The Indian Express – This election a soldier’s grandson will defeat the king: SAD’s J J Singh on Captain Amarinder Singh

“I hope Patiala people will give me their precious time because I am the right candidate,” he said

Patiala, 4 February 2017. Former Army Chief General (Retd.) J J Singh, who is the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate against Congress’ Captain Amarinder Singh from Patiala Urban, on Saturday said that people will vote for him in majority, adding that this would be the first time that the grandson of a soldier will create history by defeating the king.

“A grandson of a soldier will create history by defeating the king. No rule ever lasts and it has to end at some point. As they have not done much of development work for Patiala, you will see people’s response and I am very confident.

I have no doubts in my mind. People will give their verdict on who is their best candidate. I will prove myself as an ideal legislature,” he said. General (Rtd.) Singh also expressed confidence in people of Patiala that they will help in ensuring a thumping majority win for him.

“I hope Patiala people will give me their precious time because I am the right candidate. I will fulfil those dreams which I have showed to them. That is why I believe that people of Patiala will provide me majority,” he added.
Earlier, Captain Amarinder Singh regarding his opponent Gen. (Rtd) Singh said, “It will be the first time in the history of Army that a captain will defeat a General.

Assembly elections 2017

Polling began on Saturday to elect the 117-member Punjab Assembly in a three-cornered contest with Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine, which is battling anti-incumbency after a 10-year rule, locked in a tough contest with Congress and new entrant Aam Aadmi Party.

1.98 crore people will be eligible to vote in the high stake election, the first after Prime Minister Modi’s demonetisation move. 1,145 candidates, including 81 women and a transgender, are battling for the 117 assembly seats.

This election a soldier’s grandson will defeat the king: SAD’s JJ Singh on Captain Amarinder Singh


The Tribune – Takht heads remain incommunicado

2017 Panjab Vidhan Sabha elections

G S Paul

Amritsar, 4 February 2017. The five Sikh high priests remained incommunicado for the second day in succession on Friday, even as Damdami Taksal and Sant Samaj chief Harnam Singh Khalsa asked Sikhs to support the SAD in the elections.

Several Sikh organisations have already appealed to the community to boycott the SAD due to its “tie-up” with Dera Sacha Sauda, claiming that the party has violated the Akal Takht’s 2007 edict against the dera chief.

Akal Takht Jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh, Takht Kesgarh Sahib Jathedar Giani Mal Singh and Takht Damdama Sahib Jathedar Giani Gurmukh Singh and Takht Patna Sahib Jathedar Giani Iqbal Singh could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

Gentbrugge – De Lijn Tram and Bus

Stelplaats, Park & Ride, Arsenaal
31 December 2016


The foggy ‘stelplaats’ (depot)


Buses and trams


Gentbrugge P & R
Tram 21 to Zwijnaarde


Gentbrugge P & R
Tram 21 to Zwijnaarde


Gentbrugge P & R


Gentbrugge Arsenaal
Bus 9 to Mariakerke Post via Sint-Pieters

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The Hindu – Panjab Vidhan Sabha elections: All set for a big surprise

If there is indeed serious anti-incumbency in Punjab, the final results will rest on how previous and current supporters of the Akali-BJP alliance assess the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party

Neelanjan Sircar, Bhanu Joshi, Ashish Ranjan

Chandigarh, 4 February 2017. Some distance from Ludhiana, as we walked around in a village mostly inhabited by the Jat Sikh community, two elderly brothers drove up to the gates of their home in their rickety white taxi van.

The taxi had a sticker affixed to its windshield, bearing the words “Proud Akali” along with an image of weighing scales (the unmistakable symbol of Shiromani Akali Dal), and the home was adorned with Akali flags. These were traditional Akali voters.

We struck up a conversation with them, but it soon took a surprising turn. One of the brothers exclaimed in frustration, “I’ve always voted for the Akalis, but I’ve had it. I’m voting with jhaaru (broom, the symbol of the Aam Aadmi Party, or AAP).” We queried further about the sources of frustration, but the answers were unfocussed.

It was a general frustration, with growing drug use, corruption, and politics as usual, among other things. This is a common experience. Across Punjab, there is serious anger with the incumbent government, and many will desert the Akalis. But it is a form of anti-incumbency that is quite difficult to analyse, as very few can expound upon the reasons for their frustration.

A different kind of politics

Strong anti-incumbency in Punjab is not, in and of itself, surprising. Although the Akalis, along with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a junior partner, won re-election as the incumbent government in 2012, it was the first time in 40 years the incumbent government was able to do so.

Cracks in the support for the current government were visible in 2014. While much of the country was riding the “Modi wave,” the Akali-BJP combine ceded a lot of electoral territory to the Congress and the AAP.

But why are people upset? Despite some economic stagnation, Punjab is noticeably more well off than most of the rest of the country from a development perspective. The roads are largely paved and smooth throughout the State, even in the villages, and power cuts are basically a thing of the past.

Government welfare programmes have also provided for effectively free electricity on farm land and the popular “atta-dal scheme” provides 5 kg of wheat per person per month, for only ₹2 per kg to those in need.

These are the sorts of achievements that win parties election after election in other parts of India. Even the party faithful of the Akalis seem genuinely baffled by their unpopularity after the party’s development record.

For much of the country, politics revolves around whether large, tangible goods, such as roads, can be delivered. But this singular focus on delivery can lead to perverse consequences. India has recently experienced a striking rise in crorepatis among members of Parliament (MPs), from around 300 in 2009 to over 440 in 2014.

As political scientist Milan Vaishnav has argued, many voters are willing to vote for such candidates, even if they have criminal backgrounds, due to their superior ability to deliver benefits, irrespective of whatever other baggage it may bring.

This may once have characterised Punjab’s politics, but things have changed. Many voters have grown tired of the alleged corruption surrounding the ruling Badal family and, rightly or wrongly, also hold them responsible for the growing drug problem in the State.

Punjab’s corruption is not akin to the kind of corruption seen in other States where government contracts and grants are syphoned off by politicians. The Badal family is seen as being personally invested in promoting its own businesses and outsourcing major public goods to friends and relatives.

The tolls on roads, a private bus network, a cess on sand used for building houses are a few examples of services being contracted out to private players, mostly linked back to the Badals.

It is also true that Punjab, at 31.4% for 2015-2016, now has the second highest estimated debt to gross state domestic product (GSDP) ratio of non-special category States in India according to the Reserve Bank of India.

But apart from the usual concern of jobs, economic challenges in Punjab do not seem to animate State politics.

Post-material politics

The Punjabi voter seems to be truly concerned about politicians qua governance actors, demonstrating a measure of “post-material” preferences. It is no wonder that, outside of Delhi, Punjab is the one State where the AAP has done well.

The emergence of post-material politics is not a simple question of economic wealth; for instance, a wealthy State like Maharashtra doesn’t seem as receptive to such concerns.

Rather, these are political preferences borne of the ideological cross-fertilisation from a mobile Punjabi public (especially with respect to Delhi), as well as a highly entrepreneurial population that is sensitive to the disruption caused by low-quality governance.

Consistent with this principle, unlike the mixed reviews elsewhere in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation exercise was universally panned by voters in our discussions, irrespective of political leanings.

In the previous State election, in 2012, the AAP had yet to come on the scene, so those results are of little use in understanding electoral dynamics in the upcoming Punjab election. But the 2014 Lok Sabha election results can provide insights because it was a legitimately three-cornered fight between the AAP, the Congress, and the Akali-BJP alliance.

Most analysts have focussed on aggregate vote shares for the three parties/coalitions in 2014, with the Akali-BJP combine securing 35% of the vote, the Congress 33%, and the AAP 24%. But these percentages mask very close competition at the assembly constituency (AC) level and huge regional variation.

Extending the base

Parsing the 2014 results by AC segment, a complicated picture emerges. The Akali-BJP combine won 45 AC segments, the Congress 37, and the AAP 33. From this perspective, the contest between the Congress and the AAP was much closer.

Much like the BJP at the national level, the AAP did a good job in converting its votes into seats in Punjab. This is because its success was highly regionally concentrated. Punjab can be broken into three regions, Doaba, Majha, and Malwa. Malwa with 69 ACs is the largest region, while Doaba and Majha have 23 and 25 ACs, respectively.

The AAP won 31 of its 33 AC segments in Malwa (and the other two in Doaba). The relative success or failure of the AAP will depend on whether it can extend beyond the base it built in 2014; anecdotally, the AAP seems to have done so.

In Kapurthala district, we talked to a carrot farmer from the Kamboj Sikh community next to his home, once again accoutred with flags bearing weighing scales, but he was also voting for the AAP. He summed up his views with what seemed like a common refrain, “They’re all the same; they are all corrupt.

I want a change. If I don’t like what I see after five years, I’ll switch to someone else.” This sort of demand for wholesale change is consistent with the governance-related preferences described above, and the AAP would seem to be the biggest beneficiary from it.

For instance, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms, at least 87% of candidates for each of the Akalis, the BJP, and the Congress are crorepatis, while significantly fewer candidates for the AAP (63%) are crorepatis.

Political legacy

But in the next neighbourhood, in the same village, we met a group of Scheduled Caste Mazhabi Sikh voters. There were no AAP posters or flags here, and the voters had barely heard of the party.

They described themselves as a committed base of voters: “We have voted for the Congress ever since Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister. It is the only party that looks after the vulnerable.”

Few people realise that Punjab has the largest Scheduled Caste population in India, at 32%, and many Scheduled Castes are viewed as being a party of a committed core of Congress voters.

The AAP simply does not have the legacy or the reach of the Congress Party in Punjab, and unless it significantly increases it reach from 2014 with all communities, it will find it difficult to defeat the Congress in this election.

Punjabi voters are quite tight-lipped about political preferences, and the 2017 Punjab election may throw up a surprise. If there is indeed serious anti-incumbency, the final results will likely rest on how previous and current supporters of the Akali-BJP combine assess the other two major parties.

Whether sincerely moving away from the incumbent coalition, or strategically voting for the preferred party between the AAP and the Congress, this mass of voters will have decisive power in this election.

Dawn – This neighbouring church and mosque in Peshawar have peacefully coexisted for years. Here’s how

All faiths teach followers to be tolerant and compassionate

Abdur Rauf Yousafzai

Twenty-two-year-old Irfan Masih, a resident of Peshawar, is at the city’s historical St Michael Cathedral Church to make arrangements for one of the happiest events of his life, his upcoming wedding. The young man wants to rent the church’s lawn for the ceremony.

The news is met with congratulations from the church administrator, but he also lays out one condition for the gleeful groom-to-be. Irfan is told that no music can be played at the ceremony. This is out of respect for the cathedral’s neighbours, a mosque and madrassa known as the Jamia Imdadul Uloom or Darwaish Masjid.

Irfan tries to reason with the administrator. “This is my first and last marriage,” he says in a lighter tone. He is met with a stern response: “If you agree [only] then will the church permit you to entertain guests in the lawn, otherwise we are sorry.”

Side by side

The church’s red bricks glisten in the winter sunlight. The structure stands tall next to the whitewashed madrassa that was built 38 years ago.

In the often-volatile city of Peshawar, it is a sight to see these two ‘houses of God’ existing alongside one another. Mufti Asad of the madrassa says that they have friendly relations with their neighbours. The two places of worship exchange presents on each other’s religious festivals.

Last Eidul Azha, representatives from the church came to the madrassa bearing gifts. “We also offered them meat and ate barbeque together,” Mufti Asad says.

These stories of peaceful coexistence are heartening to hear.

Members Jamia Imdadul Uloom take pride in the madrassa’s more ‘progressive’ outlook. Maulana Hassan Jan was a teacher here, who was allegedly the first religious scholar to declare suicide bombings haram. It is believed that these moderate views ruffled some feathers and Maulana Jan paid the ultimate price for this.

In 2007, during the Islamic month of Ramazan, he was assassinated.

Many of Maulana Jan’s students are now teachers at the madrassa. They claim to be continuing to follow his philosophy of peace and respect for other religions.

In the neighbouring church, Father Younas Riaz is similarly spreading messages of peace. He wears a white robe as he preaches these values to a congregation of devout Christians.

“You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” he says quoting the Bible.

Propagating peace

Peshawar has often been an unsafe place for Christians. A September 2013 suicide attack on the city’s All Saint’s Church killed at least 80 and left 100 wounded. In such a scenario the apparent camaraderie shared by the two places of worship is encouraging.

Attaullah Khan, a researcher, says, “In this country there is always a threat to minorities… they are treated as second-grade citizens since birth…”

Father Younas Riaz of the cathedral adds that some “so-called education experts” are systemically facilitating this intolerance in society. “[They] are working to sabotage the unity of this diverse society,” he adds criticising the textbooks, which often perpetuate hate.

Researcher Khan agrees, further stating that the media and the textbooks are both culpable for propagating that Muslims are patriots and true lovers of the country, while the ‘others’ are often painted as dubious characters.

The ‘intellectuals’ associated with the boards of education deliberately do not give space to non-Muslim heroes and their contributions, he believes.

For their part, however, representatives of the Jamia Imdadul Uloom take pride in their teaching of tolerance and unity. Mufti Asad shares that 1000 students are enrolled in the seminary, and due to the institution’s teaching methodology none of its student have been found guilty in any anti-state or unlawful activities.

Mufti Asad further tells Dawn that they maintain a comprehensive computerised record of all the madrassa’s current and ex-students.

In this crucial time, the scholars and intellectuals need to work to shape the youth’s mind, Khan concludes. Representatives of both the places of worship also stress that the mosque and church exist side by side because of the compassion being taught here.

The author is a Peshawar-based journalist whose features have appeared in various publications.
He can be reached at
tweet @raufabdur.

To read the full article and see the pictures :