Newly-weds commit suicide
VHP looks for symbolic way out
Modi stands in Patel’s shoes
Cautious Buddha takes no chances
Chennai check on Hindutva hawks
Three names on Speaker shortlist
Strict disciplinarian & man of many firsts
Assam shies off polio drops
Labour law rethink rumours fly
Shuffle raj in Punjab

Digha, March 3: 
A newly-married couple from Hooghly allegedly committed suicide at a Digha hotel last evening under mysterious circumstances.

Officials say Abhijit Das (29) and his wife Pampa (25) — from Janai Road under Chanditala police station — were found in a hotel suite they had rented when they arrived on February 28.

The incident came to light around 7 pm yesterday after the hotel management got no response despite repeatedly knocking on the doors. The couple was supposed to leave the hotel yesterday. However, when they did not check out long after they were expected to, hotel authorities informed the police.

Policemen broke open the door to find the couple lying on the bed. A packet of pesticide and a glass of coloured liquid were also found on the floor. A suicide note was also recovered, said a police officer.


New Delhi, March 3: 
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad capped a day of parleys with the Prime Minister’s Ayodhya managers by ruling out a rethink on temple construction but sources said the programme scheduled for March 15 would most likely be scaled down to a “symbolic” gesture.

VHP leaders said seven sants would arrive in Delhi tomorrow for a meeting with VHP and RSS leaders and try to work out a “formula” to end the standoff.

The VHP, under attack after the Gujarat carnage, today issued an appeal for peace. The belated statement by VHP international working president Ashok Singhal said every life is precious.

“I appeal to all my countrymen to maintain peace and harmony throughout this blessed land. I request you to be vigilant to thwart any and all internal and external threats to the security of this nation,” Singhal said.

Asked if the sants would meet the Prime Minister, Singhal said no meeting was scheduled but added: “If the Prime Minister so desired, if the sants desired and were invited with dignity…”. The sources said a meeting with Vajpayee was likely on Wednesday.

But in public, Singhal stuck to his defiant posture. “Our programme regarding shifting of the carved stones to the Ram Janmabhoomi site on March 15 remains unchanged as decided by the religious leaders. As in the past, VHP will continue to carry out all its activities with non-violence and peace,” Singhal said.

Mahant Ramchandra Das Paramhans, president of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, and BJP MP Swami Chinmayanand are among the religious leaders attending tomorrow’s meeting.

Sources said the meeting will discuss the construction programme and restrictions enforced in the temple town. The VHP hawks are irked with the government for curbing the movements of Ram sevaks in Ayodhya by cancelling trains and imposing prohibitory orders around the town.

The VHP leader also released a copy of a letter submitted to the Prime Minister on February 27, in which the trust had enclosed extracts from relevant court judgments and a site plan of the Ram Janmabhoomi area, and demanded return of 42 acres of land belonging to it.

It also said the Centre may retain in its possession sufficient area of acquired undisputed land adjacent to the disputed structure so that a reasonable portion out of that area may be handed over to the successful party if and when suits are decided.

Singhal said the VHP would continue to carry out all activities through non-violent means. The “Ram sevaks” were going to Ayodhya only to offer prayers and not to create any law and order problem, he said, questioning the necessity of restrictions imposed on their movement to and within Ayodhya.

Singhal claimed that over 40,000 “Ramsewaks” had visited the temple town within five days before the imposition of the restrictions.

Earlier, RSS joint general secretary in charge of BJP affairs, Madan Das Devi, and his colleague S.V. Seshadri briefed Singhal about their talks with the Prime Minister and home minister here last evening. The leaders also discussed the current situation in Gujarat and Ayodhya.

The RSS had announced yesterday that religious leaders would be meeting Vajpayee and Advani in a day or two to find a solution to the Ayodhya impasse.

Call to defer date

A key adviser to the VHP has asked it to defer construction of the Ram mandir on the disputed site in Ayodhya by three months, reports our special correspondent in Bangalore.

Vishvesha Thirthaswamiji of Pejawar Udupi Mutt, also a trustee of the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust, said the VHP should take note of the tense and fluid situation in the wake of the Gujarat violence and put off its plans to begin construction on March 15.

However, he added that the government should allow free movement of VHP officials and devotees in Ayodhya for prayers on that day. The swamiji would soon hold talks with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on ways to resolve the mandir crisis.

Efforts should be focused on maintaining peace and national unity he said, voicing confidence that the VHP would cooperate with the government. He was talking to reporters after a VHP meeting to protest the Godhra attack. Several BJP leaders, including Union minister Uma Bharti, attended the meet.


New Delhi, March 3: 
Like Uttar Pradesh’s Rajnath Singh, Narendra Modi was anointed Gujarat chief minister four months ago with much fanfare and billed as the state’s great white hope once the high command reckoned that Keshubhai Patel — older in age and thought to be politically inflexible — had outlived his utility.

The charge against Patel was that he was not hands-on when the killer quake had hit the state last year and an economically vibrant Gujarat required a “young and dynamic” chief minister.

The last nail in Patel’s coffin was hammered in when the BJP lost an Assembly seat in a byelection in Gandhinagar, L.K. Advani’s Lok Sabha constituency. Advani saw the reverse as a personal slight and managed to get Patel out.

Modi, who fell out with Patel in the latter’s second chief ministerial tenure, finds himself in pretty much the same plight, in fact worse.

While the fallout of the quake could be assessed and contained to a reasonable extent, the communal frenzy is turning out to be a different ball game: persistent, widespread and unpredictable. Modi, known for speaking his mind on the Hindutva issue, is finding that the monster that he and the Sangh parivar had unleashed on Gujarat may end up devouring him.

Nothing can explain why his government looked the other way when incidents of communal trouble occurred hours after the train was attacked in Godhra. If Patel gave the impression of a chief minister not quite on top of the quake, Modi came through as a confused leader over the past two days as his police diddled when arsonists went on the rampage.

The confusion, BJP sources admitted, was deliberate as Modi — a committed Hindutva votary — would have found it “difficult” to fire on Hindu agitators and attackers who took to the streets because their kinsmen were killed in Godhra for “no fault of theirs”.

It may have earned Modi kudos in the BJP’s Hindutva constituency, but the unbiased Hindu was bound to see him as a failed administrator.

The efforts and resources put in reconstructing Gujarat after the communal violence of the post-Babri phase came apart in one stroke, and all because Modi refused to come down on the perpetrators.

Gujarat BJP MPs wondered if this politics of hate and divisiveness would yield the kind of electoral dividends it did in 1995 and 1998. Indian political wisdom had it that the same issue could not be milked dry for two elections, one of them said.

Modi, they said, had an opportunity to create a niche for himself as an efficient ruler and a keeper of promises but he blew it up.

It is difficult to separate Modi from the RSS’ Hindutva beliefs. A pracharak until he became the chief minister, Modi did not take kindly to Shanker Sinh Vaghela’s split-BJP enterprise and backed Advani’s endeavour to throw him out of the party. Modi carried his anti-Vaghelaism to an extent that he got the VHP and the RSS to defeat him in 1998.

In 1996, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee addressed a public meeting in Ahmedabad, a senior MP, Atma Ram Patel (now in the Congress), was stripped and thrashed. His crime? Hobnobbing with Vaghela.

Modi justified the incident. “Gujarat culture” deemed that “cunning, old” men like Patel, who contributed “nothing productive”, should be treated thus, he said.

Whether Modi’s indifference to the violence earns him the support of Hindus or he is rejected as a failed administrator will be under the scanner as Gujarat readies for Assembly polls next year.


Calcutta, March 3: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today said a general alert would remain in place across the state after reviewing law and order at Writers’ Buildings in the wake of the Gujarat carnage.

“I have asked the police to continue vigil to prevent any untoward incident even though the situation was absolutely peaceful today,” Bhattacharjee said.

Chief secretary S.N. Roy, home secretary A.K. Deb, director-general of police D.C. Vajpai and police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty attended the meeting. Bhattacharjee held a similar meeting yesterday after cancelling his visit to Delhi to attend a party conclave.

“We are keeping constant watch on the situation and all district headquarters have been instructed to keep police reinforcements ready for any emergency,” he added.

The administration at Katwa in Burdwan today remained on high alert as a few dozen VHP activists organised a Ram Lalla puja.

“All the supporters left before evening. Policemen were deployed in the area,” said a district official, adding that it was a scheduled programme and there was nothing to be worried.

Vice-president of the VHP’s Katwa unit Sihid Dey announced during the puja that the supporters would start for Ayodhya tomorrow. But a police officer said any attempt to go to Ayodhya would be foiled.

The chief minister, too, said steps were being taken to prevent kar sevaks from taking trains to Ayodhya. At least 17 kar sevaks were arrested from Sealdah station on Friday.


Chennai, March 3: 
Police in the city launched a clampdown on Sangh outfits today to prevent them from extracting political mileage out of the Godhra train carnage.

More than 70 Shiv Sena volunteers were arrested while defying regulatory orders and condemning the carnage and demanding the Centre’s green signal to resume construction activities on the disputed site in Ayodyha.

Six Hindu Munnani activists were also held from the same area near the state guesthouse in north Chennai for allegedly pasting “provocative posters”. The police have stepped up vigil in other sensitive pockets.

At her first news conference as the chief minister of Tamil Nadu last evening, Jayalalithaa had said that her statement condemning the Gujarat killings should not be interpreted as giving a handle to the VHP’s mass mobilisation campaign in Ayodhya.

It was imperative on her to condemn any horrendous crime, it was said.

“Nothing should be done in Ayodhya which was in violation of court orders,” she had said and added that the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh governments should make sure that the VHP is not permitted to move construction materials towards the disputed site.

DMK president M. Karunanidhi, part of the BJP-led NDA in the Centre, was equally categorical on the issue.

In Kumbakonam town near Thanjavur, Karunanidhi said the DMK was in the NDA because of the BJP’s commitment to secularism — a clause in the alliance’s common agenda for governance. He was in the town to attend the wedding of senior party functionary K.S. Mani’s son.

Even a front comprising political parties with various religious leanings could give a “secular government”, the former chief minister said. The DMK’s continued presence in the alliance hinged on the premise that “no harm” would be done to the secular credentials of the government, Karunanidhi added.

Attempts to mollify the VHP, with the Centre allowing the outfit to go ahead with preparations for building the temple, will result in “we (the DMK) not being in the NDA”, he warned.

“The land of Mahatma Gandhi is bleeding. Over 300 people have been killed in Gujarat. Is it for this that Bapu fought for Independence?” Karunanidhi asked and expressed hope that the central coalition will deal with the situation firmly.

The entire political fraternity of Tamil Nadu expressed shock and sadness at the death of Lok Sabha Speaker G.M.C. Balayogi.

Jayalalithaa conveyed her condolence to the bereaved family. He had won the affection of all members of Parliament cutting across party lines and in his death, India has lost a “young parliamentarian with a very promising future”, she said.

Governor Ramamohan Rao, Karunanidhi, MDMK leader Vaiko, TNCC (I) president E.V.K.S. Elangovan, Dalit leader K. Krishnasamy and Tamil Maanila Congress president G.K. Vasan were among those who expressed grief over the demise of the Lok Sabha Speaker.


New Delhi, March 3: 
A new Lok Sabha Speaker might be elected during the recess between March 23 and April 15 following the death of G.M.C Balayogi.

The names of Telugu Desam parliamentary party leader K. Yerran Naidu, senior party MP from Kurnool Jagannathan and MP from Siddhapet M. Rajaiah are being considered for the post. Desam chief N. Chandrababu Naidu is expected to indicate his preference next week.

Yerran Naidu was asked to file nomination for the Speaker’s post in 1998 as it appeared that Balayogi may not be able to make it to Delhi on time to file his papers due to the delay in arriving at an understanding between the BJP and the Desam. But Balayogi filed the papers two minitues before the deadline.

Yerran Naidu is a confidant of Chandrababu Naidu and stands a good chance, but the prospects of the other two aspirants are also bright. The two belong to a scheduled caste, and since Balayogi was the first Dalit Speaker, the Desam may be keen on handing over his baton to a nominee from the weaker sections.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Vice-President and Rajya Sabha chairman Krishan Kant are among the leaders leaving for Hyderabad to pay tribute to Balayogi.

Immediately after being informed of the helicopter crash, the Prime Minister convened a Cabinet meeting to condole the Speaker’s death. The Cabinet adopted a resolution paying glowing tributes to Balayogi.

Parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan said a special flight of Indian Airlines was being arranged to take parliamentarians to Hyderabad to enable them to pay their last respects to Balayogi.

The civil aviation ministry has appointed a committee of inquiry headed by Lt. Gen. A. Natarajan, who will be assisted by two technical members, to look into the helicopter crash.

“The helicopter had not reported any in-flight emergency to Hyderabad or Chennai ATC (air traffic control),” a ministry statement said.

Deccan Aviation’s Bell 206 helicopter was on a non-scheduled flight from Bhimavaram, the statement said. It added that according to the eyewitnesses, foggy conditions and poor visibility prevailed in the area at the time of the accident. The helicopter was manufactured in 1991 and had a valid certificate of airworthiness.

Sunday plus 13

Thirteen and Sunday seem to be accursed for the country, save Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The 13th Lok Sabha has witnessed a spate of unlucky incidents. It was on December 13 that terrorists attacked Parliament. Though 300-odd MPs and several senior ministers had a miraculous escape, half-a-dozen security personnel lost their lives.

Balayogi is the third prominent political personality in his fifties belonging to the 13th Lok Sabha to meet an accidental death on a Sunday.

But, for Vajpayee, 13 appears to be quite lucky.

His first government which assumed office in 1998 lasted exactly 13 months. The 13th Lok Sabha proved lucky for him as he became Prime Minister again, despite numerologists expressing their apprehensions.


March 3: 
India’s first Dalit Speaker Ganti Mohana Chandra Balayogi was pitchforked into the post under dramatic circumstances in 1998, when the Telugu Desam shifted support from the United Front to the BJP at the last minute.

Since then, there was no looking back for Balayogi, who was killed this morning in a helicopter crash in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.

At 47, he was the youngest to become a Lok Sabha Speaker in the first-ever election to the post in 1998. In 1999, he was re-elected for a second term as Speaker when leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi proposed his name.

Balayogi, who became the first member from a regional party to occupy the Speaker’s chair, was flown to Delhi from Hyderabad to file his nomination papers minutes before the deadline expired.

He strove till the end to bring in discipline and decorum in a House frequently disrupted by unruly behaviour.

Taken by fate at the age of 51, the soft-spoken and mild-mannered leader made efforts to restore normality in Parliament even on his last day in Lok Sabha on Friday, when members angry over the violence in Gujarat, created an uproar forcing him to adjourn the House.

At an all-India conference of presiding officers and parties convened by him in November, an unprecedented code of conduct was adopted in the Central Hall of Parliament. This advocated punishment with suspension for grave misconduct by the representatives of the people.

Born on October 1, 1951, to a poor farmer, in the Yedurulanka village of East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, Balayogi did his bachelor of law from Andhra University, Visakhapatnam. He also did his post-graduate studies in law from the same university. A practising lawyer in Kakinada of West Godavari district, he was made a first-class magistrate in 1985, but discontinued legal practice.

Balayogi plunged into politics when N.T. Rama Rao started the Telugu Desam Party in 1983. He was the East Godavari zilla praja parishad chairman and made his entry into the Lok Sabha in 1991 as a Desam member from Amalapuram, which he was representing.

Though he lost the seat in 1996, he was elected to the Andhra Pradesh Assembly from Mummidivaram in East Godavari district. Balayogi was also the state’s minister for higher education in the Chandrababu Naidu government.

As a Speaker, he was known for his patient handling of difficult situations when tempers ran high in the House. The Dalit leader proved wrong critics who said he was inexperienced and cannot interact in Hindi by quickly learning the language.

Balayogi showed his tact and wisdom at a time when the House was in uproar. For the first time in the over 50-year history of the Lok Sabha, the rules of procedures were amended to provide for automatic suspension of a member who entered the well of the House to disrupt proceedings.

After the attack on Parliament on December 13, Balayogi constituted a parliamentary committee on security headed by Deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed to look into the recommendations by the expert group on parliamentary security, which he had set up earlier.

Balayogi travelled widely and led the Indian Parliamentary delegations to the 99 Inter Parliamentary Union conference in Namibia, the 100 IPU conference in Moscow and the 44 Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in New Zealand.

The Dalit leader was a trade unionist and sports enthusiast and was president of the cricket association of East Godavari District. He had been involved in the co-operative movement in the district and had initiated a number of rural development projects. One of his major initiatives is the Yanam-Yadurulanka inter-state bridge.

Survived by his wife, Vijaya Kumari, a son and three daughters, Balayogi devoted time to his constituency and played a significant role in helping farmers get compensation from the ONGC when there was a blowout in the oil well in the 1990s.

The litmus test Balayogi faced in Lok Sabha was when, he, a second-time member of Parliament, was made Speaker in 1998 and the Vajpayee-led NDA government was voted out by a single vote.

“It was a very tough situation and a delicate matter to deal with, as legal luminaries and senior members were reading out legal provisions whether or not to allow a chief minister of a state, who did not resign from the Lok Sabha to vote,” Balayogi had said. “I knew the decision I had to take would have a bearing on the parliamentary history of the country,” the Dalit leader added.

But the NDA retained power in the subsequent polls and Balayogi’s post remained intact.

After a busy day yesterday in Eluru and Tanuku in West Godavari district, Balayogi was to take a train last night from Nidadavolu to reach Secunderabad this morning. However, a last-minute change in plans saw him board the ill-fated flight from Bhimavaram this morning.


March 3: 
The second phase of the pulse polio immunisation drive in Assam today failed to evoke the desired response, with health department officials admitting that people were yet to get over the shock of seeing the pulse vitamin A campaign in November ending in tragedy.

Twenty-three infants had died on being administered vitamin A under the state-wide Unicef-sponsored programme last year.

Despite the health department trying its best to allay fears of a repeat — it had roped in some NGOs and a controversial event-management firm to create awareness about the immunisation programme — just about 60 per cent of the estimated target of nearly 46 lakh infants could be immunised.

The director of family welfare, S.N. Thakuria, attributed the lukewarm response to the people’s reluctance to come to immunisation booths. “Most people actually wait for the door-to-door campaign instead of going to booths to get their children immunised,” he said. The campaign will be conducted tomorrow and the day after.

Sources said the turnout today was only a shade better than the response to the first phase of the programme on January 20.

As against the “cent per cent achievement” in February last year, only about 50 per cent of the target could be achieved in the first phase of the polio immunisation drive this year. The figure, however, increased to 73.72 per cent after a two-day door-to-door campaign. The percentage of children immunised was higher in the rural areas because the impact of the botched vitamin A campaign was felt primarily in the urban belt.

In the capital city, the turnout was a meagre 40 per cent of the target. Most immunisation booths were virtually empty throughout the day. Health officials are now banking on the house-to-house survey to cover another 20 per cent of the target.

The additional chief medical officer (family welfare) of Sonitpur, M.K. Hazarika, said the health department had tried its best to motivate parents to get their children immunised against polio, but the fear of another botched programme kept them away from the booths.

Meherunissa Begum, a mother, said she did not have faith in the pulse polio immunisation drive because the government did not pay her a single penny as compensation when her child took ill on being administered a dose of polio vaccine in January.

In the south Assam districts of Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi, only 45 per cent of the target was achieved because the public still harboured doubts about the government’s capability to conduct an immunisation programme without any hiccup. The first infant death in the wake of the pulse vitamin A campaign was reported from Cachar.

“The awareness programmes failed to make an impact,” a Silchar-based official said.

Less than 50 per cent of the target was achieved in Nagaon. World Health Organisation (WHO) representative Ajit Chakravarty had visited Kaliabor and Hojai to monitor implementation of the programme.

A senior health official accused the government of not doing enough to instil confidence in the public. “What is happening there? We still do not know of the pulse polio programme,” Umesh Upadhyaya, a resident of Manipuri Basti in Guwahati, said.

Health workers deployed in immunisation booths in the city said the deaths of infants during the vitamin A drive would affect all future immunisation programmes.


New Delhi, March 3: 
Is the government having a rethink on the labour law reforms?

Finance minister Yashwant Sinha’s silence on the issue in his budget speech has set tongues wagging. Sources said the government deleted the part on labour reforms from his speech at the last moment, fearing it may trigger more criticism.

Last year, Sinha had unilaterally declared the labour law reforms without prior consultations. This time, he chose to remain silent despite the Cabinet’s approval “in principle” to the amendments to the Industrial Disputes Act (IDA) less than a week before the presentation of the budget.

“There were strong disapproving voices at the Cabinet meeting. The BJP has its hands full of trouble at the moment, and maybe it did not wish to add to the discontent by mentioning the issue in the budget speech,” said a government official.

One of the government’s main concerns is its dearth of numbers in the Rajya Sabha. “The Bill amending the IDA cannot be passed in the Rajya Sabha till the Congress agrees to back it,” said an official. Given the high level of opposition to the amendments, a consensus seems impossible.

The other reason, some said, could be the BJP’s internal political dilemma.

When the Cabinet had approved the reforms, the results of the four Assembly elections were yet to hit the BJP. Uttar Pradesh, the soul of BJP politics, deserted it. It lost Uttaranchal to the Congress, while the BJP ally, the Akali Dal, had to make way for the Congress in Punjab.

All in all, the political signals are ominous and the BJP may not be in a mood to bring more trouble on itself.

The sources said labour minister Sharad Yadav is opposed to raising the ceiling of retrenchments and closures from 100 to 1,000. “The minister wanted a figure around 300. Some others also believe the jump from 100 to 1,000 is too steep and should be brought down,” said an official.

At present, the IDA stipulates that industrial units with a minimum of 100 workers can retrench or close down without permission from state governments.

The reforms will also make it more difficult for workers to go on strike in export promotion zones. “There are already no labour laws in these units. All you have is a hire-and- fire system. No unions are allowed entry,” said trade union leaders.

They have threatened to go on strike over several policy decisions and the IDA now tops this list.

Last time, the finance minister faced severe criticism from all trade unions, including the Sangh parivar’s own Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, for announcing the reforms without any discussion with the trade unions.


Chandigarh, March 3: 
A silent revolt is brewing in the Congress against the replacement of over 30 IAS officers, including 10 deputy commissioners, before the formation of the council of ministers.

Amarinder Singh, after taking over as chief minister on Wednesday, wasted no time in appointing a new chief secretary and a principal secretary . The appointment of the two was followed by shuffle of officers from nearly all departments.

The most surprising appointment has been that of controversial information and public relations joint director B.I.S. Chahal as the chief ministerial adviser, which carries a Cabinet minister’s rank. Chahal has constantly remained in the news battling allegations of graft and misuse of power.

He, however, denies the charges, saying that a case against him for possessing disproportionate assets has been dismissed by the court.

Chahal, who had to resign from service to accept the post, is believed to have played an important role in galvanising the local and national media to begin projecting a Congress victory months before the polls were announced.

The trounced Shiromani Akali Dal is gearing up to target the chief minister over the appointment in the budget session of the assembly to be called shortly. Congress legislators supporting Amarinder’s rivals, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal and Jagmeet Brar, are also expected to raise uncomfortable questions.

Beginning from the first Assembly elections in 1967, the practice of all chief ministers in Punjab has been to handpick for senior posts officers known for their “loyalty” either to an individual or the ruling party.

Even during the many stints of President’s rule, the Centre too has ensured that important posts are held by “amenable” officers. But never before has such a wide-ranging reshuffle taken place ahead of the formation of the council of ministers, prompting many ministerial aspirants to air their grievances.

“Tomorrow, I may become a minister. But I will not be able to have under me officials whom I can trust,” rued a Congress legislator.

Amarinder loyalists, however, deny the charge that power will stay centralised under the chief minister. But according to new chief secretary Y.S. Ratra, his top priority is to provide a clean administration. “I have told the chief minister that we cannot have legislators and ministers interfering if we are to achieve our objectives,” he has been quoted as saying. In other words, the chief minister’s word would be supreme.

There is also a move to get back police officers on deputation to other states. The Union home secretary has been asked to transfer Manipur DGP A.A. Siddiqui back to Punjab to head the vigilance wing which is expected to play a crucial role in the new government’s anti-corruption drive. Opponents have already dubbed the proposed drive a “political witch hunt”.

The bureaucratic shuffle is also being seen as a move by Amarinder to quell future dissidence.

Amarinder has opened another front against his rival in the party by ordering a probe into the decimation of the Congress in Faridkot, Brar’s territory. Brar, whose differences with Amarinder have become legendary in the state, did not campaign for the party in the run-up to the polls. Amarinder loyalist Surinder Singla has demanded Brar’s expulsion and has also sought an explanation from Brar for his failure to campaign.


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