L U D H I A N A   S T O R I E S

Cong, SAD pay heavily for anti-incumbency, rebels
Shamsher Singh Dullo’s defeat, Jassi Khangura’s win major surprises
Amarjit Thind
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 27
The Congress as well as SAD seem to have paid a heavy price owing to the anti-incumbency factor that played a predominant role in the outcome of the electoral battle in rural and urban constituencies of Ludhiana. Both the parties also suffered equally because of the presence of rebel candidates in two separate constituencies. For the Congress, the alienation of the urban voter, a traditional vote bank, too, proved crucial in the poll arena.
 bottle of champagne being opened on Rani Jhansi Road in Ludhiana
A bottle of champagne being opened on Rani Jhansi Road in Ludhiana on Tuesday. —  Tribune photos by  Sayeed Ahmed

Barring Tej Prakash Singh of the Congress from Payal, all other sitting legislators from here lost their seats. They include Harnam Dass Johar, Surinder Dawar, Rakesh Pandey, Malkiat Singh Birmi, Malkiat Singh Dakha, Amrik Singh Dhillon, all Congress, Ranjit Singh Talwandi, Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, Bhag Singh Mallah, Jagdish Singh Garcha, all from SAD. Even PPCC Chief Shamsher Singh Dullo lost from Khanna, the seat his wife Ms Harbans Kaur Dullo represented in the previous House.

In fact, Dullo's defeat has come as a major surprise not only to the Congress but to others as well. Not just because he was the Congress chief, but also due to the fact that he was considered to be pitted against a lightweight, Bikramjit Singh Khalsa, of SAD. In fact, Khalsa was himself reluctant to contest from Khanna and wanted the party nomination from Dakha, which he had represented during 1997 to 2002.

The fight, which was initially considered to be a cakewalk, turned out to the Waterloo of Dullo who was said to be harbouring chief ministerial ambitions. His alleged utterances at some places is said to have irked the Jat community, which reportedly voted against him in the rural segment of the constituency.

Another major surprise was that of Jassi Khangura, who wrested the Kila Raipur, a predominantly rural constituency, and so far considered to be an Akali stronghold, for the first time in the state's electoral history for the Congress. He defeated former minister and senior Akali leader Jagdish Singh Garcha by a margin of over 11,000 votes.

The poor image of Garcha, who was a minister in the previous government, proved to his undoing. The excellent development activities carried out by Khangura in the past five years paid him rich dividends this time. Besides this, the promise of a grant of Rs 5 lakh for every village which gave him a lead of 100 votes from his own kitty proved to be pivotal for his victory.

Even in terms of the rebel factor, both the Congress as well as the Akalis, suffered at a par in the district. Rakesh Pandey of the Congress, who had been winning from here for three consecutive terms, lost to Harish Bedi of the Bhartaiya Janata Party, primarily because of the presence of an Independent, Madan Lal Bagga.

While Pandey lost by a margin of about 6,000 votes, Bagga polled about 22,000 votes. He mostly cut into the support base of Pandey.

Similarly in Payal, SAD candidate Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal lost to Tej Parkash Singh mainly due to the presence of Jagjiwanpal Singh Gill, who contested as a rebel candidate. While Grewal lost by a margin of about 15,000 votes, Gill polled 17, 000 votes. This ensured the former ministers, as the rebel, cut into the support base of the Akalis only. Had Gill been fielded by SAD, he would have easily won this seat.

In Jagraon, two-time legislator Bhag Singh Mallah, had to bite the dust and lost to his lightweight opponent Gurdeep Singh Bhaini of the Congress. Here the anti-incumbency factor played a major role, besides lack of development activity in the previous term. Bhaini won despite the presence of G S Moti who had been fielded by the third front.

In Raikot Harmohinder Singh Pradhan of the Congress won defeating the sitting legislator Ranjit Singh Talwandi of SAD. Here the vote commanded by the dera of Baba Nirbhag Singh played a crucial role on the defeat of Mr Talwandi. Last time this segment had voted for the Akalis. But anti-incumbency too was evident in the voters’ mind.

In Dakha Darshan Singh Shivalik (SAD) defeated the two-time MLA Malkiat Singh in a fierce contest. The lack of development, especially the poor sewerage and bad roads in the new colonies around the city, proved to be the undoing of the Congress. Here, too, anti-incumbency played a major role in the defeat.

A feeling of alienation weighed top most in the mind of the voters of Koom Kalan which saw the exit of the youthful sitting SAD legislator Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal. A large segment of the voters was of the opinion that he had not done enough for the constituency. He lost to former minister and the Congress candidate Isher Singh Meharban, who had earlier won the seat in 1992. Atwal is the son of the Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker, Charanjit Singh Atwal.

In Samrala two-time sitting MLA Amrik Singh Dhillon was defeated by Jagjiwanpal Singh Khirnia of SAD. Dhillon, who is a liquor baron, could not escape the voters’ wrath even though he spent a colossal amount to lure voters. The Akalis had this time decided not to field the two-time loser Kirpal Singh khirnia, and had given the ticket to his son. The gamble by SAD seems to have payed off here.

In Ludhiana east former Punjab Deputy Speaker Satpal Gosain defeated his rival parliamentary secretary Surinder Dawar. Here the anti-incumbency factor was the major reason for the about-turn by the voters. In a way this was one of the major upsets in the district as the Congress was considering this as one of their safe seats since Dawar enjoys a personal rapport with the electorate.

In Ludhiana west first-timer Harish Rai Dhanda, contesting on SAD ticket, defeated senior Congress leader and minister Harnam Dass Johar in a straight fight. For Johar not even the developmental works could save him from this ignominy. Dhanda, on the other hand, cashed on the anti-incumbency factor and ran a concerted campaign to woo the urban voters.

In Ludhiana north Harish Bedi of the BJP pulled off a major victory when he defeated the sitting legislator and minister Rakesh Pandey. This upset was made possible with the presence of the Congress rebel candidate Madan Lal Bagga who secured more then 16,000 votes. The fact that one of the local Congress MLAs, too, worked for the defeat of his colleague is a common knowledge. However, lack of accessibility and taking the voters for granted to hastened to the exit of Pandey.

SAD's Hira Singh Gabria too caused a major sensation when he defeated his Congress rival Malkiat Singh Birmi by a huge margin of over 40,000 votes. Inaccessibility of Birmi and his autocractic style of functioning proved to be his nemesis. Birmi, who was also a parliamentary secretary earlier, also payed the price of not initiating any developmental works in the constituency. Gabria had earlier represented this seat in 1997.



Razia’s Sultanate
Our Correspondent

Hathoa (Mandi Ahmedgarh), February 27
Thousands of residents of the area, including Congress activists, thronged this nondescript village of Malerkotla constituency after the victory of its daughter Razia Sultana.

Her win is being seen as a token of recognition for the development she had undertaken in the area.

While the village falls in the jurisdiction of Malerkotla constituency, it gained significance after it became part of the proposed Amargarh segment by reorganisation committee of the Punjab Government.

The residence of Razia Sultana, “Malerkotla House”, has remained a centre of political activity since its habitation a few years ago.

Known for her proximity to Amarinder Singh, Razia Sultana is set to emerge as one of the strongest female stateswoman in the party after Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, as she has succeeded in proving her mettle against an equally strong team of SAD leaders.

Her victory is also being seen as mandate against those political leaders who had distributed pictures of a former councillor whose body was found canal three years ago.

Terming the death of the councillor a cold-blooded murder, supporters of the SAD candidate had accused the Congress nominee and her husband, a police officer, of shielding his “killers”.

Meanwhile, supporters of Razia Sultana celebrated victory of their candidate by marching through the bazaar and distributing sweets.

Expressing her gratitude to the residents of the area for their support, she attributed her victory to the sincerity of her supporters and workers of the party.

“By voting for me, people of the constituency have proved that they value qualities more than fake slogans. I will try to do more for the development of the area in the future also,” she maintained, adding that Amarinder Singh had approved projects over Rs 100 crore during her last term.

Municipal Council president Jatinder Bhola, city Congress president Ravinder Kumar, Oil Expellers Association president Prem Jain, Chiter Rekha Sharma, Vijay Dhand, Tarsem Verma and Amrjit Kaur Mander led their respective parties.



Dharamsot takes Amloh
Our Correspondent

Mandi Gobindgarh,  February 27
Congress candidate Sadhu Singh Dharamsot was declared elected from 78-Amloh reserved constituency by SDM-cum-returning officer G.S. Ghuman today.

Dharamsot defeated his rival, SAD candidate Satwinder Kaur Dhaliwal, by 6,648 votes. While Dharamsot polled 59,556, Dhaliwal secured 52,908.

Jit Singh (BSP) polled 8,128, Lachhman Singh (CPI) 1,546, Bhag Singh [Independent supported by SAD (A)] 2,522, Ram Singh 488, Gurmeet Singh 1,441, Chamail Singh 419, Balvir Singh 693 and Balwant Singh 1,297 votes, respectively.

The counting took place in community hall, Mandi Gobindgarh, at 14 counting tables. J.P. Aggarwal was the observer.

Out of the 1,60,963 votes, 1,28,999 votes were polled on February 13 at 167 polling booths of the constituency.



Tej Prakash retains Payal
Our Correspondent

Doraha, February 27
Sitting Congress MLA Tej Prakash Singh Kotli was re-elected from Payal constituency here today. He defeated his closest rival, SAD’s Maheshinder Singh Grewal, by 16,119 votes.

Kotli, the son of former Chief Minister Beant Singh, who contested from his native place, polled 42,535 votes, as against 26,416 polled by Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal.

Independent and SAD rebel Jagjiwan Pal Singh Gill secured 17,496 votes, while Kartar Singh Buani polled 6,452 votes.

Congress rebel Amrik Singh Rauni managed to get only 2,994 votes, while BSP candidate Gurchet Singh Garcha secured 2,462 votes.

Independents Rajinder Singh Raju, Jandu and Harjit Singh polled 783, 430, 429 votes, respectively.

Kotli expressed his gratitude to the supporters and voters of the area.

He said the sacrifice of his father would never go in vain and that people had reposed their faith once again in him.

“As voters are convinced by the just rule of Kotli, they have voted for righteousness,” said a supporter.

Bant Singh Daburjie, Malwinder Singh, Sudarshan Kumar Sharma, Vinod Gupta, Krishan Lal Gupta, Surinder Pal Sood, Jasminder Singh Jassa, Gurnam Singh, Jasminder Singh Jassa, Gurnam Singh, Om Parkash Bector, Arun Bector, Adarsh Pal Bector, Pardeep Thapar, Brijlal Ratan, Thakur Das were among those who congratulated the Kotli family.



Celebrations, gloom follow poll results
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 27
Celebrations at some places and gloom at others summed up the mood of the city as soon as the results of the assembly elections started pouring in here today.

As soon as the results were announced, supporters of the victorious candidates broke into revelry whereas the losers slipped from the scene to take respite at their respective homes.

Amidst beating of drums, the winners were flanked by their supporters at their election offices. Processions were taken out on several roads creating inconvenience for commuters. Supporters were seen braving rain showers and dancing in every nook and cranny of the city carrying flags of the BJP and SAD combine. Winners were being garlanded and offered laddoos.

Satpal Gosain, BJP nominee from Ludhiana East, was the first to be named a winner. Celebrations broke out at the counting centre at Arya College itself when his supporters started dancing to the bhangra beats. After all, the old war horse of the BJP had registered his win defeating his arch rival Surinder Dawar of the Congress.

A festival-like atmosphere prevailed at his house when congratulations poured from all quarters. On the other hand, gloom engulfed Dawar's house that kept on receiving guests who came to extend their solidarity towards the former MLA till late in the evening.

Supporters of Harish Bedi, BJP leader from Ludhiana North, who defeated his rival Rakesh Pandey of the Congress, were breaking into jubilations every round of counting. As the trends started showing his victory, his supporters gathered outside the counting centre at the Government College for Boys and gave a tough time to the cops posted on the spot.

A beaming Bedi was seated with Pandey on his left and Madan Lal Bagga, an Independent, on his right at the counting centre. When the results were announced, he shook hands with his rivals. After the results, he went straight to Bala Ji temple in Vishwakarma town. Pandey's house remained quiet throughout the day.

Harish Rai Dhanda, SAD leader who ensured a seat in the assembly from Ludhiana West, was lifted by his supporters outside the Khalsa College for Women in Ghumar Mandi. His rival and Congress leader Harnam Dass Johar looked upset as soon as the trends started depicting his rival’s victory at the counting centre.

House of Hira Singh Gabria, a SAD leader who was elected from Ludhiana Rural, wore a festive look and he kept thanking his supporters with folded hands.



Bagga factor upsets Pandey's applecart
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 27
The ‘‘Bagga’’ factor played a spoilsport for Congress leader Rakesh Pandey, who was returned to the Assembly thrice by the electorate of Ludhiana North.

Mohan Lal Bagga, a rebel, did the Congress stalwart in when he tilted the balance in such a way that the seat went to the BJP's kitty and Harish Bedi registered his win.

Polling 22,283 votes, which even his supporters had not expected, Bagga sent a message that he was to be taken seriously from the day one. Bedi secured 31,218 votes and Pandey trailed by polling 26,322 votes. Had the Congress taken Bagga seriously, the segment, known for committed Congress voters, would have been represented by the Congress only.

‘‘For me it is a victory of sorts. I am just 9,000 votes behind the winner. It means a lot. I was a first timer and contesting against the Congress stalwart. My performance is a reason for jubilation,’’ he said.

Bagga took away the smiles from the faces of Bedi's and Pandey's supporters after first two rounds of counting when he was leading. Everybody thought he would prove to be a dark horse and win but later trends swung and he ended up losing but with a respectable number of votes.

‘‘I am honoured by my people,’’ he said adding that his rivals were saying he would not poll more than 10,000 votes.

Bagga, a municipal councillor, was a contender for the ticket from this segment but the Congress had retained its tested candidate. He had then announced that he would contest as an Independent. He was sent many feelers by many leaders but he refused to withdraw his candidature and fought till the last minute.

This despite the fact that Pandey held quite an influence in his constituency with 1,33,676 voters and had never tasted defeat. Being the son of Joginder Pal Pandey, a former legislator who was killed by terrorists, he mattered a lot for the people of the city. But their love for him did not translate into votes.



Gabria thanks voters
Our Correspondent

Sahnewal, February 27
SAD candidate Hira Singh Gabria defeated his Congress rival Malkiat Singh Birmi from Ludhiana (rural) seat today.

Expressing his gratitude towards voters, Gabria said it was the defeat of the dictatorial regime and an ushering in of an era of democratic rule.

“The electorate has finally voted for the truth and proved that no government can rule by ignoring the interests of people for long,” he said. He added that his victory proved that people wanted to have a man from amongst the masses who could give a patient hearing and stand by them through their thick and thin.

“The result was evident much before, as voters had resolved to end the misrule of the Congress government due to the increasing deterioration of law and order situation, rising corruption, inflation and unemployment. Moreover, the Congress’ disregard for poll promises and scarce development during the past five years have forced people to vote for change,” he added.

He also thanked SAD president Parkash Singh Badal for giving him a chance to represent his people and assured of living up to their expectations.



Kheernian takes Samrala seat
Our Correspondent

Samrala, February 27
SAD candidate Jagjiwan Singh Kheernian defeated Congress candidate and sitting MLA Amrik Singh Dhillon by 14,289 votes, a record for Samrala constituency, here today.

Out of the 1,37,283 votes in the constituency, 97,382 votes were polled.

While Kheernian polled 53,136 votes, Dhillon got 38,848 votes. BSP candidate Amarjit Singh Balion polled 3,187, RSP candidate Avtar Singh 380 and Akali Dal (Mann) candidate Himmat Singh 341 votes.

Candidates Amrik Singh polled 167, Amrik Singh Sekhon Kohara 366, Avtar Singh Bhagwanpura 499 and Gurdial Singh 459 votes.

Reacting to his victory, Kheernian said women voters were key as they had turned out in large numbers.



Hooliganism mars celebrations 
Kanchan Vasdev
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 27
Hooliganism marred celebrations in the Ludhiana West constituency after supporters of the newly elected SAD candidate Harish Rai Dhanda openly fired shots in the air outside the counting centre on the Rani Jhansi road soon after the results were declared.

Ironically this was done by supporters of Mr Dhanda, who were on a high after his victory, on the first day he was elected to be a law-maker. Mr Dhanda is a known advocate also.

This went on in the presence of many cops on duty. They made themselves comfortable in their vehicles and remained mute spectators to the goings-on. Later, they said nothing of the sort happened. This despite the fact that a Tribune photographer clicked the pictures of his supporters brandishing weapons openly.

As soon as the news of Mr Dhanda's win trickled down to his supporters waiting outside, they started firing in the air. This led to a hot exchange of words between workers of the losing candidate Harnam Dass Johar of the Congress and Dhanda’s supporters.

Many shopkeepers in the area downed their shutters after they heard shots, thinking there was some clash between Congress and Akali workers. Later, they realised that it was a part of celebrations.

The supporters went a step ahead when they opened champagne bottles in the middle of the Rani Jhansi road.



IT surveys yield Rs 1 crore
Our Correspondent

Ludhiana, February 27
Simultaneous surveys by several teams of Income Tax officials on business premises of a weaving factory and two plywood manufacturers in different parts of the city yesterday led to the disclosure of unaccounted income of Rs 1 crore by a business house, while investigations against two other firms were still continuing.

IT sleuths launched the survey on Suvidhi Weavers in the Focal Point area. All through the day, the officials inspected books of account, record of sales and purchase, stock inventory and computer data. Some key functionaries of the firm and the owners were also questioned.

The survey had a successful outcome, as the firm surrendered an unaccounted income of Rs 1 crore and gave a commitment to meet the additional tax liability.

Two other teams of IT officials conducted surveys on Golden Plywood at Humbran Road and Handa Plywood in Industrial Area. Even as the IT officials put the entire financial record of the firm under scanner and sought information from the directors, the survey operations remained inconclusive and investigations were still in progress.



Holi set to be smart, modern
Shivani Bhakoo
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana, February 27
This year Holi has been coloured in additional hues of political shades. With the election results declared close to the festival of colours , there has been an additional charm in the air. Obviously for those who are on the winning side. But even for those who are on the other side of the fence, Holi will certainly cheer them up with varied hues and colours.

From available trends in the market with regard to colours and “pichkaris”, it looks that Holi will be celebrated in a smart and modern manner this time.

Gone are the days when people celebrated the festival of colours and happiness in a traditional way with just two or three colours. The “self-conscious” people in the city prefer using “imported” colours instead of desi ones. The markets are flooded with bright colours like red, orange, green, blue and yellow, but this time all colours are in the form of sprays, creams, perfumed ones and coloured glasses.

A shopkeeper at Ghumar Mandi, selling imported as well as desi colours, said that people had become beauty conscious. "This time people, especially young girls, are very much worried about their skin. They do not want to do any kind of experiment with it. So they are preferring the imported colours which are costly as compared to Indian colours."

Almost all leading shops in the city have a variety snow spray colours. Its range starts from Rs 50 to Rs 80. The perfumed colours range between Rs 75 to Rs 90. The most attractive are the coloured glasses. One glass costs about Rs 5 and these are available in each shade. The colours are also available in cream form. The tubes are available at Rs 10 (per tube).

The soft colours are available at the rate of Rs 60 per kg. Small little sachets are also in demand this year. The “pitchkaaris” are a centre of attraction to the children and small kids. There are designer “pitchkaris” which the kids are buying in bulk. There are bags available for the kids which are “handy and useful” for most of them. The bags start from Rs 150 to Rs 250.

A dermatologist at a city hospital said that some of these colours are high on toxicity, which can be very harmful to the eyes and skin. He said that people should go for light colours, as they have less strong chemicals. Due to so much awareness in the younger generation, some of the shopkeepers have made their own natural colours like mehndi, haldi, besan and maida. The “manufacturers” of these colours said that earlier people were always scared while using these colours. "It is due to public demand that we made natural colours," said one of the manufacturers.



Fauji Beat
Rashtriya Rifles needs restructuring 

The necessity to raise a force like the Army was felt in the early nineties when militancy in Punjab was at its peak and the Army in large numbers (about nine divisions) was deployed there to quell insurgency. To release pressure on the Army of counter insurgency duties, six Rashtriya Rifles (RR) battalions were raised in 1991, by drawing manpower from various arms and services. Over the years, this force was enlarged to 36 battalions. And subsequently, some more battalions were added to it.

The RR went a long way in releasing pressure of counter insurgency duties from the Army besides, acquitting itself well initially in Punjab and then in Jammu and Kashmir and North East. But with the passage of time, it became unmistakably clear that the RR’s manpower lacked comradeship, cohesion, ethnic affinity, self-pride and pride in their units. The reason for this was that this peculiar “hotchpotch” apart from being drawn from various arms and services, was replaced after every two to three years.

Understandably, the RR battalions’ manpower cannot be expected to be well trained in infantry tactics. They cannot, therefore, measure up to the task of countering insurgency so well as the infantry battalions. This is an inherent defect in the RR’s structure, which needs to be corrected. The answer lies in restructuring these battalions with infantry manpower. This can be done by raising a training centre for the RR like other infantry centres.

Solan polyclinic

“If Mohali on becoming a district needs a polyclinic, then does it mean that our polyclinic from Solan should be shifted to Mohali?” remark Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) members from Solan district in Himachal Pradesh with anguish. “Solan is an old and big district”, they further add. They also say that if the Solan polyclinic is shifted to Mohali, then they will be put to great inconvenience, as there is no other polyclinic between Shimla and Chandimandir.

When the proposal to shift the Solan polyclinic to Mohali was being finalised last year, the ECHS members from Solan district represented against this move. As a result, the move was pended but not cancelled. “Unless the move is cancelled, we would not be sure whether our polyclinic will remain with us”, say the ECHS members from Solan, Kasauli, Dharampur and Dagshai.

Rather than waiting till March 2008, to consider raising more polyclinics, a decision should be taken now so that the districts like Mohali get their own polyclinics. There is no justification for inconveniencing the ECHS members in one district to help members in another district.

War memorial

This magnificent war memorial at Nowshera in Jammu and Kashmir was constructed by the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles, which is deployed in the Nowshera sector. The war memorial showcases names of all the war heroes and civilians who laid down their lives in Lam and Darhal areas since Independence.

The imposing 12 feet high marble and granite structure stands on a four feet high platform of 30 feet by 15 feet. Interestingly, the request for constructing the memorial came from the local people who had fought the Pakistani Army and raiders in 1947-48. Not only that, they were also successful in preventing the enemy from reaching Nowshera.

Recently, at an impressive ceremony, the memorial was presented to the people of the area by 5/11 GR.

Air maintenance

The Western Air Command of the Indian Air Force (IAF) is maintaining the troops by air over the longest distance in the world. The troops located between the Saltoro and Karakoram ranges in the Siachen Glacier and in the surrounding areas are wholly and solely maintained by the IAF, which has to travers through the dangerous mountains to maintain them by air.

— Pritam Bhullar



Hotelier to get leadership award
Tribune News Service

Ludhiana February 27
N.S. Nanda, president, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Punjab, will be conferred upon the Hotel Industry Leadership Award 2007, by Indian Development and Research Association, New Delhi, at a function to be organised on April 10 at New Delhi, keeping in view his meritorious services towards hotel and tourism industry.

Nanda disclosed that he felt honoured over the award that his services were being recognised and acknowledged by the industry. He has already been awarded lifetime excellence award by Ambika Soni, Union Tourism Minister, four months ago.

He had also been awarded Rai Bahadur M. S. Oberoi Memorial Award by HRRAL, Ludhiana on his remarkable achievements.

Meanwhile, Nanda has urged the Union government to consider the hotel industry as an independent industry as it is the largest industry to provide about 38.6 million people direct and indirect employment. He said, "the government should give us desired incentives to provide greater room facilities as is directly needed by tourism industry, keeping in view the forthcoming common wealth games.”

Nanda also requested the government to lay stress on promoting domestic, medical, and religious tourism in Punjab. He further informed that he was going to Pakistan to attend the annual convention on May 18 at Lahore. 



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