to be more vigilant at some booths where the turnout was close to 90 per cent. Being a rural constituency activists of Mr Tej Parkash Singh Kotli, Congress nominee, Mr Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, SAD candidate, and Mr Jagjiwan Singh Gill, rebel Akali candidate, were showing over-enthusiasm.

“Though the turnout was more than expected at some of the 124 booths (including 49 sensitive booths situated), polling continued uninterrupted as we had made sufficient arrangements in advance,” claimed Mr Dhaliwal while talking to the Ludhiana Tribune.

Though final reports about the turnout in Raikot constituency were yet to arrive, about 65 per cent of the electorate was expected to have exercised their right to vote at 121 booths located in 72 stations.

According to Mr Kanwaljit Singh Dhillon, circle officer, no untoward incident was reported from eight very-sensitive and 27 sensitive booths in this constituency. Mr Harmohinder Singh Pardhan, Congress nominee, and Mr Ranjit Singh Talwandi were in fray in this constituency.

However, the police had booked 100 persons under Sections 107/151 and 107/150 of CrPC, besides depositing 1,200 weapons as a preventive measure. Four criminal cases, including two under property defacement Act, were registered and certain persons were booked prior to the commencement of election.

Harinder Singh Rahua, an office-bearer of the Congress along with his associate and supporters of Congress nominee from Raikot constituency were booked under Sections 323, 341, 506 and 34 of the IPC for allegedly assaulting and threatening to kill son of former MLA Nirmal Singh Mahant, who has recently been inducted in the SAD as member, political affairs committee, SAD.

Surjit Singh, president, Danga Pirat Welfare Society, Ludhiana district, Abdul Gaffar of Ludhiana, and Vishwa Mittar of Kidwai Nagar, Ludhiana, were booked for allegedly spreading hatred among masses by displaying posters and banners regarding 1984 riots.

Polling was reported to be about 80 per cent in Kila Raipur constituency. Though it had been known as a stronghold of SAD, this time it was neck-and-neck fight between Garchas and Khangura. If supporters of Jagdish Singh Garcha dominated in some areas, Jasvir Singh Khangura dominated at other booths. Polling remained peaceful, except some scuffles.

The Dehlon police had registered an FIR under Sections 341, 427, 148 and 149 of the IPC against Sukhwinder Singh, Chhimmi and Zimmi and Niko for allegedly assaulting SAD leader Sarabjit Singh of Jartoli village and driver of his vehicle Kala when they were canvassing in favour of Jagdish Singh Garcha at the village last night. Kala was hurt and the vehicle was damaged in the incident. 



Despite having I-cards, they could not vote
Disappointed voters demand action against officials
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 13
Despite having voters' identity cards, hundreds of residents were not able to cast their votes today as they did not find their names in the voters list.

The problem was faced by residents of Shimla Puri, Model Town Extension, Dr Sham Singh Road in Ghumar Mandi, Tajpur Road and many other areas who reported to their respective polling booths with their I-cards today.

Around 200 residents of Shimla Puri staged a dharna against the district administration as their names were deleted from the voters' list though they were residing on the same address for the past many years.

Raising slogans against the administration, the residents said it was due to the carelessness of government officials that they were not able to cast their votes.

Mr Joginder Dass, a resident, said he had cast his vote last time but when he came to vote today, his name was not there in the list.

At Dr Sham Singh Road in Ghumar Mandi, around 20 residents said their names were deleted from the list for the reasons best known to the officials concerned. They said they had I-cards but despite that they could not vote.

Mr Rakesh Khanna, a resident, said his name was not there. ‘‘I have not been able to cast my vote because of the lackadaisical attitude of the district administration officials. Had they ensured that there was no discrepancy in the lists, we would not have been denied our right. Who is responsible for all this? The Election Commission should take a serious note of this carelessness and responsibility should be fixed so that this is not repeated in future.’’ said Mr Khanna.

Similar complaints were made by Mr Darshan Khanna, Mr Vishal Khanna, Advocate Ashok Lakhanpal, Ms Neelam Kapoor, all residents of Dr Sham Singh Road.

Mr Rajan Kumar, a resident of Haibowal, said, “We fail to understand what should be done to ensure that our right is not overlooked just because of some clerical errors.’’



It boils down to atta-dal for migrants
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 13
After all hoopla on major issues like development and civic amenities, it boiled down to atta-daal for the migrants, who expressed their choice openly in the favour of SAD candidates in many polling booths here today.

A number of migrants, especially in the rural constituency, where they had two migrants contesting, said they were voting for ‘takkri wala sardar’ who would provide them with flour and pulses at Rs 4 and Rs 20 a kilo, respectively.

‘‘Ek gareeb ko atta daal se zyada kya chahiye,” (what does a poor man want except flour and pulses) were the words of Sunita Devi, a migrant, who was going to cast her vote in a school in Kuliewal village falling in the Rural constituency.

She could not pronounce the name of the candidate for whom she was going to vote. But she knew that she had to press the button in front of a balance.

For Mr Shiv Charan, another migrant from UP, keeping the kitchen fire burning is a difficult task. ‘‘Me and my wife has decided that we would vote for the Akali leader as we would be getting atta and daal at cheaper rates.”

He, however, counter questioned the Tribune team asking whether the essential commodities would go cheaper a day after the elections or not. ‘‘A Sardarji and his supporters came to me stating that if I would vote for him, the atta and daal would go cheaper. When will we start getting it? I have my ration card ready, ’’ he said showing his ration card.



Roadside rehris irk residents
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 13
With the population touching 30 lakh, roads in this industrial city are already congested with vehicles. Roadside rehris selling eatables aggravate the situation causing inconvenience to the general public.

A majority of city residents are of the view that the Supreme Court should issue the similar directions as issued in Delhi recently for the removal of roadside eateries.

Be it any posh locality of the city or the congested streets in the interiors, rehris selling eatables remain the centre of attraction. The sumptuous eatables being sold attract the food lovers to such an extent that they park their vehicles in the middle of the roads causing inconvenience to hundreds of commuters.

Though the authorities swing into action time and again, the situation does not change much. This can be gauged from the fact that hundreds of complaints are still pending with the corporation. Mr Harcharan Singh, a resident of the Sarabha Nagar market, said it was one of the best localities of the town, but the residents were not happy. "Very next to our main gate, a man sells pav-bhaji on a rehri. We do not face much problem during the working hours but by the evening a large number of cars, scooters and cycles are parked in front of our main gate causing a lot of inconvenience. My young daughter finds it difficult to go out alone," he added.

Another resident on the condition of anonymity said: “When influential people in the city could not remove the rehris of eatables from outside their houses, what could a common man do? What is more painful is that we keep on blowing horns asking people to remove the scooters or motor cycles, but the owners busy having ‘tikkis’ or ‘chaat’ behave as if the vehicle does not belong to them."

One rehriwala in Ghumar Mandi said food lovers came from far-off places to taste his kulcha-channa. Moreover, the corporation people cannot remove our rehris without giving prior orders. "We grease the palms of many every month to make both ends meet. They do not interfere much in our business," he said on the condition of anonymity.



Election din over, now love is in the air
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 13
The election din is over and the fragrance of love is filling the air now. The dirty, mud-slinging match between contestants is giving way to wooing of your love with soft, pleasant expression to touch the depth of his/her heart as tomorrow is Valentine's Day.

Gift shops are ready. Flower shops are all set with more staff and attractive bouquets for the day. Chocolates have appeared on the racks in new packets.

If rain dampened the spirits of candidates and pollsters today, it may not succeed in discouraging the spirits of a lover. For the drop in temperature provides the justneeded chill to desire the cozy company of a lover.

The police may not breathe easy with the end of electioneering today. Apart from keeping a close watch on the EVM machines, they would also be doing so against those who may turn rowdy on Valentine’s Day.

The temperature of the Shiv Sena, so-called protector of Indian culture, and moral police has surprisingly dipped low this time. Coming as a heave of relief for lovers, the local chapter of the Shiv Sena while following the dictates of their supremo Bal Thackeray announced to refrain from any violence on the occasion.

Instead, their mantra is to use “Gandhigiri” for the purpose. The Shiv Sena here has announced that they would be politely educating the youngsters on the demerits of following western culture by glorifying Valentine's Day.

If MunnaBhai's “Gandhigiri” has been lapped up by the Shiv Sainiks, Munna Bhai MBBS' "jaadu ki jhappi" is being sold as the love slogan this year. The favourite pose of two bear cubs in tight hug announcing "I love you" has given way to "jaadu ki jhappi".



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