Badal bahu plays emotional card, gets trolled
CHANDIGARH: In an unusual move four days before Punjab goes to the polls, Union minister and Badal bahu Harsimrat Kaur Badal made a desperate appeal to voters to consider her family’s “sacrifice” during the decade-long Akali rule only to be trolled on social media by detractors who wanted people to give the ruling family “much-needed rest for the next 10 years”.
Seen as a last-ditch effort to woo voters, Harsimrat, attired in an orange and yellow suit with head covered, started the moving appeal by invoking the Gurbani in a video on Monday. The video began trending on social media soon after but ended up evoking sarcasm by Akali opponents on Tuesday.
Harsimrat says her family and she sacrificed 10 years of their lives for the state yet people spoke ill of them. “Satgur ki sewa safal hai, je ko kare chit laaye,” she begins and adds, “This is what the Gurbani says and this is what our family has followed for 10 years. (Deputy chief minister and husband) Sukhbir Singh Badal neglected his health while working for Punjab. He’s been standing in the sun, drenched in sweat supervising projects like the one (Heritage Street) in Amritsar.”
“Whatever people may be saying about us, you know the reality. You can see the development around. No one managed to achieve so much in 60 years but us. Sukhbir did not bother about food or water and worked tirelessly. We have not even been able to take time out for one another,” the Union minister says, her voice cracking and eyes welling up in a rare display of emotion.“Our children were kids when Sukhbir and I started working for the state. We didn’t even realise that they’ve grown up. From being kids they are almost of marriageable age,” she concludes.
Hours after the video started trending on social media, a “reply video” created by an unidentified detractor mocked at Harsimrat’s appeal, offering a “solution” to her grievances.
The Sikh man in the video appealed to voters to be “kindhearted” and not vote for the Badals so that the family members can spend time with each another. “Harsimrat ji is our sister. She has spoken so emotionally. Even I got emotional listening to her,” he says.
“For 10 years we have been demanding Sukhbir paaji work for us. This time, we should give him all the rest he needs. We should not cast a single vote in his favour or for any Akali so that he does not have so many responsibilities,” the man says.
“After all, family comes first. People will force Sukhbir paaji and Harsimrat bhenji to contest but we must make sure they don’t win so that they can spend time with their family,” he adds.
3 killed in twin blasts at Cong road show near Bathinda
MAUR (BATHINDA): Three persons, including a Congress worker, were killed and seven injured in twin blasts at Maur, 30 km from Bathinda, around 8.30pm on Tuesday, during a road show by Congress candidate Harminder Singh Jassi.
“There were improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted in a scooter and a car and were detonated with remote control,” a top police official, who did not want to be named, said. “Nothing can be ruled out. That a pressure cooker was used to trigger the blast is also a possibility.”
After initial theories that a blast was caused by a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder in a car, a pressure cooker was found near the white Alto (PB-05C-8973) that was ripped apart. Moments earlier, there were announcements to move the car as it was disrupting traffic. “Both the vehicles sported fake number plates and even the numbers of their chassis and engines had been struck off,” said police sources on the condition of anonymity.
Jassi had a miraculous escape as the blast took place seconds after his vehicle had crossed the car. Shrapnel hit Jassi’s vehicle.
The dead included an unidentified beggar, a nine-year-old girl believed to be his daughter, and Harpal Singh Pali, who was Jassi’s Maur poll office manager.
After change of team, Pargat sells his ‘principled stand’
JALANDHAR: On his electoral debut in 2012, former Indian hockey captain Pargat Singh, who resigned as Punjab’s director of sports to jump into the political arena, won after barely 15 days of campaigning. On the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) ticket, he defeated Congress’ sitting MLA Jagbir Singh Brar. This time, Pargat is contesting on the Congress ticket, and, as his candidature was announced on January 18, again he got barely two weeks to voting day.
But since he is in fray as the sitting MLA is he at an advantage? He says, “Last time, I got the benefit of star value. But this is the second election, and the celebrity factor wouldn’t work. Now, I am not an Olympian skipper but the MLA of my constituency. So, before casting their vote, people will only analyse what I did in five years as their elected representative.”
SAD NO MORE
Pargat had ended up at loggerheads with the SAD-BJP government over setting up Doaba region’s solid waste management plant in Jalandhar Cantonment constituency area.
Cashing in on his stand on the waste plant, Pargat never forgets to give the issue prominence in his speech. “Had the waste management plant been established here, forget about the current generation, it would have had a negative impact on future generations too. The area would have been in a mess as around 400 truckloads of waste would have come daily. The government should have thought of setting up an industry that would have generated jobs for the youth,” says Pargat in Salalpur village.
He explains his switch of allegiance too: “It was my mistake that I joined the Akalis. But I was new and you all know I had no choice; how I was pushed into electoral politics. Now, I have seen the AAP too from close quarters and they too are making blunders in such a short time of existence in the state. So, by analysing all parities I came to the conclusion that Congress is the best bet for the people of Punjab.”
The constituency is a combination of rural and urban with around 60 villages. Pargat is pitted against AAP’s HS Walia and SAD’s Sarabjit Singh Makkar.
Pargat, credited with reviving hockey in Jalandhar as well as in Punjab in his tenure as director of sports, tells the people to talk to relatives in other constituencies too and convince them to vote for the Congress, “so that our party forms the next government”.
Taking a dig at AAP leader Bhagwant Mann, Pargat says, “People enjoy listening to his jokes, but jokes wouldn’t generate jobs or solve problems. And the people of Punjab know it very well.”
But is he facing difficulty in convincing people about his switch and that this time the governance would be different? “The oppositions is spreading rumours that if I win the same local Akali leaders will be in power. But I can’t do much about these rumours. People have to understand that I left the SAD over principles, and I will stick to those principles,” he says.
About the reported AAP undercurrent, especially among the youth, Pargat makes a special reference to the young brigade standing in his public gathering that they should talk to their friends who are attracted towards the AAP.
He tells HT: “I call them (AAP) ‘Whatsapp group’, as they are very active on social media. And, at times, what is circulating on social media is not true. We can’t deny the AAP presence, but hopefully we will be able to pacify the youth and make them vote for us.”
Not Malwa, Doaba-Majha kingmaker in last two polls
Malwa went Cong way in 2007, SADBJP was on a par with it in 2012; DoabaMajha seats sealed Captain’s fate
CHANDIGARH: With 21 more seats than Majha and Doaba put together, Malwa remains the gamechanger in Punjab polls. But the other two belts are not pawns in the game. In fact, in the last two polls, the politically-volatile belt of Punjab with 69 seats — up from 65 in 2007 polls after delimitation — remained a zero sum game, leaving it to Majha and Doaba to decide the winner.
Though the ruling SAD bettered its tally in 2012 polls over 2007, the base of ruling alliance has been shrinking in Malwa in successive elections. In 2007, Malwa went the Congress way as then Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh made capital equity among the dominant Jat Sikh famers by terminating the river waters agreement act and managed to secure Malwa’s Dalits to his side by wooing Sirsa-based Dera Sacha Sauda. The party clinched 37 seats in Malwa against 19 of Akalis and five by ally BJP. But even Malwa’s clear verdict failed to return Amarinder to power as the party suffered a near rout in Doaba and Majha, bagging just four seats in Doaba out of 25 and three in Majha out of 27.
In 2012, the Congress again underestimated the power of Doaba and Majha to together swing the balance in favour of the Akali-BJP. As SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal wooed the Dalit-dominated Doaba with populist schemes, such as attadal and shagun, the saffron party concentrated on urban and border seats. The Congress, which had lost the plot weeks before elections on choosing candidates, fighting rebels and then a slack campaign was able to keep its hold on Malwa — its tally went down by just by five seats from 37 to 32 — but it again secured single-digit figures in Doaba (6) and Majha (8).The Akali-BJP combine, on the other hand, made a clean sweep in Majha and Doaba again. With help of a 14-seat jump over their Malwa tally of 2007, they were back in power, rewriting Punjab’s history of returning alternate governments. Following delimitation, Malwa’s gain of four seats was Doaba and Majha’s loss of two seats each.
As Punjab votes again on February 4, the AAP has made inroads into both Congress and SAD-BJP bastions in Malwa. Ashutosh Kumar, professor of political science, Panjab University, says: “You need to win seats across the three belts to form the government. The AAP has an advantage in south Malwa. It may even sweep the bastion of ruling Badals such as Bathinda and Mansa. Malwa is the cotton belt which has seen farmer suicides after crop failure last year. The farmer is angry. In Doaba and Majha, the fight is between the SAD-BJP and Congress and anti-incumbency sentiments will benefit the latter. So overall, it may be advantage Congress.”
Dr Pramod Kumar of the Institute of Development and Communication (IDC), Chandigarh, attributes the AAP wave in Malwa to a “vocal voter” who is rooting for a change. “There are around 45 seats in Malwa from Sangrur, Bathinda and Mansa to Fatehgarh Sahib where the AAP is looking formidable. In other districts such as Ludhiana and Ferozepur, the Congress is looking good. In Doaba and Majha, the AAP will be more of a spoiler than a winner. Who forms the government will be decided by a sum total of all three belts. A lot depends on deras too. If the vote is against anti-incumbency, the Congress could emerge as the single largest party,” he said.
Wife in poll fray, DGP Mustafa banned from entering Malerkotla
CHANDIGARH: The Election Commission on Tuesday issued directions to ban director general of police Mohammad Mustafa, presently in-charge of Punjab State Human Rights Commission, from entering Malerkotla, from where his wife Razia Sultana is in the fray as the Congress candidate for the February 4 elections.There were reports from the constituency that Mustafa was interfering in the poll process. “As per EC directions, the DGP will stay at the police headquarters in Chandigarh during the remaining campaigning days, but we can’t stop him from casting his vote if he is a voter from Malerkotla,” said Punjab chief electoral officer (CEO) VK Singh.
Badal, Kejri two sides of same coin: Captain
FARIDKOT : Terming Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his Delhi counterpart and Aam Aadmi Party supremo Arvind Kejriwal “two sides of the same coin”, Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh on Tuesday alleged they were involved in politics based on vested interests.Badal wants to promote interests of his family, and Kejriwal wants to become the Prime Minister by befooling people,” said the Congress CM nominee during a rally in Faridkot.
Slamming Kejriwal for being indecisive, he said: “First he challenged me to fight against Badal, and now that I am contesting the elections from Lambi, he is saying I will help Akalis by dividing anti-Badal votes.”
The former CM said he had given the people of Lambi a fresh choice. “By winning from Lambi, I will teach a lesson to both Badal and Kejriwal,” he said.
‘FREE TREATMENT FOR CANCER PATIENTS’
The Punjab Congress chief addressed rallies in Faridkot and Jaitu, which lie in the “cancer belt” of the state. Promising permanent solution to the problem of cancer-causing pollution in Malwa belt, Capt announced free treatment for cancer patients in Punjab, if voted to power.
Flanked by Congress candidate Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon at Faridkot, Capt said people in the region were suffering “double whammy” of losing their loved ones to cancer and having to struggle to meet the huge expenses of treatment.
Abohar: Locked in a triangular contest, Jakhar seeks 4th term
ABOHAR: A seasoned politician having more experience over his close rivals from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar is hoping to win the assembly elections fourth time in a row from the Abohar segment.
Jakhar successfully contested his first assembly elections from Abohar in 2002 to hold the family fort when a close confident of the family, Sudhir Nagpal, jumped into the fray as an Independent. Though the 2007 and 2012 polls remained a cakewalk for Jakhar, liquor baron Shiv Lal Doda, who contested as an Independent, gave tough competition to the Congress veteran in 2012 by securing more than 45,000 votes.
BJP candidate Arun Narang, who belongs to the Arora community which has 60,000 votes in the segment, is not only enjoying the support of local factions of the party but also from Doda, who is presently lodged in jail in a murder caseDoda is still in the fray as an Independent as he could not withdraw his candidature on the last day of withdrawal of nomination, a day after he announced he would opt out in support of the BJP candidate. However, he has asked his men to support Narang.
Fazilka-based Atul Nagpal, who is the AAP candidate, was a surprise pick as party cadre termed him an “outsider”.
“Abohar suffered a lot in the 10-year rule of the Akali-BJP government and I had to move the Punjab and Haryana high court to get basic amenities, including sewerage system and fire brigade, for Abohar,” said Jakhar.
“Jakhar and their family have ruled Abohar for several decades but failed to provide basic facilities to the people. Voters have now decided to show the door to the Jakhars,” said BJP’s Narang.
“The Akali-BJP combine and the Congress have befooled the people for decades. They want a change this time and are supporting the AAP,” said Nagpal.
In Patti, Kairon faces tough challenge from Cong, AAP
PATTI (TARN TARAN) : Punjab food and civil supplies minister Adaish Partap Singh Kairon, who holds the legacy of his grandfather former chief minister of united Punjab Partap Singh Kairon and is son-in-law of CM Parkash Singh Badal, just managed to win by 59 votes in the 2012 assembly polls from the Patti segment. With SAD-BJP facing anti-incumbency, Kairon faces bigger a challenge this time.
Despite having lost the elections thrice, Congress candidate Harminder Singh Gill is again in the fray with his “Panthic” image from the Akali bastion. Kairon has never lost the assembly polls from here since 1997. Gill, who remained president of the All India Sikh Students’ Federation (AISSF), gave a close fight to Kairon in 2012 polls.
“Over 1,800 youngsters have died of drug overdose in past 15 years. Why the SAD-BJP is not taking steps to end this menace?” questions Gill.
Gill is also getting support from Tarlok Singh Chakwalia, who was the Congress nominee against Kairon in 2002 and former AAP leader Gurmahavir Singh Sandhu, who joined Congress a few days ago. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has fielded Ranjit Singh Cheema, who is trying to corner the Akali candidate over drug menace in the state.
“Unemployment is major reason behind drug addiction. Akalis have failed to set up industrial units here. Sugar mill has also been shut. If AAP is voted to power, this mill will be revived and other industrial units will also be set up,” says Cheema.To secure their traditional stronghold, the entire Kairon family is making efforts.
It is for the first time that Kairon’s wife Parneet Kaur Kairon is campaigning for her husband. Badal also addressed a rally here on January 28 to seek votes for his son-in-law.
Referring Agro Food Park, bridge over Sutlej near Kot Budha village, distribution of ration under the Atta-Dal scheme and allotment of free LPG connection, the Kairon family is raising issue of development during the campaign.“The SAD-BJP did it best to ensure development of this segment and deserves another chance,” says Kairon. However, opponents allege that Patti lacks basic amenities, including education, health and employment.
Youth connect missing in campaign of Cong’s Kang
CHANDIGARH: On Sunday morning, the three-time Congress MLA from Kharar, Jagmohan Singh Kang, dressed in white kurta pyjama, emerges from his Sector-18 residence in Chandigarh, asking his supporters, “Tyari hai jawano, chaliye pher maidan vich? (Are you ready boys? Shall we move to the battlefield?)
After getting suggestions from his younger son Amrinder Kang, the MLA finally leaves his house around 10am in his Toyota Innova car. Kang leads his cavalcade of three vehicles, including one occupied by his security guards, while two of his supporters are in the third one.
His first public meeting of the day — of a total of 10 on Sunday — is scheduled at Swara village of the Kharar constituency where locals welcome the MLA.here he highlights the issues of drug menace, poor roads and youth unemployment in Punjab and he appeals to the gathering to do maximum legwork in the final days of poll campaigning.
After spending 10 minutes there, his cavalcade heads to Machhli Kalan, where people are waiting for him. One thing is common in the two places — connect with the youth is missing as the gathering comprises mostly senior citizens who claim to be traditional supporters of the grand old party which Kang represents. Local party workers were more than willing to speak in praise of their leader, as many were disappointed due to constraint of time. In his speech, Kang warns people to not let the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) divide votes since Akalis might benefit of this.
To ensure a personal touch, he makes sure that he shakes hands with everyone greeting him. Getting selfies clicked with the Congress leader was another demand from the gathering.
“Kang saab, vaddi karke ghar lagegi photo.” (We will put an enlarged photo in our house),” says one of his supporters. Local party workers too had their moments of pride when Kang makes brief visits to their houses.
Kang has his next halt at Bhago Majra at 12:30pm where visibly aged supporters greet him. Kang gets an applause as four AAP workers join the Congress. After Kang leaves, a local leader is heard thanking the audience for attending the meeting on his request. He thanks them from saving him from getting insulted and asked them to enjoy the pakoda feast.
After meeting his supporters at Radwala village, Nayagaon, Shivalik City (Kharar), Chajju Majra Colony, Ranjit Nagar, Randhawa Road, Kharar, Kang finally returns to his house around 9:30pm. After his supporters leave for their place, he retires for the day.
In Jalalabad, Rai Sikhs weigh their options
Akalis claim Ferozepur MP Ghubaya’s support to Congress candidate is inconsequentia
Tribune News Service
Jalalabad, January 31
The high-profile contest between SAD’s Sukhbir Singh Badal, AAP’s Bhagwant Mann and Congress’ Ravneet Singh Bittu has become even more curious with the dominating Rai Sikhs rallying behind the latter and ‘estranged’ Akali MP Sher Singh Ghubaya, who belongs to the Rai community, canvassing “door to door” for the Congress candidate.
Even as Bittu has got a shot in the arm, Congress factionalism has vanished. Former Congress minister and a Kamboj leader, Hans Raj Josan, who was a ticket aspirant, has begun campaigning for Bittu, The Rai Sikhs have more than 80,000 votes in the constituency and the Kamboj community 25,000. The total votes are 1,93,712. A majority of Rai Sikhs had voted for Sukhbir in the last two Assembly elections.
The SAD seems to have scored a self-goal. By allegedly releasing a sleazy video on Ghubaya, it appears to have antagonised the Rai Sikhs.
The contest in Jalalabad was seen as a direct one between Sukhbir and Mann. But after the release of the sleazy video, all that has changed with the Congress candidate, whose candidature was announced at the eleventh hour, leaving him less than two weeks to campaign, emerging strong.
“The Kamboj biradari feels indebted to Beant Singh for eliminating terrorism in this border belt,” says Boor Singh, a Rai Sikh of Basti Bhuman Shah village. (Bittu is the late Chief Minister’s grandson).
The Akalis, on the other hand, claim they have not lost a ‘single Rai Sikh or Kamboj’ vote. Sukhbir has, meanwhile, increased his visits to Jalalabad. “We are not flustered. We have empowered the Rai Sikhs by setting up Rai Sikh Welfare Board,” Sukhbir says with confidence. He makes sure he visits Rai Sikh villages and listen to their grievances.
SAD spokesperson Manjinder Singh Sirsa does not see Ghubaya as an opinion-maker. “Has anyone seen a Rai Sikh leader standing with Bittu on stage? Whether or not Ghubaya campaigns for Bittu is inconsequential,” he says.
Sukhbir is campaigning on the development plank. But a couple of factors are working against him, the main one being the “high-handedness” of his OSD and SAD’s halqa chief Satinderjit Singh Manta. “Nobody can deny that SAD undertook numerous development works in the area. But the ‘extraordinary’ powers given to Manta has alienated the people of the constituency,” explains a local resident.
Also, old-age pension has not been disbursed in the constituency since the past about three months. The central grant (Rs15,000 per family) for building toilets too has been delayed. “We were given only Rs5,000 of the Rs15,000 central grant three months ago. Now, nobody is listening to us,” complains Kailash Rani.
Bittu dares Badal to debate on terrorism
- Abohar: Congress MP and party candidate from Jalalabad Ravneet Singh Bittu on Tuesday claimed that CM Parkash Singh Badal’s “Khalistani background” was on record, even as he called the SAD the “mother of terrorism”. He challenged Badal to an open debate on the issue. Addressing public meetings in rural areas, Bittu reminded Badal of the SAD's working committee resolution, adopted in August 1980, in which the party had said that “killing is a matter of pride”, referring to the assassination of Nirankari chief Gurbachan Singh. The MP wondered how Badal was blaming that party (Congress) for spreading terrorism whose top leaders — the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the then Chief Minister Beant Singh — had made the supreme sacrifice for the nation. Bittu said Badal had participated in the June 1986 conference organised by the hardliners in the Golden Temple complex on the anniversary of Operation Bluestar. oc
Bhattal in a fierce battle in Lehra
Tribune News Service
Amarinder: AAP will turn state into another Kashmir
Tribune News Service
Muktsar, January 31PPCC chief Capt Amarinder Singh today appealed to the public to vote for Congress candidates, saying that the state could turn into another Kashmir under “fascist forces” like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as “Pakistan is waiting for an opportunity to revive extremism in Punjab”.
Also talks about cancerFaridkot: High incidents of cancer and poor quality of water emerged as major issues as Amarinder addressed rallies in Faridkot and Jaitu. He said he was committed to save people in the region from this dreaded disease. Providing some financial assistance to a cancer patient was not sufficient when the cost of treatment was tremendously high, he said, referring to the CM Cancer Relief Fund under which Rs1.5 lakh is given to a patient.
Jakhar: CM will make history with defeat
- Abohar: Punjab Congress vice-president and spokesman Sunil Jakhar said here on Tuesday that five-time CM Parkash Singh Badal would make history by losing his last election. Addressing a meeting in Sidhu Nagari after a roadshow, he predicted that the people would show the door to the Badal clan, including Sukhbir Badal, Bikram Majithia and Adaish Pratap Singh Kairon. oc
Shots fired outside Congress office
- Sukhmeet BhasinTribune News ServiceBathinda, January 31Unidentified persons opened fire at the Congress election office in Janta Nagar of Bathinda on Monday night.
Bolaria goes all out to woo voters, makes promises
Tribune News Service
Amritsar, January 31
Manpreet promises good times for traders, end to drugs
Tribune News Service
Bathinda, January 31
Not paid for last five months, SSA/RMSA staff seek ‘donations’ from people to fill govt’s coffers
Nikhila Pant Dhawan
Tribune News Service
Bathinda, January 30