Azam-Jaya spat: Cong sees opening in Rampur
It’s hic, hic, hurray in this Gurdaspur village
For final push, Anurag, Narinder pin hopes on star campaigners
Pradeep Sharma writes from Hamirpur
Locked in a tough fight, Anurag Thakur and Narinder Thakur, candidates of the two big national parties from the Hamirpur parliamentary constituency have pinned hopes on star campaigners to boost their electoral prospects. Apparently responding to the SOSs of their jittery contestants, both the Congress and the BJP high commands seem to spared a thought for the key constituency, which is also the home district of the Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. So, the saffron’s party’s PM-in-waiting LK Advani will hit the campaign trail with a rally at Bilaspur on May 9 in support of Anurag Thakur, who also happens to be Dhumal’s son. Similarly, Rahul, the scion of Nehru-Gandhi family, would woo voters in favour of Narinder Thakur at Una on May 11, the last day of campaigning for the fifth and last phase of Lok Sabha polls.
While retaining the seat is the prestige issue for Dhumal, the Congress is leaving no stone unturned to wrest the traditional BJP bastion. “here’s mood of change. Also, the factionalism within the BJP has come out on open. So, we are confident of a positive outcome, said a Congress observer for the Hamirpur seat Gurbachan Singh Dadahoor, while talking to the Tribune. However, majority of pundits feel it will be a neck and neck fight in the key constituency. To boost Narinder’s campaign, former Chief Minister and candidate from the Mandi seat Virbhadra Singh would hold a rally at Hamirpur on May 10. In the backdrop of the allegations that the Vidya Stokes faction of Congress was ‘shying away’ from the campaign, the AICC general secretary and Himachal in charge Mohsina Kidwai was in Una today apparently to ‘pull up’ the different factions and ask them to put up a united front ahead of Rahul’s visit.
Given the importance of the seat, which Anurag won in the 2007 byelection by nearly 1.75 lakh votes, the CM had been camping in the constituency for several days now. In fact, apparently on account of the factionalism in the BJP, Dhumal had been forced to campaign even at the block and ward levels in the Hamirpur district.
This seems to suit the Congress strategy of ‘confining’ the CM in his home district, leaving the field open for the Congress in other districts. The motive behind giving ticket to Narinder, who hails from Hamirpur and is cashing in on the legacy of Jagdev Chand Thakur, his late father and BJP stalwart, was also a part of this strategy.
Tribune News Service
Hoshiarpur, May 8
The anti-incumbency may also prove vital in certain segments. While Santosh Chaudhary, the Congress candidate and a two-time MP from the Phillaur Lok Sabha seat, has been touching on local issues, the BJP candidate, Som Prakash, a former IAS officer, has been highlighting the agenda of his party. The BSP candidate, Dr Sukhwinder Sukhi, an ENT surgeon, has been vowing voters by promising development on the pattern of UP under the leadership of “Behen” Mayawati.
The constituency has been the stronghold of the Congress since 1980. The Congress candidates won the seat six times, while the BJP and Bharatiya Lok Dal (BLD) once each. The BSP founder, Kanshi Ram, won the seat once.
Interestingly, the BJP has been gaining strength in the constituency after Avinash Rai Khanna won the seat by defeating four-time MP Kamal Chaudhary, the Congress candidate, in 2004.
Balbir Singh (BLD) got 62 per cent votes and defeated Congress candidate Darbara Singh in 1977, who could get only 34 per cent votes. In the 1980 Lok Sabha elections, Balbir Singh lost the seat to the Congress candidate, Jai Singh. It was the then Congress candidate, Kamal Chaudhary, who won the Hoshiarpur parliamentary constituency seat consecutively for three terms.
Even BSP supremo Mayawati lost the seat to Kamal Chaudhary in 1992. While 34 per cent of the total votes were polled in favour of Kamal Chaudhary, Mayawati got 27 per cent votes. The BJP fielded Bikram Singh as its candidate from here in 1992 and only 18 per cent votes were polled in his favour.
The BSP’s Kanshi Ram defeated Kamal Chaudhary in 1996. Re-establishing himself, Chaudhary again won the seat by defeating the BSP candidate, Charandeep.
It was the turn of Charanjeet Singh Channi, the Congress candidate, to hold the “trophy” in 1999. He overcame the challenge from Chaudhary, who, after quitting the Congress, joined the BJP. This time the BSP fielded Rakesh Gujjar, who got only 16 per cent votes.
The BJP candidate Avinash Rai Khanna, a sitting MP, succeeded Channi, the Congress candidate, in 2004 by defeating his rival Darshan Singh Mattu of the Congress. Dr Sukhi is the only BSP candidate in the state, who is getting support of a united party cadre. The BSP has emerged as a united party in Hoshiarpur and can dent the Congress more as compared to the BJP.
The delimitation of the Hoshiarpur Lok Sabha seat will be another deciding factor in the elections. Inclusion of segments like Bholath and Phagwara (Kapurthala district), Srihargobindpur and Mukerian (Gurdaspur) and exclusion of Garhshankar, Nangal and Anandpur Sahib will also affect the polls process.
Tribune News Service
Jalandhar, May 8
Middle-aged Daljeet Singh Cheema, who has been adviser to Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal, is contesting from the SAD ticket. Pitched against him is newly elected Punjab Youth Congress president and grandson of slain Punjab CM Beant Singh Ravneet Singh Bittu, who also claims to be one of the “chosen ones” of Rahul Gandhi.
Incidentally, both of them are new to the area and have been working hard to strike a rapport with the masses. While Dr Cheema has been able to win over people because of his calm and polite nature, Bittu has been reaching out to more and more people through his techie team, showing his grandfather’s videos to villagers, connecting with youth through Internet and contacting his old school friends through mail.
A long stretch from Banga to Mohali falls in this constituency. The other seven assembly segments that are a part of this new constituency include Nawanshahr, Balachaur, Garhshankar, Nangal, Chamkaur Sahib and Kharar.
An announcement by Bhartiya Samaj Morcha leader and former MP Satnam Singh Kainth on supporting the Congress is likely to be a loss to Cheema. The SAD candidate also faces dissidence from the infighting among Akali workers in the Banga-Nawanshahr belt.
Some workers of the BJP also are reportedly not supporting Cheema over the denial of the ticket to Avinash Rai Khanna. The factor could lead to a tilt in favour of the Congress in the Garhshankar area, earlier represented by Khanna.
But Cheema seems to be scoring in the Anandpur Sahib and Chamkaur Sahib areas that have larger pockets of SAD supporters. The fact that CPM candidate Mahan Singh Rori is also in the fray may prove to be advantageous to him as it could lead to a dent in the Congress votebank.
The Congress, however, can also expect some last-minute gains because of Rahul Gandhi’s visit scheduled for May 9 at Mohali. Congress Gujjar leader Sachin Pilot is also expected to visit Balachaur or Garhshankar asking for votes in favour of Bittu.
As of now, the Gujjar vote remains split among three leaders from the area - Ch Nand Lal, sitting SAD MLA and third-time winner, Congress rival Ram Krishan Kataria and CPM candidate Mahan Singh Rori, who too is a Gujjar.
Tribune News Service
Khadoor Sahib, May 8
Six of the total nine assembly constituencies included in the newly carved Khadur Sahib were earlier part of the now dissolved (after delimitation) Tarn Taran parliamentary constituency. The Tarn Taran constituency is considered as a SAD bastion as SAD candidates had won this seat continuously since Emergency, except in 1991 when the party boycotted the elections.
That is why, the Tarn Taran MP and SAD candidate, Dr Rattan Singh Ajnala, is confident about his victory.
The Majha region will be the deciding factor for Khadur Sahib as nearly 71 per cent of the 13,39,978 voters are in six assembly constituencies: Tarn Taran, Patti, Khem Karan (earlier Valtoha), Khadur Sahib, (Tarn Taran district), Baba Bakala (earlier Beas) and Jandiala (Amritsar district).
Three new assembly constituencies, Kapurthala, Sultanpur Lodhi (Kapurthala district, Doaba region) and Zira (Ferozepur, Majha region), have been included in Khadur Sahib, replacing Naushehra Pannua, Raja Sansi and Attari of Tarn Taran constituency, dissolved after delimitation.
The SAD won in seven assembly constituencies of Khadur Sahib, whereas the Congress won in only two, Kapurthala and Zira, during the last assembly elections in 2007.
So, according to the last assembly elections, the SAD is ahead of the Congress by nearly 65,000 votes in the nine Assembly constituencies of Khadur Sahib.
Known for his poll management, Rana is making all-out efforts to cover the margin of 65,000 votes. However, Dr Ajnala claimed that he would win with a greater margin than that of nearly 56,000 votes last time.
Interestingly, both Ajnala and Rana have won all the elections they have fought so far. While Ajnala won the assembly elections four times in 1985, 1994, 1997 and 2002 from the Ajnala constituency and Parliament elections in 2004 from Tarn Taran, Rana also registered his victory from the Kapurthala assembly seat in 2002 and Jalandhar parliamentary seat in 2004. Rana is contesting from Khadur Sahib as Jalandhar is reserved for SC after delimitation.
Now the electors will decide on May 13 who will continue his winning spree.
A former Congress man, Dr Surinder Singh Sahi, is also trying his luck on the BSP ticket from this seat. He unsuccessfully fought assembly elections from Tarn Taran on the Congress ticket in 1985.
The number of votes he gets may further create problems for the Congress.
While a direct contest is likely between Ajnala and Rana, a total of 15 candidates, including Baba Balkar Singh of Bhartiya Gaon Taj Dal and comedian Rajendra Rikhi, are in the fray.
Tribune News Service
Baramulla, May 8
However, Baramulla is now serving as the centre point for a daring transition from the separatist to mainstream camp by a man, who was, until lately, a votary of the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination. But Sajjad Ghani Lone has finally woken up to the power of democracy, as he goes about his segment, assuring people a voice in Parliament.
For Sajjad, son of slain separatist leader and People’s Conference chief Abdul Ghani Lone, the decision to contest the May 13 Lok Sabha poll from this segment was not easy. But he successfully resisted threats of the gun. So much so that he is now being seen as a potential challenger to mainstream political parties like the NC and the PDP.
Sajjad has thus made the contest for Baramulla exciting, with his sway evident in Kupwara district, where his sister Shabnam lost the recent assembly election. But Sajjad’s supporters don’t see a reason to link Shabnam’s defeat to their leader’s chances. “Sajjad, being highly intellectual, has his own support base here,” says a supporter.
The former separatist’s father Abdul Ghani Lone, done to death by militants nine years ago, had represented Handwara in the state assembly for three consecutive terms. In 1983 again, he was elected from Karnah, also part of Kupwara district, where Sajjad can eat into the NC vote base. The NC currently holds three of the five assembly seats in this district, the other two are shared by the PDP and an Independent.
Of the 15 assembly segments in Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora districts of this parliamentary constituency, the NC has seven MLAs. The PDP made surprising inroads here last elections, and netted five seats, even as the border segment of Uri continues to be with the Congress, which is supporting the NC in this election.
The NC’s chances here look good, the party having won the seat in seven of the 10 elections held. The present state president of the Congress, Saifuddin Soz, has represented Baramulla in the lower house thrice - each time on NC ticket. The Congress took this seat in 1996 when the NC boycotted the poll, and earlier in 1967 and 1971.
Even while the segment appears like an NC stronghold, Sajjad’s presence cannot be taken lightly. His party People’s Conference’s proxy candidates like Ghulam Sofi have earlier beaten NC stalwarts like Mohammad Ramzan in the Handwara assembly election here. Even in the 2008 assembly poll, Sajjad’s confidant, Abdul Rashid Sheikh, won the Langate seat as an Independent.
Aware of Sajjad's potential to harm them, the NC this time dumped its two-time MP from Baramulla -- Abdul Shaheen -- to field Sharifuddin Shariq instead. The party feels Shariq, being a Kupwara resident, can handle the Sajjad factor better. From the PDP, on the other hand, former tourism minister Dilawar Mir is trying his luck after losing the recent assembly election from the Rafiabad segment here.
But the man of the moment is Sajjad Lone, for whom the road ahead is not going to be easy, his presence being limited to Kupwara district. But in other pockets, the former separatist has won some hearts for his courageous move towards realism. How he now deflects the larger criticism of having “deserted the separatist ranks” for his "pragmatism" remains to be seen. It’s this part of the story that makes the fight for Baramulla worth a watch.
Tribune News Service
Madurai, May 8
The AIADMK leader started her campaign in the southern district of Tirunelveli, where she charged the Centre with providing weapons and training to the Sri Lankan military. She also pointed out how Chief Minister M Karunanidhi was making contradictory statements on LTTE chief V Prabhakaran and alleged that the DMK leader did not have a stand on Tigers.
As she continued her campaign in Theni, Dindigul, Sivagangai and Ramanathapuram, she repeated her charges, boosting the image of her party, in South Tamil Nadu, which is culturally and geographically close to “Tamil Eelam” (the homeland of Tamils in Sri Lanka).
The AIADMK tasted its first electoral success in Dindigul in South Tamil Nadu and the party’s founder MGR was elected from Assembly constituencies from the southern districts in 1977, 1980 and 1984. As long as MGR, a sympathiser and patron of the LTTE, was alive, all the southern districts remained bastions of the party. However, after his death, the party’s support base in southern districts was slowly eroded and the it lost all the Lok Sabha seats in the 2004 general elections. Jayalalithaa’s election tour with the assertion to form “Eelam” has revived the party in the South Tamil Nadu, which has produced most of the pro-Tiger leaders in Tamil Nadu.
Azam-Jaya spat: Cong sees opening in Rampur
Sitting MP Jaya Prada of the Samajwadi Party, is up for difficult times in these polls. Her “bhai’ Azam Khan, and the SP’s ‘voice of Muslims’ who holds sway over the huge population of the community here, is not by her side. Rather, it is being alleged that in the background, he is working to spoil the party chances. It means direct benefit to Congress candidate Begum Noor Bano, wife of the erstwhile Nawab of Rampur and two-term MP.
It looks to be a direct fight between he two women as Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi of the BJP and Ghanshayam Lodhi of the BSP are clearly behind them.
Noor Bano and the Congress see a definite opening and are confident of re-gaining the Muslim votes, comprising around 50 per cent of the population. The SP vote will come to the Congress and not go to the BJP or the BSP, said a local congress worker.
The same star value that ensured a win in 2004 for Jaya Prada (48), is working against her. The begum, a widow, has sympathy of the local population and does not miss any opportunity to remind people how she will live with them here in Rampur till she dies. “ Where was your MP in these five years”, the begum asks in her public meetings. Her core issue is the farm loan waiver (Rampur got about Rs 100 crores), followed by a road-building Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna as well as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act that promises 100 job days annually to every adult in the country.
Naaem Khan, a local educationist, says people know that the begum is close to Sonia Gandhi and that is also a factor.
On the other hand, Jaya Prada told the Tribune “ Noor Bano’s politics runs from the ‘mahal’. She steps out of her home every five years to use the name of her family. I am the common person. Look at the infrastructure here. Things were pretty bad when I became the MP. In these five years, a total of 13 bridges have been built besides an ICU in a hospital among other things.” Regarding Azam Khan, she says nobody in the party knows why he is opposing me. “ I had volunteered to step down in case he wanted to contest. But he was adamant and did not agree,” she added.
At public meetings in rural areas --- where 65 per cent of electorate resides --- she makes it a point to “expose” Khan and how he is trying to ensure a defeat for the SP. “ This is where I am winning,” says Jaya Prada.
It’s hic, hic, hurray in this Gurdaspur village
Deeda, (Gurdaspur), May 8
Though the business is illegal, it has been flourishing in Deeda, which is located in sub-tehsil of Dinanagr falling in district Gurdaspur. And now with poll season on, the residents are working overtime to meet bulk orders. Located a few meters away from National Highway 1, the village, inhabited by members of the Sansi tribe, has a cluster of about 40 houses. Most of them are ‘pucca’ with granite and marble flooring. Some of them are double-storeyed. They are equipped with all kinds of modern amenities.
At the entry of the village, there’s a shop, which has no visible article in it for sale. When this correspondent knocked at the door of the shop, a woman came out. Upon being asked for liquor, she said she could arrange for it only on order as they were hard pressed to meet the extensive demand generated by elections.
A resident of the village, pleading anonymity, said majority of the families were involved in preparing illicit liquor. Dishing put details, he said jaggery was the basic ingredient which is mixed with water and left to ferment in drums buried under pucca streets and in the fields. After fermentation, the mixture was distilled and the liquor collected, he said. There are some families that have deserted the ‘traditional vocation’ after finding jobs in the Army and police.
It is said during the British Raj, an English officer happened to taste the liquor made here. Impressed by the flavour, he ordered for more quantity. With the passage of time, the illegal trade picked up and was passed on from one generation to another. At present, the women folk are mainly involved in it.
Even as the police and the excise department keep conducting raids in the village, in absence of any concrete plan to provide an alternative livelihood to residents, he latter fall back on the old trade.
Owing to pressure from the police and liquor contractors, many villagers have shifted their operations to nearby Chani Beli village in Himachal Pradesh.
The Gurdaspur police had launched “Operation Punerwas” in 1998 to rehabilitate the families involved in business but it could not be sustained. Senior police officials said they have been regularly raiding the village. However, they admit that unless the government and NGOs come forward to help the villagers by imparting them vocational skills to earn livelihood, the problem shall persist.
The teething troubles were quite apparent. Yet, as Delhi went to polls on Thursday, the disabled population and NGOs working with the community were more or less happy with the special arrangements made in the polling booths by the Election Commission for the Lok Sabha elections. Javed Abidi, director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), said that he was broadly happy with the facilities in the polling booths for the differently abled people. “There were few lapses like some disabled persons complained that the ramp in the booths for wheelchair bound people are too steep. Others said in some places the polling officers were unaware of Braille strips in the EVMs. But broadly, the arrangements were okay,” Abidi said. — IANS
He had flown in from abroad and made heads turn at a Delhi polling booth with his Rolls Royce. Industrialist BK Modi, who owns a major stake in Spice Communications, made sure that he voted on Thursday. “I have come all the way from abroad especially to cast my vote,” he said, showing off his inked index finger at the Aurangzeb Lane polling station in the New Delhi constituency. "I voted. I look for a flexible leadership at the centre," Modi said. Other voters turned around to see who was getting off the Rolls Royce that occupied most of the narrow road leading to the polling booth. Modi and his wife had come to the polling station in a chauffeur-driven car.
He had flown in from abroad and made heads turn at a Delhi polling booth with his Rolls Royce. Industrialist BK Modi, who owns a major stake in Spice Communications, made sure that he voted on Thursday. “I have come all the way from abroad especially to cast my vote,” he said, showing off his inked index finger at the Aurangzeb Lane polling station in the New Delhi constituency. "I voted. I look for a flexible leadership at the centre," Modi said. Other voters turned around to see who was getting off the Rolls Royce that occupied most of the narrow road leading to the polling booth. Modi and his wife had come to the polling station in a chauffeur-driven car. — IANS
New Delhi: With the final phase of the general election approaching, the income-tax department is gearing up to scrutinise all the income and assets details filed by the candidates before the Election Commission.
According to official sources, the department has asked its offices and assessing officers across the country to start the scrutiny of the I-T returns as soon as elections get over. "The department will get the bulk of the tax returns of the candidates from across the country from the EC soon,” a senior Finance Ministry official said. — PTI
Lucknow: The BSP and Congress candidates from the Kheri Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh have been charged with violating the model code of conduct after they allegedly distributed gifts among voters, an official said on Friday. “A notice has been issued to Zafar Ali Naqvi of the Congress and Illiyas Azmi of the BSP by the district administration for defying the poll conduct,” said Lakhimpur-Kheri district magistrate Senthil Pandiyan C. Both the candidates have been accused of distributing gifts like watches, and mobile phones to lure voters.
Lucknow: The BSP and Congress candidates from the Kheri Lok Sabha constituency in Uttar Pradesh have been charged with violating the model code of conduct after they allegedly distributed gifts among voters, an official said on Friday. “A notice has been issued to Zafar Ali Naqvi of the Congress and Illiyas Azmi of the BSP by the district administration for defying the poll conduct,” said Lakhimpur-Kheri district magistrate Senthil Pandiyan C. Both the candidates have been accused of distributing gifts like watches, and mobile phones to lure voters. — IANS
What's wrong in this? He expressed his views on leaders like AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar
— AICC general secretary Mohsina Kidwai on Rahul Gandhi's praise of leaders outside the UPA
The UPA government led by Manmohan Singh has virtually surrendered to US imperialist pressures and committed India to ratifying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
— Editorial in People's Democracy, CPM mouthpiece