BJP-SAD doing extremely well in Punjab: Rajnath
Preneet Kaur Patiala
Hisar, Karnal for LS polls
Himalayan tsunami may rock Cong boat in U’khand
AAP eyes smaller states for national debut
New Delhi, February 13
Targeting smaller states where the electorate has no choice other than the two mainstream political parties - the Congress and the BJP — and regional players, AAP hopes to offer an "honest" alternative.
Banking on the plank of anti-corruption and criminalisation of politics, AAP aspires to break away from the existing "caste and communal" politics and considers defeating vote-bank politics as its biggest challenge in North India, including states such as Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh.
The AAP tactical move is to focus on small states and UTs such as Goa, Delhi, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Chandigarh, Pondicherry, Gujarat and Odisha. This will secure the "broom" symbol allotted to the AAP in Delhi at a national-level if it gets parliamentary representatives in at least xx states or is recognised as a state party in four or more states.
For a party to be recognised as a state party, its candidates must secure at least eight per cent of valid votes polled or a minimum six per cent of total votes polled and one Assembly seat for every 25 seats in that state.
While the party has received nominations for 425 Lok Sabha seats, it is still not clear on the exact number of seats it would contest. Sources said the party was in a dilemma: it could either increase the party base this time or wait to make an impact in the next polls and do a quality job.
"A highly-fractured mandate is expected and there are two streams of thought within the party — should we try to reach out from Kashmir to Lakshadeep or should the party adopt an 'arrive and conquer' approach? Should we be there to defeat the parties or leave a mark? We will follow the middle path," said a source.
AAP National Executive member Anand Kumar said, "We stand a good chance wherever there is no choice between the main parties and the regional parties. The focus is on seats where eminent people are involved in the criminal-politician nexus and nepotism or communalism is rampant. In that way, there is much unrest and a strong desire for change."
Adding that such examples were seen in Punjab and Haryana and to some extent in Uttarakhand, he said the AAP appeal was beyond expectations in big cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai and Chandigarh. "It's more like joining the people to clean Parliament of undesirable people with criminal backgrounds," he said.
The party would take a call on the number of seats it would contest on the basis of two indicators: good response to the anti-corruption movement over the last two years and the number of members enrolled in the last month-and-a-half under its Main Bhi Aam Aadmi Hun drive and the availability of applicants.
In the Delhi polls, where the AAP got nearly 30 per cent vote share, the party will contest all seven Parliamentary seats. It would fight 10 seats in Haryana, 80 in UP and two in Goa. it would contest all the Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Karnataka, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan where the no of applicants has been high it anticipates good show.
However, in states such as Assam and Andha Pradesh, the party has not received many applications. In Jammu and Kashmir, the party has got an encouraging response from Jammu region, said AAP leaders.
AAP member Gopal Rai said the party had constituted 'search teams' to look for upright and potential candidates and the situation would be clear in the next two weeks.
With AAP hoping to fight out polarisation of votes, it has divided Lok Sabha constituencies into four categories: corrupt, criminal, communal and dynasty. On the radar are seats where MPs have either been declared corrupt or have a criminal background.
Of the 238 nominations that have been closed, the party is likely to release the first list over the weekend. The finalised names, as confirmed by AAP Political Affairs Committee (PAC) member Sanjay Singh, are Yogendra Yadav (Gurgaon), HS Phoolka (Ludhiana), Meera Sanyal (South Mumbai), Mayank Gandhi (Northwest Mumbai) and Kumar Vishwas (Amethi).
"After Delhi, people have high hopes from AAP. Our aim is to cut into caste and communal politics. For long, political parties have exploited the reservation issue and Mulayam Singh and Salman Khurshid had also made promises. We are not against reservation, but are against the politics of vote bank. We will give Modi a tough fight as people are going to opt for us and not substitute BJP," Singh said.
BJP-SAD doing extremely well in Punjab: Rajnath
New Delhi, February 14
"We have perfect understanding with the Akali Dal. They have given us no such indication (about wanting to contest the Amritsar seat)," he said, putting a lid on the raging guesswork that the BJP might exchange Amritsar for some other constituency in its 10-3 arrangement with the SAD in Punjab.
Confident of the BJP-SAD combine doing "extremely well" on all 13 Lok Sabha seats of Punjab, Singh said that in the forthcoming General Elections, the BJP and allies would not just win from its traditional seats but also in states which were not its strongholds such as Odisha, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.
"Our aim is to achieve the target of 272+ and I am sure that the BJP will do extremely well everywhere, including Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
Though the BJP president did not say much about the party's hunt for new allies and partners in the quest for the magic figure, on the possibility of the party's alliance with the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in Haryana, he said there had been "no discussions" on the issue so far.
The BJP is in touch with many regional parties throughout the country and Singh said the situation would soon become clear. "We are working on various possibilities throughout the country," he said.
After the departure of the JD (U), the Akali Dal and the Shiv Sena are the only big allies in the BJP-led NDA alliance.
On Navjot Singh Sidhu's candidature from Amritsar, the BJP president said he did not think "there was any problem".
The BJP has in its kitty three parliamentary constituencies - Amritsar, Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur.
Rumour are rife over Sidhu being at loggerheads with Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and his brother-in-law and Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia. Sources said the Revenue Minister was interested in the Amritsar seat and had many face-offs with Sidhu on issues related to Amritsar.
Though Sidhu has already announced that he could not think of contesting elections from any other seat but Amritsar, speculations on the issue abound. His name tops the list of candidates for the seat but sources said the BJP leadership was under pressure from its allies on the issue.
The ‘perfect understanding’
BJP president Rajnath Singh says there are “absolutely no issues” with key NDA ally Akali Dal on any matter
He says the BJP has a perfect understanding with the Akali Dal, putting speculations to rest about it planning to field a candidate from Amritsar
Currently, BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu (in pic) represents Amritsar
The BJP has in its kitty the three parliamentary constituencies of Amritsar, Hoshiarpur and Gurdaspur
At the receiving end for not getting projects that could create jobs, Amarinder’s wife continues to be the royals’ face
Tribune News Service
Patiala, February 14
Though she has nothing much to boast about in terms of introducing projects that created job opportunities or helped her constituency as a whole, she is still considered to be the face of the royal family and a lone connect who is constantly available for people even as her husband and Patiala MLA Capt Amarinder Singh is not.
The Patiala MP has spent Rs 17 crore she had received under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) during her 15th Lok Sabha tenure. Of the total funds, she has spent Rs 3.19 crore on construction and maintenance of dharamshalas and community centres. Rs 10 lakh each have been allocated to Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal. The District Bar Association had received a water purifier from the funds. She has completed all her projects well in time.
"I have bagged Rs 150-crore Central fund to upgrade Government Rajindra Hospital and I consider it to be my biggest contribution so far. The funds will surely improve the health facilities here," said Preneet Kaur, who is also the lone applicant for the Congress MP ticket from Patiala.
"I am also trying to get the Sports Authority of India (SAI) regional centre in the city, which will help create further employment opportunities for the youth," she said, adding that she had also got approved Rs 250-crore grant from the Sports Ministry during the last Budget to set up the National Institute of
Not agreeing with the incumbent MP, senior SAD leader Prem Singh Chandumajra, who was defeated by Preneet during the last MP elections, said the Congress MP has failed to get any project for the state despite being a Minister of State. "Her entire contribution has been limited to consolidating her vote bank in villages as her MPLADS funds have gone to dharamshalas and other works in villages, neglecting the overall development of people," said the former Patiala MP.
Ridiculing her opponent, the Patiala MP said she could have bagged more projects for the state if the law and order situation was better. "The state government has failed to provide an environment that is conducive to investors," she said.
On her chances of winning the elections, Preneet said she had worked closely with the people of the state and was hopeful of returning back to power for the fourth term. "I am not one of those leaders who meet people only before the elections. Despite my busy schedule at the ministry, I have been generously touring my constituency and meeting people," she said.
She said: "I hope that despite anti-incumbency, I will surely win the fourth term as I have full faith in people."
Criticising Preneet's style of working, senior SAD leader Charanjit Singh Dhaliwal, brother of Cabinet minister Surjit Singh Rakhra (one of the top contenders for the SAD ticket from Patiala) said Preneet had failed to get any rail link for Patiala. "People of the constituency will question her this time as to what has she done for them in the past 15 years. Merely meeting people does not mean that the MP has done her job," he said, adding that her role in the Lok Sabha was also under the scanner where she had failed to rake up important cases pertaining to her constituency.
Meanwhile, taking a dig at the MP, Lehal resident Sonia Bala said she had only seen Preneet attending religious or political functions. "She should be vocal in her role as a local MP and make sure that she does something for better utilisation of her funds in the city," she said.
Local lawyer Sunpreet Singh said: "The MP has been approachable most of the times, but she has failed to bring any centrally sponsored project, which can create job opportunities, for the district. She is our voice at the Centre and she is a success for the Patiala electorate if she helps people bag better jobs."
Hisar, Karnal for LS polls NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 14 As per the seat-sharing formula of the two parties, the HJC will get two of the 10 Lok Sabha seats. Earlier, the BJP had asked the HJC to choose from among Karnal, Sonepat and Bhiwani, which were once represented by its leaders, besides Hisar, which is currently represented by HJC chief Kuldeep Bishnoi in Parliament. The party leaders were divided when it came to choosing between Karnal and Sonepat. Though a few senior party leaders said they had an emotional bond with Karnal as it was represented by former Haryana Chief Minister late Bhajan Lal, others said the party should have opted for Sonepat, which was part of the Jat heartland in the state. The coordination committee of the HJC-BJP will meet soon to formulate a joint strategy for the elections.
NEW DELHI, FEBRUARY 14
As per the seat-sharing formula of the two parties, the HJC will get two of the 10 Lok Sabha seats. Earlier, the BJP had asked the HJC to choose from among Karnal, Sonepat and Bhiwani, which were once represented by its leaders, besides Hisar, which is currently represented by HJC chief Kuldeep Bishnoi in Parliament.
The party leaders were divided when it came to choosing between Karnal and Sonepat. Though a few senior party leaders said they had an emotional bond with Karnal as it was represented by former Haryana Chief Minister late Bhajan Lal, others said the party should have opted for Sonepat, which was part of the Jat heartland in the state.
The coordination committee of the HJC-BJP will meet soon to formulate a joint strategy for the elections.
Himalayan tsunami may rock Cong boat in U’khand
Dehradun, February 14
With a resurgent BJP buoyed by the popularity of its Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the Congress would be going to the polls with its back towards the wall. The performance of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government that has been in the middle of several scams, rising inflation and the state government's "non-performance" in tackling the 2013 Himalayan tsunami, would be the top deciding factors.
Reading the writing on the wall, the Congress high command effected a change in the state leadership. To prop up the sagging fortunes of the party, the party removed Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, accused of poor handling of the situation following the rain-triggered flash floods that ravaged the state on June 17, 2013. Hundreds of affected persons are said to be awaiting relief and rehabilitation even eight months after the disaster.
Over 5,000 persons were killed and roads, schools, colleges, private houses, hydro projects, power lines and public infrastructure washed away particularly in the hilly districts of Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Rudraprayag in Garhwal region and Pithoragarh and Bageshwar districts of Kumaon region.
The Congress brought in Union Water Resources Minister and Congress Haridwar MP Harish Rawat to replace Bahuguna. Considered a mass leader with influence across the state, Rawat started his tenure by touring the disaster affected areas of Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts to speed up the rehabilitation works.
Rawat had created a record of sort in 2009 by winning the Haridwar seat by a margin of over one lakh votes for the Congress after a quarter of a century. Interestingly, Rawat who used to contest from his native Almora seat took a calculated risk of shifting to Haridwar following the reservation of the Almora seat during delimitation. He defeated Swami Yatendranand Giri of the BJP who was the runners-up.
With Harish Rawat taking over as Chief Minister, it was expected that his daughter Anupma Rawat -- who has been nurturing her father's constituency -- would contest as Congress candidate from Haridwar. The BJP is contemplating fielding its former CM Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank or Madan Kaushik, a local Hardiwar legislator.
The return of Rawat, a Thakur leader, in a state with majority Thakur population is a clever gamble by the Congress high command. It was expected that his taking over the reins of the state would send a positive message to the dominant Thakur community across the state.
Rawat is considered an able political organiser and is credited with building the party from scratch after the formation of a separate state of Uttarakhand in November 2000 and later to lead the party to win the first ever Assembly elections in February 2002. Already, Congress workers who were feeling demoralised earlier are enthused by the Rawat's coming.
Harish Rawat showed political sagacity with the single-minded objective of performing well in the Lok Sabha elections in his first week. He avoided intense factionalism that had plagued the Uttarakhand unit by taking every faction and leader along. He has joined hands with his rivals within the party to put up a better result in the Parliament elections.
With an eye on Dalit votes -- which account for over 23 per cent in the state -- Rawat advocated that Dalit leader Yashpal Arya, who quit as Uttarakhand Congress chief, continue on the post. He also proposed several schemes for Dalits in his first Budget presented recently.
Knowing well that he had to muster the support of the Muslim community, which form nearly 12 per cent of the population and would play an important role in Haridwar, Tehri and Nainital Lok Sabha seats, Rawat has started wooing the community. In the Budget, he proposed setting up of Urdu and Persian academies at the Piran Kaliyar shrine near Roorkee in Haridwar and also earmarked Rs 51 crore for the shrine's development.
To woo ex-servicemen, who form a large population in the state, the state government has hiked the allowance for gallantry award winners. Former BJP Chief Minister Maj Gen BC Khanduri (retd) had earlier raised the award money for gallantry award winners. It would be a hard-fought battle between the BJP and the Congress to win over ex-servicemen and their families. Both parties would field their own retired generals during campaigning.
The Opposition BJP has already geared up its party organisation with active support from RSS cadres. It has planned sammelans and conventions for youth, women, Dalits, ex-servicemen and Muslims. The party's minority cell would be holding a Muslim convention at Piran Kaliyar to interact with the community, particularly in Haridwar district. Narendra Modi had addressed an impressive rally in Dehradun in December 2013 to set the tone for the campaign.
It would be another interesting battle in Tehri Garhwal where Mala Raj Luxmi Shah of the BJP (and daughter-in-law of the erstwhile former Maharaja of Tehri estate) would be defending her seat. She won the 2012 bypoll necessitated by the resignation of sitting Congress MP Vijay Bahuguna after his elevation as CM. She had defeated Saket Bahuguna, son of Vijay Bahuguna.
Traditionally, the Tehri Garhwal seat has remained with Maharaja Manvendra Shah, the last ruler of the Tehri estate who won it for a record eight times before his death in 2007. It was only after his death that Vijay Bahuguna could win in the 2007 bypoll.
In neighbouring Pauri Garhwal, Satpal Maharaj of Congress would be defending his seat against Maj Gen BC Khanduri (retd), a former BJP Chief Minister and Union minister. Either these leaders or their proxy candidates had fought from the seat till now.
Satpal Maharaj had defeated Lt Gen TPS Rawat (retd) of the BJP in 2009. Rawat had then left BJP to form the Uttarakhand Raksha Morcha. In 2004, Maj Gen BC Khanduri (retd) defeated Lt. Gen TPS Rawat (retd) of the Congress.
In the Kumaon region, Congress MP Pardeep Tamta would be defending his Almora (reserve) seat. He had defeated BJPs' Ajay Tamta in 2009. Earlier in 2004, before the reservation of the Almora seat, it was won by Bacchi Singh Rawat, a former Union minister, by defeating Harish Rawat's wife Renuka Rawat.
From Nainital, Kunwar Chandra Singh Baba of the Congress would be defending his seat for the third time in a row.