P U N J A B    S T O R I E S


Polling in Mansa highest
Maneesh Chhibber
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 13
The fate of 1,038 candidates, including 55 women candidates, now stands sealed in electronic voting machines (EVMs), which will be opened on February 27.
For the Amritsar byelection heavy voting was recorded. While heavy rain in many parts of the state forced voters to remain indoors the polling picked up once the skies cleared at 12.30 pm.

In the 2002 Assembly polls, 65.14 per cent voting had been recorded.

Over 65,000 security personnel, which includes 118 companies of central para military forces and over 50,000 Punjab Police personnel, were deployed to ensure fair voting in over 16,500 polling stations. However, there were reports of EVMs developing a snag at some places, forcing the election staff to rush additional EVMs to such polling stations.

The highest turnout was recorded in Mansa (85 per cent), while only 57.30 per cent of the voters cast their votes in Amritsar district. According to data compiled by the office of Chief Electoral Officer, Punjab, Gurdaspur district recorded 72.09 per cent polling and Amritsar 57.30 per cent.

The figures for the other districts are Nawanshahr 75.13 per cent, Kapurthala 69 per cent, Jalandhar 72.70 per cent, Hoshiarpur 61 per cent, Ludhiana 70.08 per cent, Ropar 71.61 per cent, SAS Nagar 68.33 per cent, Patiala 74.43 per cent, Fatehgarh Sahib 79 per cent, Sangrur 82.43 per cent, Ferozepore 74.13 per cent, Moga 73.63 per cent, Muktsar 78.25per cent, Faridkot 79.13 per cent, Bathinda 77.6 per cent, Mansa 85 per cent, Tarn Taran 68.5 per cent and Barnala 79 per cent.

Such was the voter enthusiasm towards the close of polling that in all districts, long queues of voters forced poll officials to extend the deadline by 45 minutes to an hour.

At many polling stations, hundreds of voters awaiting their turn even after 5 pm. Only 5.1 per cent polling was recorded in the districts by 9 am. Two hours later at 11 am, the total polling in the 20 districts stood at 15.9 per cent, with Barnala leading the way with 22 per cent polling.


Voters defy rain; 74 pc turnout in Banur, Rajpura
Sarpanch arrested for ferrying voters
Pradeep Sharma
Tribune News Service

Banur/Rajpura, February 13
Turning out in large numbers, voters of Banur and Rajpura constituencies today defied the inclement weather by registering nearly 74 per cent voting in a peaceful election.

In fact, incessant rain since this morning failed to dampen the spirits of the voters as long serpentine queues were witnessed at a majority of the polling booths in the Banur Assembly segment from where the former the Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, is aiming for a hat-trick.

As many as 1,32,818 voters of a total of 1,78,603(74.25 per cent) cast their votes in the Banur segment, according to the Banur Returning Officer, Mr Narinder Sangha. In neighbouring Rajpura, atleast 73 per cent of a total of 1,54,155 voters cast their votes

The polling, which started on a dull note at 8 am, picked up momentum in the afternoon as the sky cleared. As many as 6,770 voters of the total 9,192 voters exercised their franchise in eight polling booths in Banur.

Activists and the candidates toured different parts of the constituency to supervise the poll arrangements and boost the party cadres' morale.

Capt Kanwaljit Singh and members of his family cast their votes in Chhat village.

Woman power was in full flow as an extensive tour of the Banur and Rajpura segments revealed, with female voters outnumbering their male counterparts in several polling booths. As many as 626 voters voted in one booth in Manakpur while 1122 voters out of 1377 voted in another booth in the village.

Ferrying of voters to the polling stations continued the whole day and there were reports of some of the voters having voter identity cards but not finding their names in voters’ lists.

The Sarpanch of Agapur village(Dera Bassi), Mr Balbir Singh, and two others were arrested on the charges of ferrying of voters.

Strict security arrangements foiled any major untoward incident. However, a minor clash was reported between SAD and Congress workers at Mubarikpur in Dera Bassi.

Polling officials experienced some anxious moments with an EVM developing a technical snag even before it could be put to use at Chauhanderi in Dera Bassi sub-division. An EVM in Lohgarh developed snag after a single vote was cast in it. However, they were later replaced.

Meanwhile, certain voters were taken for a ride by activists of SAD as they were asked to press the button at the top to “start” the EVM. In fact, the SAD-BJP candidate’s name figured at the top of the machine. Similarly, scores of wheat flour bags allegedly belonging to the Congress candidate meant for distribution among voters were seized by the police at Lalru last night.

Karala, Buta Singhwala, Pavala, Abrawan,Rajomajra,Hulka and Changera were the villages which reported a voting percentage of 70-80 per cent, official sources informed. Lalru(73 per cent) and Dera Bassi(70 per cent) also reported good voting percentage. However, the figures for some villages was much higher with Malikpur(86 per cent), Dharamgarh(82 per cent), Tasimbli(88 per cent) and Handesra(85 per cent) reporting high percentage.

And in Rajpura, where the sitting MLA, Mr Raj Khurana of the BJP-SAD alliance is pitted against Mr Hardyal Kamboj of the Congress, as many as 769 out of 1060 voters had cast their votes in Kherpur Jattan by 4 pm. In NTC School in Rajpura, 503 voters out of 887 had voted in booth no 111-A by 4.30 pm. Another booth recorded 514 votes out of 916 voters.


Rain, cold fail to deter voters
Polling high and peaceful
Kulwinder Sangha

Mohali, February 13
Voters braved the cold, damp weather to make a beeline to polling booths in the Kharar Assembly constituency, which recorded a turnout of 65 per cent today. Polling was by and large peaceful barring reports of heated exchanges from here and there between supporters of various candidates.

The police registered cases against two persons for allegedly indulging in the violation of the code of conduct. As many as seven vehicles were impounded for allegedly being used to ferry voters.

The polling started at 8 am and went on till late in the evening as all voters who had queued up by 5 pm were allowed to cast their vote. Voting was going on even at 8 pm at Deri village.

Voting started seven minutes late at a booth set up in Vidya Niketan in Mohali village as the EVM was not used according to the directions given. A switch of the machine was not put in on the “on” position, which was later done by the supervisor of the area.

It is reported that some residents of the Jagatpura colony were transported to Kandala village in private vehicles for casting their vote by supporters of certain candidates. Senior police officials reached the scene and ordered that vehicles being used in violation of the code of conduct be impounded.

A case was registered against Angrej Singh on the charge of illegal possession of liquor while another case was registered against a sarpanch, Mr Randhir Singh, on a charge of organising “langar” for residents of the Jagapura colony today.

In Balongi village, Mr Kesar Singh was allegedly manhandled by some supporters of Mr Tarlochan Singh Mann, Independent candidate. It is alleged that Mr Kesar Singh, who is a supporter of the SAD, was using his phone to make the presiding officer talk to the SAD candidate, Mr Jasjit Singh. This made the supporters of Mr Mann lose their temper.

Even though there was a light rain since the morning, enthusiasm was evident among voters in Mohali and other areas who headed for the polling booths in various vehicles or walked up to them with umbrellas over their heads.

Chaotic scenes were witnessed outside certain polling booths as vehicles were parked on roadsides, despite shortage of space. Voting picked up after about 1.30 pm when the rain stopped.

Voters had to pass through slush to reach the four booths located in Government Elementary School in Phase VII here. As many as 330 votes were polled at booth number 137 here by 11.45 am out of the total of 1526. Similarly, 300 votes were cast at polling booth number 135 located at St Soldier School in the same area, which had registered 1,555 voters in all.

In Phase IX, voters had to wait for their turn in the rain as booth number 130 was set up in a verandah of Government Elementary School here. As many as 380 voters had exercised their franchise here by 12.30 pm out of the total of 1,613.

A high percentage of voting was witnessed at some booths in Phase XI . At booth number 128, located in a government school, Phase XI, 995 votes were polled by 2 pm out of the total of 1,157 votes. At booth number 163, located in Gian Jyoti Public School, Phase II, 461 votes were polled at 2.55 pm out of the total of 885 while 539 votes were cast by 3.30 pm out of the total of 1,012 votes at booth number 164 set up in Shastri Model School, Phase I.

At a booth in Balongi only 142 votes were cast by 11.45 am out of the total of 1,049 though rush of voters was witnessed here later in the day.


75 pc turnout in Morinda
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

Tempers ran high in Nayagaon this morning when police stopped the misuse of the SAD office here for distribution of voters slips near the polling booth. On a complaint from Jagmohan Singh Kang, DSP Ashok Sharma raided the office and asked the office head Gurdhain Singh to stop using it to distribute voter slips. However, things went out of control leading to a scuffle between the police and SAD supporters. The people present there also raised slogans against the Punjab Police. The matter was later resolved when the SAD supporters agreed to shift their booth away from the polling station.

Kharar/Morinda, February 13
Winners all- that seemed to sum up the sentiment as polling ended here today. Almost every candidate who contested the elections from here claimed to have attracted the winning margin of votes.

At 75 per cent, Morinda constituency saw a remarkable turnout of voters despite the rain today. In the 2002 elections about 71 per cent polling had taken place in the constituency. The main contenders Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang of the Congress and the SAD candidate Ujagar Singh Badali both claimed to have got sufficient votes to win the election.

Mr Kamal Kishore, a supporter of Badali, calculated that Badali had a lead of at least a 100 votes each in all the 207 villages of the constituency, which will make Badali win by a margin of at least 20,000 votes.

On the other hand, Mr Yadvinder Singh, son of Jagmohan Singh Kang, said according to their calculations, they had a distinct lead over the SAD candidate in Kharar, Morinda and Nayagaon NAC. “In the villages we have improved our performance of 2002,” he added.

In 2002 Kang managed to get over 47,000 votes and Badali had got 24,914 votes. Ravi Inder Singh of SAD splinter group too was in the fray and had got over 23,000 votes. Kang had won with a margin of over 22,000 votes, the second highest in 2002 elections.

Mr Harbans Singh Kandola, an independent candidate, who has the support of the Ravi Inder group, said he was sure of a win. “The voters are smart. They say yes to everyone so one cannot really know the outcome till the actual counting is finished. But my workers have done their best and the results will show the rest,” he said.

The BSP candidate, Mr Rajinder Singh Nanheri, said “I have got very good response from the people and am sure of a win. But I regret that the two main parties have not played the game fairly. They have been distributing money and liquor to the voters. In Masol village, there was no secret casting of votes as the area where EVM machine had been kept was not covered. In Janta Colony, Nayagaon, voters were brought to the polling booths in vehicles by activists of different parties,” he alleged.

The number of voters in Morinda has increased from 1,38,447 in 2002 to 1,57,561 this time. “The polling was completely peaceful today. No machine went out of order and there is no complaint,” said the SDM Kharar, Mr Darshan Singh Sandhu.

In Kharar, SAD candidate Jasjit Singh Bunny too was sure of winning with an overwhelming margin. “The support that I got from people was moving. In Mohali city alone the response was over 60 per cent. In some villages the turnout was over 90 per cent. The winds of change that have been blowing in the state have brought people out to vote. I think I have struck a cord with the people,” he said.

Mr Hakesh Chand Sharma, general secretary of the District Congess Committee Mohali, said Mr Balbir Singh Sidhu would win with a margin of at least 50,000 votes. “The difference is going to be very large. At every polling booth Mr Sidhu has procured at least two third of the total votes polled,” he said.


Ghanaur records 77 pc voting
Tribune News Service

Ghanaur, February 13
The Ghanaur Assembly segment in Chief Minister, Capt Amrinder Singh's home district, reported one of the highest voting percentage with over 77 per cent voters casting their votes.

The Minister for Cooperation and Horticulture, Mr Jasjit Singh Randhawa, is locked in a tough fight with a former minister and SAD-BJP candidate,Mr Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur. In fact, a Congress rebel, Mr Madan Lal, and an Akali rebel, Mr Gursev Singh Harpal, are also in the fray.

There are 1,41,773 voters in the constituency.

In the 2002 elections, there were 1,26,393 voters. As many as 88,488 voters comprising about 70% of the total electorate had cast their votes last time.


Last hour was most crucial
Chitleen K. Sethi
Tribune News Service

Kharar/Morinda, February 13
The last hour of voting proved to be the most crucial for the candidates vying for a seat in the Punjab Assembly. While it rained almost through the day, the sky cleared by 4 pm and polling booths were suddenly flooded with voters.

Some booths that had seen only 35 to 40 per cent polling till 3 pm crossed the 60 per cent mark by 5 pm. At many places polling officers found it difficult to control the sudden turnout of voters and additional polling officers were called in for help.

Rain proved to be a great leveller in washing away the elaborate plans made by candidates in a last-ditch effort to woo the voter. Village roads were full of slush and made mobilisation of voters difficult. In many places due to the heavy rain, candidates could not even set up their tents to assist voters in finding their voter number and locating their booths.

Rural voters, used to being pampered, did not find any arrangement of tea and pakoras either.

At Maroli Kalan village in Morinda, serpentine queues outside the government school booth, however, pointed towards a high voter turnout. "We are a village of over 2,400 voters and more than 1,800 will cast their vote. The village vote bank is equally divided between Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang and Mr Ujagar Singh Badali and both have made sure their supporters are out to vote," said a resident.

The last hour of voting, when clouds cleared, saw a sudden rush at the booths. At Paintpur village in Morinda, voters crowded just after 4.20 pm. Fearing that they would not be able to vote before 5 pm, they raised slogans alleging that those on polling duty were very slow.

“By this time most other booths have recorded over 50 per cent voting. Here we are still at about 40 per cent,” said a voter waiting in a queue. The police was called to the spot followed by an election observer, Mr V.B. Pathak, who called for additional polling officers. 


Much good in small parties
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Barnala/Chandigarh, February 13
In a neck-and-neck fight where every vote is crucial, parties other than the Congress or the SAD-BJP combine will decide who wins the electoral battle in Punjab this time. As polling drew to a close this evening on a rain-marred day, it was clear that smaller parties would surely decide who would form the government.

The Leftists, the Lok Bhalai, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Uma Bharati-led Jana Shakti party or the SAD (Amritsar) and the SAD-1920 have committed voters.

One or two of these smaller parties will poll a few thousand votes in several constituencies across the state. These votes will decide which party will emerge a winner in a particular constituency.

Today, when the Congress and the Akalis were busy using all modes of transport, from buses to three-wheelers, to ferry voters, committed voters of the BSP and the Left parties came on their own. At Dhanuala, Mangat Ram asked us for directions to the poll booth. He said he was a BSP voter.

Votes cast in favour of the CPI or the CPM could pose a serious challenge to the Congress. In the 2002 elections, the Congress had an alliance with the Left. The CPI has blamed the Chief Minister for the break-up in the pact but has said it is against the SAD-BJP combine. The Left has 2.25 per cent vote share in the state.

In the run-up to the elections, the BSP was wooed by the Congress as well as the Akalis. However, it preferred to go it alone. In the 29 reserved constituencies the vote share of the BSP is up to 20 per cent.

Though the BSP has contested on its own in the past, this election is different. A major chunk of the Dalit vote was traditionally with the Congress. With the BSP in the fray, these votes will be spilt. In a few general constituencies like Dhuri and Guru Harsahai, the BSP may emerge as “kingmaker”.


Not allowed to vote despite voter card
Our Correspondent

Mohali, February 13
Complaints were received from certain voters that they were not allowed to exercise their fundamental right even when they had voter identity cards with them. Others made complaints that they were not given their photo identity cards by authorities concerned even when they had completed all formalities required in this regard.

Mrs Harvinder Kaur’s name was cancelled in the voters list even when she had a photo identity card prepared by officials on poll duty. She is a municipal councillor from Phase VII.

Her husband, Mr Manmohan Singh Lang, a former municipal councillor, complained that his wife was deprived of her voting right today. When she went to cast her vote she found her name cancelled in the list. She urged the authorities to allow her to cast her vote as she had the identity card but was not allowed to do so.

He said that he was told that Ms Harvinder Kaur’s name was cancelled because her name existed in some other list which officials could not produce. He said he had made a complaint in this regard to the Returning Officer.

Similarly, Mr Gurcharan Singh, a resident of Phase I, complained that he went to the polling booth in the afternoon and stood in the queue for about half an hour waiting for his turn to cast his vote. But to his shock, his name was cancelled in the list even though he had a voter identity card. He said the polling officials had deprived him of his fundamental right.

Ms Manpreet Kaur from Phase VII said that she had got herself photographed and also filled the required form to get her voter identity card but all in vain. She was not given her identity cards by officials concerned. She missed her college today so that she was able to cast her vote. But when she came to the polling booth she was not allowed to poll even though she had carried the family ration card with her.


Photo-crazy Dullo gets EC notice
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 13
The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo, who is also the party candidate for the Khanna constituency, was today served a notice by the Election Commission for getting himself filmed while pressing the EVM’s button to cast his vote.

Taking a suo motu notice of the incident, the EC also sought a report from the District Electoral Officer, Ludhiana, Mr Ashok Kumar Gupta.

The law prohibits any voter to openly indicate as to which party he has voted for.

“We have asked the District Electoral Officer to send us the video of the incident. A final decision will be taken after receiving the report. We will also look into as to how a cameraperson was allowed inside the polling booth with the camera and allowed to shoot,” an officer told mediapersons.


Preneet misplaces voter card
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Patiala, February 13
While Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh was issued a duplicate voter identity card by the Returning Officer (RO) concerned of the Patiala Assembly segment late last evening with the permission of Election Commission, his wife and MP, Preneet Kaur, MP, could not cast her vote till late afternoon as she had misplaced her voter card in her Moti Bagh Palace.

Mr Rakesh Verma, District Election Officer, when contacted, pointed out that as per the instructions of Election Commission, anybody could be issued a photo identity card till February 12 and, hence, an identity card was issued to the Chief Minister.

Ms Preneet Kaur found her card late in the afternoon and rushed to the polling booth.


Clash at Badal village
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Lambi (Muktsar), February 13
Even as the election process was by and large peaceful in the high-profile constituency of Lambi, supporters of the SAD and the Congress clashed at a polling booth in SAD supremo's native village Badal.

The clash occurred over the domicile of an elderly voter at about 9.30 am, half an hour after former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his wife Surinder Kaur Badal exercised their franchise.

When septuagenarian Preetam Singh came out of the polling booth, certain SAD supporters told their in charge that he was an “outsider”, and they gathered around him. Accompanied by another elderly person, Preetam entered into an altercation with them. He also slapped one of them.

Supporters of the SAD manhandled him as his partially blind wife screamed and pleaded them not to thrash “a man of their father’s age”. His turban also fell down in the melee.

In the meantime, Mr Jagjeet Singh, a polling agent of the Congress, tried to save the elderly man. The SAD supporters pounced on him too.

Congress candidate Mahesh Inder Singh Badal soon reached the spot. He slapped one of the SAD supporters.

The entire drama lasted for about 10 minutes all through which security personnel could not do much to control the situation. 


It was a party: Long queues, tea, smiles...
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Patiala\Sangrur, February 13
Contrary to the apprehension that rain would play spoilsport, people cast their vote braving the rain. There was enthusiasm among voters, especially the youth and women. People waited for hours in long queues to exercise their right to vote.

At several places, supporters of main parties, the Congress and the Shiromani Akali Dal, exhibited harmony while managing their polling camps. While they supported their respective parties, they shared tea, snacks and even vehicles to fetch voters.

"Though we are supporting different parties, there is no bitterness among us, " said Mr Gurmail Singh, Sarpanch of Dedhna village in the Shaturana Assembly segment.

Likewise at Bibipur and Kamalpur village, supporters of the SAD and the Congress worked in harmony." We know who is going to vote for whom. What is the use of fighting. More- over, we are all to live together in the village," said an Akali worker.

Meanwhile, Mr Barinder Singh of Mullanpur village near Chandigarh said that he and about 40 others could not cast their vote because their names were struck off from the voter list.

" We are living in the Radhasoami street at Mullanpur for the past 50 years. How were our named struck off from the electoral roll,” he asked. “ We had the voter identity cards with us. But our names were not on the voter list.” 


Minister’s son booked for assault
Tribune News Service

Gurdaspur, February 13
Supporters of the SAD and the Congress clashed at several places in the district. In the Sujanpur constituency, Mr Naresh Puri, son of Transport Minister and Congress candidate Raghunath Sahay Puri, was booked for assaulting BJP workers at a polling booth in Shahpur Kandi.

The BJP workers alleged that he tried to intimidate voters in the area. They gheraoed the local police station to get the case registered.

In Chak Sharif village of the Kahnuwan constituency, SAD supporters were attacked with sharp-edged weapons. Three supporters of the SAD candidate, Mr Sewa Singh Sekhwan, who were injured in a clash, were admitted to the Civil Hospital.

Kapurthala: Jalandhar MP Rana Gurjit Singh’s son Rana Inder Pratap Singh and his two nephews, Lovely and Veer Pratap Singh, were booked on the eve of polling. As many as four cases were registered against several Congress men in different police stations but none was arrested.


They signed, but didn’t vote

Section 49-0 of the Representation of People’s Act allows voters to go to a polling booth, where they are entitled to cast their vote, sign the register containing the electoral rolls and return without voting.

This clause has been added so as to prevent bogus voting and impersonation at the time of polling. Today, at least two voters put the clause into use and opted against exercising their franchise. The election staff advised them to use the rule. This is probably the first time that voters have used the Section 49-0.


Candidate traced
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 13
The SAD (A) candidate, Mr Savinder Singh, who is contesting from the Jandiala Guru constituency and had been missing for the past couple of days, today returned to Amritsar.

The district police chief, Mr S.S. Srivastava, said the candidate called up the police from Ropar in the morning.

Earlier, the SAD (A) had alleged that the candidate was kidnapped by the SAD (Badal) since he had made “inroads into Panthic votes in the Jandiala constituency”.


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