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PUNJAB DECIDES
SAD FOR CONG
* Urban shock does Amarinder in
* BJP claims unexpected successes
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Sidhu beats Singla
Sidhu beats Singla

Chandigarh, February 27
Upholding convention, the Punjab voter favoured a change, giving the SAD-BJP alliance a chance to govern the state after a fierce electoral battle.

With 45 per cent of voters below 35 years of age, many old warhorses of the SAD-BJP alliance and the Congress were defeated.

While the Akalis led by three-time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal survived some anxious contests to improve its tally of 2002 by eight to 48, its alliance partner BJP roared to success in 19 constituencies against two (initially three) seats it held in the outgoing House, giving the combine a total of 68 out of 116.

While 44 sitting MLAs, including ministers, of the Congress have lost election, 21 sitting MLAs of the SAD have been defeated.

For the BJP it has been its biggest ever tally in Punjab, the previous best being 18 in 1997. At that time SAD had 75 legislators in the 93-member ruling alliance.

Parkash Singh Badal, who was projected as chief ministerial candidate by the alliance, is expected to be sworn in as the head of the new government later this week for a fourth term.

Polling in Beas segment will be held on March 11.

The ruling Congress managed to win 44 seats, elbowing out Akalis from their stronghold of Malwa. If the doaba and the majha orchestrated the SAD-BJP collective win, Malwa gave the Congress respectability.


BIG Guns lose

The results today clearly indicate the trend of alliance politics.Though last time the voters had given the Congress a clear verdict, returning 61 of its candidates, this time no party got a clear majority on its own.

Punjab has a history of coalition governments, which, with the exception of the last SAD-BJP government, never completed term in office.

Many heads rolled in the battle of the ballot which witnessed a record polling of 76 per cent.

Interestingly, if former Finance Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh of SAD won by more than 40,000 votes from Banur, Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal scrapped past Prem Singh Chandumajra by only 254 votes.

Among the old stalwarts of the Congress who fell by the wayside were Shamsher Singh Dullo, Sardul Singh, Avtar Henry, Mohinder Singh Kaypee, Chaudhury Jagjeet Singh, Prof Darbari Lal, Gurchet Singh Bhullar, Malkiat Singh Dakha, Rakesh Pandey, Malkiat Singh Birmi, Amrik Singh Dhillon, Jagmohan Singh Kang, Jasjit Singh Randhawa, Dr Mohinder Kumar Rinwa and Dr Harbans Lal.

The Akalis, too, faced reverses. Those who failed to make it are Veer Singh Lopoke, Kuldip Singh Wadala, Bibi Jagir Kaur, Raghbir Singh, Bhag Singh Mallah, Ranjit Singh Talwandi, Jagdish Singh Garcha, Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur, Harmel Singh Tohra, Raja Narinder Singh, Gaganjit Singh Barnala, Prem Singh Chandumajra, Baldev Singh Mann, Gurdev Singh Badal, Gobind Singh Kanjhla, Malkit Singh Keetu, Gobind Singh Longowal, Hari Singh Zira, Tota Singh, Mantar Singh Brar, Sikander Singh Maluka and Balwinder Singh Bhunder. BJP stalwart Madan Mohan Mittal also lost.

The poll results indicate that “splinter groups” within the major political parties have been marginalised.

Though Capt Amarinder Singh could not steer party to a second time triumph, he has certainly emerged as an undisputed leader. Other power centres in the party have got the message loud and clear. Defeat of Punjab Pradesh Congress chief Shamsher Singh Dullo and other Beant Singh loyalists like Malkiat Singh Dakha indicate that it is Capt Amarinder Singh who calls the shots.

Similarly, the group that raised a revolt in 2005 has also been cut to size. While Rajinder Kaur Bhattal managed to hold her seat, her loyalists Jagmohan Singh Kang and Amrik Singh Dhillon were defeated. Another Bhattal loyalist Raj Khurana had defected to the BJP to retain his Rajpura seat.

Those who had deserted the SAD on the poll eve, including Tohra loyalists Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal and Harmel Singh Tohra, faced defeats.Even those owing allegiance to the Barnala faction or Longowal Dal like Prem Singh Chandumajra, Baldev Singh Mann and Gobind Singh Longowal got the rejection slip. Kuldip Singh Wadala, who had floated his own party some years ago, was among those defeated in the Doab.

While voters rejected old war horses, they returned to the House several new faces like Bikramjit Singh Majithia, Jagjiwan Singh Khirnia, Anil Joshi, Jagbir Singh Brar, Virsa Singh Valtoha, Amarpal Singh Bony, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Jasbir Singh Khangura and Balbir Singh Sidhu.

New faces: Bikramjit Singh Majithia, Jagjiwan Singh Khirnia, Anil Joshi, Jagbir Singh Brar, Virsa Singh Valtoha, Amarpal Singh Bony, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Jasbir Singh Khangura, and Balbir Singh Sidhu.

Congress reverses: Shamsher Singh Dullo, Sardul Singh, Avtar Henry, Mohinder Singh Kaypee, Chaudhury Jagjeet Singh, Prof Darbari Lal, Gurchet Singh Bhullar, Malkiat Singh Dakha, Rakesh Pandey, Malkiat Singh Birmi, Amrik Singh Dhillon, Jagmohan Singh Kang, Jasjit Singh Randhawa , Dr Mohinder Kumar Rinwa and Dr Harbans Lal.

Akali reverses: Those who failed to make it are Veer Singh Lopoke, Kuldip Singh Wadala, Bibi Jagir Kaur, Raghbir Singh, Bhag Singh Mallah, Ranjit Singh Talwandi, Jagdish Singh Garcha, Mahesh Inder Singh Grewal, Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, Ajaib Singh Mukhmailpur, Harmel Singh Tohra, Raja Narinder Singh, Gaganjit Singh Barnala, Prem Singh Chandumajra, Baldev Singh Mann, Gurdev Singh Badal, Gobind Singh Kanjhla, Malkit Singh Keetu, Gobind Singh Longowal, Hari Singh Zira, Tota Singh, Mantar Singh Brar, Sikander Singh Maluka and Balwinder Singh Bhunder.

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BJP wants Deputy CM’s post
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 27
Knowing full well that it holds the key to the formation of the Badal-led government, the Bharatiya Janata Party, will stake claim for the post of Deputy chief minister.

It is for the first time in Punjab that the BJP will hold a position of importance on the political scene. “With 19 seats in its kitty, the party has done very well.

“ Everybody, including the media, underestimated us”, said a relieved Avinash Rai Khanna, chief of the BJP’s Punjab unit. At one point of time, its alliance partner had expressed reservations on alloting 23 seats for the BJP . The turnaround is such that the BJP will now aid the SAD in forming the government.

For the BJP, this is a better performance than even the 1997 assembly elections when the SAD-BJP combine was voted to power on the charisma of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the anti-incumbency wave in Punjab.

Then the SAD had a brute majority of 75 MLAs and the BJP 18 MLAs Now the SAD’s tally is under 50 seats and it will be the BJP that will help in formation of the government. It will also be the first time that BJP will taste the power in terms of having the alliance under control, said a party worker.

Khanna said after due consultation with the party high command the demand for deputy chief ministership will be raised and “we will have a fair share in the government.” Senior BJP leader R.P. Singh, who is close to BJP chief Rajnath Singh, was candid enough to admit over the phone from Delhi that “ we will stake claim for the post.” The BJP leaders tipped for the post are Mohan Lal, Satpal Gosian, Swarna Ram and Manoranjan Kalia, party sources said.

Senior BJP leaders would express their anguish in private at the “lack of respect” shown to them. Also, crucially, for the SAD, it will not be easy to change Chief Minister mid-term and hand over the reins to Sukhbir Badal,” pointed out another observer. 

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Jaitley meets MLAs today
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 27
The BJP Parliamentary Board today deputed party general secretary Arun Jaitley to discuss the issue of deputy chief minister in Punjab with its alliance partner, the SAD.

The board has asked party's general secretaries Gopinath Munde and Om Prakash Mathur to proceed to Uttarakhand's capital Dehra Dun as central observers to ascertain the views of the elected BJP MLAs about who should be the Chief Minister of the state, Jaitley told mediapersons after the meeting.

The meeting was presided over by party president Rajnath Singh.

Jaitley said he, alongwith another general secretary Thawar Singh Gehlot and former party president M.Venkaiah Naidu, would go to Chandigarh tomorrow to participate in the joint meeting of the BJP and SAD MLAs.

After the joint meeting, a meeting of the newly elected party MLAs would be held where the leader of the BJP legislature party in Punjab Assembly would be elected, Jaitley said and added that the party's victory in Punjab and Uttarakhand was a clear signal that the people have rejected anti-common man policies of the UPA Government.

The results of Punjab and Uttarakhand would influence the outcome of the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP is likely to form the next government, Jaitley claimed.

The meeting, attended by Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L. K Advani and other members of the Board, discussed the results at length and was of the view that Hindu votes had consolidated the BJP’s position and it was a positive trend for the forthcoming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.

While Jaitley would discuss with the SAD leadership in general and with three time Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal specifically about the issue of deputy chief minister for the party, the BJP general secretary, who had supervised the election campaign in the state, would also deliberate on the number of the ministers that the party would have in the coalition government.

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