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Punjab

Congress wrests Gurdaspur in Punjab from BJP, its ally IUML retains Vengara in Kerala

In a morale booster for the party ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has wrested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha seat from the BJP by a huge margin and its ally, the IUML, retained the Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala in bye-elections held on October 11.

 
Congress' Sunil Jakhar wins Gurdaspur LS bye-election
In a morale booster ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has wrested the Gurdaspur Lok Sabha  seat from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by a huge margin and its ally, Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), retained the Vengara Assembly seat in Kerala in bye-elections held on October 11.
 
Congress candidate Sunil Jakhar drubbed Mr. Swaran Singh Salaria of the BJP by a record margin of 1,93,219 votes in Gurdaspur.
 
In Vengara, Mr. K. N. A. Khader, the candidate of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), who is a member of the IUML, won from Vengara, defeating his nearest rival, P. P. Basheer of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), by a margin of 23,310 votes in the October 11 bye-election.
 
Counting of votes was taken up in both constituencies this morning, and the results were out by noon.
 
Gurdaspur had fallen vacant following the death on April 27 of well-known Hindi film actor Vinod Khanna, who represented the constituency in the Lok Sabha as a candidate of the ruling BJP.
 
Mr. Jakhar polled 4,99,752 votes against the 3,06,553 votes secured by Mr. Salaria. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Suresh Khajuria got just 23,579 votes.
 
Considering the fact that Mr. Khanna had won the seat by an impressive margin of 1.35 lakh votes in 2014, the bye-election ended up being a cakewalk for Mr. Jakhar, 63, the Congress Punjab unit chief and son of late Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar.
 
In between, in March this year, the Congress won a resounding victory in the elections to the Punjab Legislative Assembly and its leader Amarinder Singh returned as Chief Minister of the state. The bye-election had turned into a battle of prestige for both sides.
 
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had ended up on the losing side in all the nine Assembly segments in Gurdaspur. Mr. Jakhar has managed to turn this around, winning from all the nine segments this time.
 
Gurdaspur was considered a Congress stronghold for long years, with its candidate Sukhbuns Kaur Bhinder winning the seat five times in a row from 1980 to 1996 before the BJP brought in Khanna, a top Bollywood actor, as its candidate in 1998. The actor-turned politician was re-elected from the seat in 1999, 2004 and then in 2014. In 2009, former Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa by a thin margin of 8,359 votes.
 
Mr. Jakhar described the bye-election result as a "referendum" on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance's government at the Centre and said the people of the constituency had sent a "strong message of resentment" over its policies.
 
"Congratulations to @sunilkjakhar ji for his impressive win in #Gurdaspur bypoll, it's a victory for @INCPunjab policies & development agenda," Mr. Amarinder Singh on microblogging site Twitter.
 
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"Assure people of #Gurdaspur that every single promise made by @sunilkjakhar will be fulfilled and all development works will be fast-tracked," he added.
 
Congress leader and Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu said, "This is a beautiful Diwali gift, packed with a red ribbon, for our would-be party president Rahul Gandhi."
 
In Vengara, Mr. Khader polled 65,227 votes against 41,917 secured by Mr. Basheer, a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the main constituent of the ruling LDF in the state.
 
Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) candidadte K. C. Naseer ended up third with 8,648 votes while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee K. Janachandran  Master, finished fourth with 5,728 votes in the results announced today.
 
The bye-election in Vengara was necessitated by the resignation of IUML leader P. K. Kunhalikutty, who was elected to the Lok Sabha on April 12 from the Malappuram seat that fell vacant following the death of former Union Minister E. Ahamed.
 
While the UDF celebrated the victory, the LDF drew satisfaction from the fact that they had reduced the IUML candidate's victory margin from 38,057 votes in the 2016 Assembly elections, when Mr. Kunhalikutty had won, to 23,310 votes in this bye-election.
 
Today's results have come just three days after the Congress swept the municipal elections in Nanded-Waghala in Maharashtra, considered a stronghold of the party. The party won 67 of the 81 seats, while the BJP won four and its ally Shiv Sena got just one.
 
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29 killed, 250 injured in violence after Panchkula court convicts Dera Sacha Sauda chief in rape case

At least 29 people were killed and more than 250 others suffered injuries as thousands of followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went on the rampage after he was convicted in a rape case by a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana on Friday.

Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh
At least 29 people were killed and more than 250 others suffered injuries as thousands of followers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh went on the rampage after he was convicted in a rape case by a special CBI court in Panchkula, Haryana today.
 
The quantum of punishment for the 50-year-old self-styled godman will be pronounced on August 28. Meanwhile, he was taken into judicial custody and flown in a helicopter from Panchkula to Rohtak, where he was lodged in a special jail.
 
Police officials said 28 people had died in Panchkula, which bore the brunt of today's violence, several of them in police firing. There were clashes between Ram Rahim's supporters and the police in Sirsa, where the Dera Sacha Sauda headquarters are located.
 
One person died and four people suffered injuries in police firing in Sirsa, where the situation remained tense, with large numbers of Ram Rahim's followers gathered inside the Dera headquarters.
 
The officials said the police had been able to clear the mobs off the streets in all other towns in Haryana.
 
About 60 policemen also suffered injuries in today's incidents, including two senior superintendents of police and one deputy superintendent of police, they said.
 
In Delhi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who returned during the day from a visit to Kyrgyz Republic, spoke to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and discussed the situation with them. Mr. Rajnath Singh assured them of all necessary assistance from the Centre.
 
Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said he had talked to the Chief Secretary of Haryana who had told him that the situation was being brought under control. "The situation is tense but under control," he said, adding that the Centre was monitoring the situation continuously.
 
Thousands of Singh's supporters had gathered at different points in Panchkula and other parts of Haryana and Punjab and violence erupted shortly after news of his conviction came.
 
 
29 dead as Dera followers bring Panchkula to its knees
In Panchkula, scores of vehicles, including fire tenders, outdoor broadcast vans of television news channels and two-wheelers were set ablaze. The mobs also attacked some government property. Police used teargas, lathi-charges, pellet guns and finally resorted to firing to disperse the mobs.
 
A former follower of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had accused him of repeatedly raping her inside the Dera campus near Sirsa in Haryana in 1999. The first information report in the case had been filed in 2002.
 
The mobs targetted media vehicles and attacked some journalists reporting from the scene.
 
Incidents of violence were also reported from various other places in Haryana as well as Punjab, Rajasthan and Delhi.
 
In Delhi, some buses in Jahangirpuri and other localities and two coaches of a train parked in the railway yard at Anand Vihar were partially burnt after they were set on fire by miscreants. Police said reinforcements had been rushed to all affected and patrolling had been stepped up all across the city. The situation was under control, they added.
 
Though thousands of policemen had been deployed in Panchkula and elsewhere in Haryana to prevent any untoward incident, they were unable cope with the wave of violence that started after the verdict was pronounced. Police used teargas shells to try and disperse the mobs. Curfew was imposed in some towns of Punjab.
 
Television pictures showed ambulances bringing scores of injured persons to the government hospital there.
 
The Railways had, as a precautionary measure, cancelled some 300 mail, express and passenger trains passing through  Haryana in the past few days.
 
The Centre had sent several companies of central armed police forces to Haryana at the request of the state government and the Army's assistance had been sought at some places.
 
Mr. Khattar urged people to stay calm and maintain peace. He said strict action would be taken against those who disturb the peace and took law into their own hands.
 
In Gurgaon, near here, the police staged a flag march which passed through Kherki Daula, IMT Manesar, Bilaspur, sohna, Bhondsi and Badshapur as a precautionary measure.
 
"A close watch is being kept on the anti-social elements and miscreants who try to take advantages of such situation," a press release from Gurgaon Police said.
 
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the "instances of violences" were "deeply distressing". He said he strongly condemned the violence and urged everyone to maintain peace.
 
"The instances of violence today are deeply distressing. I strongly condemn the violence & urge everyone to maintain peace," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"The law & order situation is being closely monitored. I reviewed the situation with the NSA & Home Secretary," he said.
 
"Urged officials to work round the clock to restore normalcy and provide all possible assistance that is required," he added.
 
In Delhi, the police has imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, banning the assembly of five or more persons, as a precautionary measure in 11 districts, including New Delhi.
 
"Adequate police arrangements in place & Law & Order situation under control. Officers with reserve force on rounds to maintain peace," the Commissioner of Police said on Twitter.
 
"Appeal to all to maintain peace & order. #DelhiPolice on full alert. Strict legal action will be taken against miscreants for any violation," he added.
 
Meanwhile, the Congress has demanded the resignation of Mr. Khattar and urged the Prime Minister to put the interests and safety of Indians before his party's interests.
 
Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed grave concern and shock at the violence.
 
Ms. Gandhi spoke to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh about the situation. She urged the Governments of Punjab and Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh to ensure the safety and security of citizens. She also appealed to the people to maintain peace and harmony.
 
"Violence & brutality have no place in our society. Condemn the rampage and lawlessness in Haryana & appeal to restore peace and tranquility," Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter.
 
Mr. Amarinder Singh appealed to the people of Punjab to maintain peace and harmony. "We won't allow anyone to disturb the peace and tranquility of our state," he added.
 
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Assembly elections: Counting of votes to be taken up on Saturday

Counting of votes will begin on Saturday morning in the crucial elections to the State Legislative Assemblies of five States -- Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa -- and most of the results are expected to be out within a few hours after that.

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Counting of votes will begin tomorrow morning in the crucial elections to the State Legislative Assemblies of five States -- Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa -- and the keenly-awaited results are expected to have far-reaching implications for national politics.
 
The elections in five States have taken place mid-way through the five-year term of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and just weeks after the sudden decision of the government on November 8 to demonetise Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 banknotes.
 
Polling in Uttar Pradesh -- India's most populous state -- was held in seven phases between February 11 and March 8, while Manipur had polling in two phases on March 4 and 8. Punjab and Goa had single-phase polling on February 4 and Uttarakhand had single-phase voting on February 15.
 
The terms of the Goa, Manipur and Punjab assemblies are due to normally expire on March 18, Uttarakhand on March 26 and Uttar Pradesh on May 27.
 
The Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly has 403 seats, including 84 reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and two for Scheduled Tribes. Punjab Assembly has 117 seats (34 SC), Goa 40 (1 SC), Uttarakhand 70 (13 SC, 2 ST) and Manipur 60 (1 SC, 19 ST).
 
The Election Commission will give out counting trends and results of the elections through its website from 8 am tomorrow.
 
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Among other things, the website will give details such as the number of votes secured by the candidates round-wise and constituency-wise and political party-wise and candidate-wise trends.
 
The website can also be accessed through the main website of the Election Commission of India.
 
For the first time, the Commission will also provide analytics through interactive dashboard in the form of clickable infographics. Users can download data, crosstab, PDF and images for analysing the elections further at their end. It will include comparative analytics between 2012 and 2017. 
 
An official press release said users will get constituency analysis with respect to participation of electors (constituencies with more female electors, constituencies by slabs of voter turnout, turnout by poll days) and candidates (gender wise participants, winners and major competitors). To assess performance of political parties, analysis on seats won by them, the percentage vote-share in the State and the profile (age and social category)of candidates fielded by them have been included. Candidates have been mapped to their constituencies and the votes polled in their favour, it said.
 
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Punjab, Goa go to the polls to elect new legislative assemblies

Punjab and Goa went to the polls on Saturday to elect new state legislative assemblies -- the first two of five states holding crucial elections midway through the five-year term of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and two months after the November 8 demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 bank notes.

 
Voters queue to cast their votes amidst tight security
Punjab and Goa went to the polls today to elect new state legislative assemblies -- the first two of five states holding crucial elections midway through the five-year term of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre and two months after the November 8 demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 bank notes.
 
Voters began queueing outside polling stations in both states from early morning and their numbers were steadily increasing as the day progressed. 
 
Voting, which began at 7 am in Goa and at 8 am in Punjab, will end at 5 pm in both states.
 
Polling also took place today for the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, which fell vacant after the resignation of Punjab Congress chief Amarinder Singh.
 
The Punjab Assembly has 117 seats and the Goa Assembly 40 seats and both states have single-phase polling today.
 
Uttarakhand will have single-phase polling on February 15, Manipur will have polling in two phases on March 4 and 8 and Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous state, will have polling in seven phases between February 11 and March 8.
 
Counting of votes in all the five states will be taken up on March 11 and all the results are expected by late evening that day.
 
The terms of the Goa and Punjab assemblies are due to expire on March 18.
 
The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangements for smooth, free and fair elections in both the states.
 
Punjab has a total of 19879069 voters, including 10503108 males and  9375546 females. There are 1145 candidates in the fray, including 81 women and one of the third gender. The Election Commission has set up 22,615 polling stations across the state.
 
In Goa, there are a total of  1110884 electors, including 546742 men and 564142 women. A total of 251 candidates, including 19 women, are in the fray.  The Commission has set up 1642 polling stations across the state.
 
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making a determined effort for another term in office in Goa, while the Congress is hoping to come back to power in Goa. The three-party alliance forged by Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Goa Suraksha Manch and Shiv Sena is the other major player in the state.
 
Similarly in Punjab, the Congress is trying to wrest power back from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP combine, which has been in office for a decade.
 
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The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the ruling party in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, has gone all out to emerge as the alternative to the established players in both the states.
 
In Punjab, SAD leader and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, 89, is seeking re-election for the sixth time. He will face Capt. Amarinder Singh, the chief ministerial candidate of the Congress, in the Lambi constituency. The Congress leader is also contesting the elections from his traditional seat of Patiala, where his opponent is former Army chief Gen J J Singh, a candidate of the SAD.
 
The Chief Minister's son Sukhbir Singh will face AAP's Bhagwant Mann, MP, who is his party's likely chief ministerial candidate, in Jalalabad.
 
Former Indian Test cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, who joined the Congress weeks ahead of the polls, is contesting from Amritsar East, a part of the Amrtisar Lok Sabha constituency that he represented in Parliament as a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for two terms.
 
Prominent candidates in Goa include Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar (BJP) and five former Chief Ministers -- Ravi Naik, Digambar Kamat, Pratapsinh Rane and Luizinho Faleiro (Congress) and Churchill Alemao (NCP). There have been indications that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar might return to Goa as Chief Minister if the BJP retains power.
 
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Punjab: Congress heads for landslide victory in Zila Parishad polls

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The ruling Congress in Punjab on Saturday won the most seats in the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti elections and headed for a landslide victory as counting was underway. The main opposition AAP in the state assembly faced a humiliating defeat.
 
Out of 113 Zila Parishad seats -- out of a total of 354 -- for which results have been declared, the Congress won 106, the BJP-Akali combine six and independents won one. The Aam Adami Party had not won a single seat.
 
Among prominent winners were former Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee President Bibi Jagjir Kaur's daughter Ranjit Kaur; Housing Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa's son Ravi Nandan Singh Bajwa; Congress legislator Ramanjit Sikki's son-in-law Maninderjit Singh Mani; and former Congress legislator Kawaljit Singh Lally's son Mehtab Singh.
 
In Patiala, the home constituency of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, the Congress has won 43 Panchayat Samiti seats and the Shiromani Akali Dal four.
 
The Akalis suffered a humiliating defeat in their home turf Muktsar as the Congress won 10 of the 13 Zila Parishad zones.
 
All six Zila Parishad seats in Ludhiana were won by the Congress.
 
The Congress won a majority in Gurdaspur by securing 154 of the total 213 Panchayat Samiti zones. In Zila Parishad, the Congress won 15 of the 25 seats and was leading in the remaining seats.
 
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Out of the total 148 seats of the Panchayat Samiti in Bathinda, the Congress won 31, Akalis four and the AAP and independents three each. The counting for 107 seats is on.
 
Sporadic skirmishes, mainly between the Congress and the Akalis, were witnessed during the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls on September 19.
 
The voting percentage was 58 per cent.
 
A total of 354 Zila Parishad and 2,900 Panchayat Samiti members will be elected. There are 22 Zila Parishads and 150 Panchayat Samitis in the state.
 
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh congratulated his party on their victory saying people had endorsed the positive development and rejected the Akalis' "malicious campaign".
 
Pointing out that this was the fourth consecutive humiliating defeat of the SAD-BJP combine, after back-to-back victories for the Congress in the state assembly, Urban Local Bodies, Gurdaspur parliamentary and Shahkot assembly by-polls, he termed it a vindication of his party's efforts to bring the state out of the quagmire of devastation into which it had been plunged by the previous SAD-BJP government.
 
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IndiGo introduces its first daily flight from Amritsar to Dubai

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Low-cost carrier IndiGo today said it would introduce its first daily flight from Amritsar to Dubai from October 2018.
 
The airline now operates 13 daily flights between India and Dubai. 
 
In addition, the airline will also operate flights between Kolkata-Cochin and Bangalore-Pune. Both services will also commence from October 2018, a pess release from the airline said.
 
"The new flights are designed to cater to business and leisure travelers who are constantly on the lookout for new and affordable flying options," the release said.
 
"Both corporate and leisure customers travelling from these destinations will now have the opportunity to experience the courteous and hassle-free service and on-time performance that IndiGo is synonymous with," it said.
 
Mr. William Boulter, Chief Commercial Officer, IndiGo said, “We are absolutely delighted to announce our first daily flight to Dubai from Amritsar and Kolkata to Cochin effective October this year. We will also operate an additional flight between Bengaluru and Pune. The launch of these new services is in line with our growth strategy outlined for both domestic and international markets.”
 
“IndiGo will continue to expand its network to meet the requirements of both business and leisure travellers wherever they demand it. It is our constant endeavor to provide more flexibility of choice for our customers as IndiGo continues to offer them on time, courteous and hassle-free service and always an affordable flying experience," he added.
 
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Law should take its course in nun rape case: Bishops' body

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Denying that it wanted a Bishop accused in the rape of a nun to step down, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) on Sunday said that law should take its course in the matter.
 
"(Our) silence should in no way be construed as siding with either of the two parties. We have learnt of certain statements attributed to our President, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, that (accused) Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar diocese should step down," CBCI Secretary General Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas said in a statement here.
 
"We wish to clarify that he has made no such statement and wishes to disassociate himself from any such statement. Bombay Archdiocese spokesman's comments are in his personal campacity and have to be taken as such. 
 
"We reiterate what we said earlier: The CBCI has no jurisdiction over individual Bishops. Besides, a police probe is on. One party has approached the Kerala High Court... Church authorities will take a decision once police file a definitive report after investigations," the statement added.
 
He said they were expressing their "distress" regarding developments regarding accusations against Mulakkal.
 
The CBCI statement comes after Kerala Police asked accused Bishop Mulakkal to appear before a probe team on September 19. 
 
Mulakkal stepped down as Bishop of the Jalandhar Diocese on September 15, handing over temporary charge of the diocese to Father Mathew Kokkandam.
 
A Kerala nun had accused Mulakkal of repeatedly raping her between 2014 and 2016. Five other nuns of the congregation have supported her claim and along with a section of the laity are holding a protest at Kochi, which continued for the ninth day on Sunday.
 
An FIR was registered against the Bishop, with the nun and other convent inmates giving detailed statements running into 114 pages.
 
Mulakkal has denied wrongdoing and termed it a "conspiracy" against him.
 
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SC to reconsider quantum of sentence to Sidhu in road-rage case

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to reconsider the quantum of punishment to former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had been let off with a fine of just Rs 1,000 for causing simple injury in a 30-year-old road-rage case.
 
Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul admitted a review petition filed by a son of deceased Gurnam Singh and issued notice to Sidhu, now a Punjab Cabinet Minister.
 
"Permission to file the review petition is granted... issue notice restricted to quantum of sentence qua respondent no. 1 - Navjot Singh Sidhu," the order said.
 
On May 15, the apex court had acquitted Sidhu of the charge of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, for which he had been awarded a three-year jail term.
 
A bench of Justice J. Chelameswar (now retired) and Justice Kaul had, however, convicted him for causing simple injury and imposed a fine of Rs 1,000 without any jail term.
 
The court also acquitted co-accused and his cousin Rupinder Singh Sandhu.
 
In its judgment, the bench had said: "No doubt that there are lapses in the investigation. We cannot hazard a guess whether such lapses occurred because of the general inefficiency of the system or as a consequence of a concerted effort made to protect the accused. The law of this country is not that people are convicted of offences on the basis of doubts."
 
Setting aside the Punjab and Haryana High Court verdict that convicted Sidhu, the apex court had said: "... the first accused cannot be held to be responsible for causing the death of Gurnam Singh. Therefore, the judgment under appeal is required to be set aside and is accordingly set aside. The material on record leads us to the only possible conclusion that we can reach that the first accused voluntarily caused hurt to Gurnam Singh punishable under Section 323 of the IPC."
 
Section 323 (voluntary causing hurt) of the Indian Penal Code stipulates a punishment of imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to Rs 1,000 or both.
 
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The bench had refused to award jail term to Sidhu and only imposed a fine, while considering that the "case is 30-year-old, there was no past enmity between the accused and the deceased, no weapon was used by the accused and the background in which it happened".
 
The incident dates back to December 27, 1988, when Sidhu and his cousin had beaten up Gurnam Singh and two others in what was described as a road-rage case. Gurnam Singh later died.
 
On April 12 this year, the Punjab government supported the High Court decision to convict Sidhu. It told the apex court that the 65-year-old victim had died after a fist blow from the cricketer turned politician.
 
The state had said there was no evidence at all to suggest that Gurnam Singh died due to cardiac arrest and not brain haemorrhage.
 
In 1999, the trial court in Patiala had acquitted Sidhu and his cousin, saying the medical report stated that the death was due to a heart attack.
 
The High Court in December 2006 had overturned the lower court's decision. Sidhu was awarded three years in jail.
 
The apex court in 2007 stayed the conviction after counsel appearing for Sidhu had contended that High Court findings were based on opinions and not medical evidence.
 
Sidhu's lawyer had argued that there were deficiencies in the medical evidence and the prosecution witnesses had given different statements on oath before the trial court.
 
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Controversial bishop, accused of rape, asked to appear before Kerala Police

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The Kerala Police on Wednesday sent a notice to controversial Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar, who has been accused of rape by a nun, asking him to appear before them on September 19.
 
A Kerala nun has accused him of repeated sexual abuse between 2014 and 2016.
 
"We reviewed the entire case today (Wednesday) and there are contradictions in the statements of the victim, the accused and the witnesses. So, we have asked the bishop to appear before us on September 19, when the Investigation Officer would question him. 
 
"The contradictions in the statements have to be cleared, or else there could be issues," Inspector General of Police (IGP) Vijay Sakhre told the media in Kochi soon after a review meeting on the case.
 
"Security to the complainant and the witnessess is there and we have registered cases against the death threats that the nuns have allegedly received," added Sakhre.
 
State Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, deputising for Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is off to the United States for treatment, told the media in the state capital that the government is with the victim.
 
"No one needs to be worried for anything and it's unfortunate that nuns have had to stage protests. We all know that the probe has been going on for a while now, but since it has to be submitted to the court, there just can't be any errors," said Jayarajan.
 
On Wednesday, a day-long protest before the state secretariat in Kochi was organised by the Joint Christian Council, whose indefinite relay fast in the state capital entered its fifth day.
 
In the state capital, joining the protesters was former state Congress President V. M. Sudheeran, who said the protests should not be mistaken as one against the Christian community.
 
"The police itself said that all the evidences are there with them in the case, then why are they hesitant to go forward? The state police chief is unable to go forward in this case and it's most unfortunate," said Sudheeran.
 
In Kochi, Wednesday saw more and more leaders -- political and otherwise -- visiting the protest venue. They included top political leaders from various parties, civil society members and film personalities.
 
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Coming to the defence of Mulakkal was his own diocese, who in a statement said that this is nothing but a conspiracy hatched against the bishop.
 
"This is just an allegation... The bishop had visited the nun's home for a function and she looked very happy also. According to her complaint, the previous day the bishop had abused her. If that were the case, could she be happy? Moreover, all the complaints surfaced after a lady came with a complaint against the nun," says the statement.
 
Popular Malayalam film personality Joy Mathew led a protest in Kozhikode against the callousness of the authorities in the case as the nun is yet to get justice.
 
Incidentally, the Kerala High Court will on Thursday look into an affidavit that asked the state government to detail the steps taken on the complaint of the nun.
 
"All the details in the case would be presented before the high court on Thursday in the affidavit," said Kottayam Superintendent of Police who is leading the probe.
 
It was in June that the victim alleged that Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar had sexually abused her several times between 2014 and 2016.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent. However, Mulakkal has denied any wrongdoing.
 
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Sidhu wants 'positive step' on Kartarpur gurdwara corridor

Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. (File photo: IANS)
Undeterred by BJP criticism over his praise of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on the issue of the Kartarpur gurdwara corridor, Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has written to the Centre seeking a "positive step".
 
"It is time for India to take a positive step on this highly emotional issue. When opportunity knocks, kindly step up and open the door. The opening of this corridor will be a huge thing for Sikh community all over the world. The corridor can usher in peace and prosperity between the two countries," Sidhu said in a letter to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that was released to the media on Sunday.
 
Sidhu, who was present at the swearing-in of his "friend" Imran Khan as the Pakistan Prime Minister on August 18 in Islamabad, has been claiming that he has been virtually instrumental in getting the Kartarpur corridor opened to devotees.
 
"Pakistan has shown a positive intent towards the long-pending corridor demand. Some positivity came out when I visited Pakistan for the oath-taking ceremony of Imran Khan. Now their Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary has categorically said that the corridor will be opened and even visas won't be required to visit the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara as part of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev. It is time for India to take a positive step on this highly emotional issue," Sidhu said in the letter.
 
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Sidhu pointed out that after Partition in August 1947, several historical gurdwaras fell in Pakistan territory, including the Katarpur Sahib gurdwara associated with Guru Nanak Dev.
 
"Since then, Sikhs living in India always pray that they should be able to pay obeisance at the gurdwaras across the border. Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara holds great significance as it is the place where Guru Nanak Dev spent almost 18 years. The gurdwara is very close to the international border," he pointed out.
 
The Minister said that thousands of devotees in India visit Dera Baba Nanak area in Punjab's Gurdaspur district daily just to catch a glimpse of this holy shrine through binoculars arranged by the Border Security Force.
 
"With Pakistan showing a positive intent, the common belief is that this can turn into reality. Appropriate steps on the corridor must be taken due to strong Sikh sentiments attached to it. Hoping for a positive response from you," the Congress leader added.
 
Sidhu on Friday thanked Imran Khan for enabling the opening of the religious corridor, drawing flak from the BJP which said that the praise was an insult to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
 
IANS
 

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Nun abuse case: Kerala Police questions bishop in Punjab

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Kerala Police on Tuesday questioned Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic Diocese here in Punjab following allegations of sexually abusing a nun, an official said. No arrest has been made so far.
 
The Bishop's quizzing began late on Monday and ended on Tuesday morning.
 
There was high drama before questioning as the Bishop avoided meeting the Kerala team which reached Jalandhar, around 155 km from Chandigarh, on Friday.
 
The Kerala Police team also questioned Father Antony and Jalandhar Diocese Chief Public Relations Officer Father Peter.
 
Three journalists from Kerala also alleged manhandling by the Bishop's private security when they tried to speak to Mulakkal.
 
The Kerala Police team, which was given protection by their Punjab counterparts, arrived at the congregation of Missionaries of Jesus, the headquarters of Christian centres in the region, for investigation.
 
Earlier, the team met former nuns of the Jalandhar diocese on Friday and Saturday.
 
The Punjab Police, fearing law and order trouble, provided protection to the Kerala team.
 
Several followers of the diocese had gathered at its campus in Jalandhar on Friday after hearing about the arrival of the six-member Kerala police team, led by Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) A.T. Subhash.
 
A nun had alleged in June that Mulakkal sexually abused her several times at a convent in Kuruvalangadu near Kottayam in Kerala between 2014 to 2016. 
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent.
 
Mulakkal has denied any wrongdoing.
 
A spokesman for the diocese told the media that no wrong had been done by the bishop and that the allegations were being made by the nun at the instigation of people with vested interests.
 
Earlier, statements were taken from the Head of the Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal Mar George Alencherry and also a few other former nuns who were residents at the convent.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala Police team meets nuns in Jalandhar

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Even though it failed to meet the bishop accused of sexually abusing a senior nun, a team of the Kerala Police met some nuns in Punjab's Jalandhar district on Saturday.
 
The Kerala Police team, which was given protection by their Punjab counterparts, arrived at the congregation of Missionaries of Jesus, the headquarters of Christian centres in the region, for investigation.
 
The team met some former nuns of the Jalandhar diocese on Friday and Saturday.
 
Police sources said the Kerala team is expected to meet and question Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Roman Catholic Diocese in Jalandhar on Sunday.
 
The Kerala Police team arrived in Punjab's Jalandhar city, around 155 km from Chandigarh, on Friday, but failed to meet the controversial bishop, who is accused of sexually abusing a nun.
 
The Punjab Police, fearing law and order trouble, provided protection to the Kerala team.
 
Several followers of the diocese gathered at its campus in Jalandhar on Friday after hearing about the arrival of the six-member Kerala police team, led by Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) A. T. Subhash.
 
A nun had alleged in June that Mulakkal sexually abused her several times at a convent in Kuruvalangadu near Kottayam in Kerala between 2014 and 2016. An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent. 
 
Mulakkal has denied any wrongdoing. A spokesman for the diocese told media that no wrong had been done by the bishop and that the allegations were being made by the nun at the instigation of vested interests.
 
Earlier, statements were taken from the head of the Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal Mar George Alencherry and also a few other former nuns who were residents at the convent.
 
IANS
 

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Nun case: Kerala Police team in Jalandhar, fails to meet bishop

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A Kerala Police team arrived in Punjab's Jalandhar city on Friday, but failed to meet the controversial bishop, who is accused of sexually abusing a nun, fearing law and order trouble.
 
Police sources said the Punjab Police had to station its personnel in and around the campus of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar after several followers of the diocese gathered there after hearing about the arrival of the Kerala police team.
 
The six-member team led by Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) A.T. Subhash, arrived here on Friday to question the accused, Franco Mulakkal, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar, and others.
 
However, the Kerala police team did not enter the diocese campus and could not question the accused bishop as local authorities feared that this could lead to law and order problem.
 
The Kerala police team is likely to question the bishop in the next two days.
 
A nun had alleged in June that Mulakkal sexually abused her several times at a convent in Kuruvalangadu near Kottayam in Kerala between 2014 and 2016. An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent. 
 
Mulakkal however, denies any wrongdoing.
 
A spokesman for the diocese told media that no wrong had been done by the bishop and that the allegations were being made by the nun at the instigation of vested interests.
 
Statements were taken from the head of the Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal Mar George Alencherry and also a few other former nuns who were residents at the convent.
 
IANS
 

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Kerala Police to question accused bishop in Jalandhar

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A Kerala Police team left for Jalandhar on Friday to question a Catholic bishop accused of sexually abusing a nun.
 
The six-member team led by Deputy Superintendent of Police A. T. Subhash, will first stop in Delhi to question a city-based couple who raised a complaint against the nun, according to informed sources.
 
The team will then travel to the Punjab city where they will meet the accused, Franco Mulakkal, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar.
 
The nun alleged in June that Mulakkal sexually abused her several times at a convent in Kuruvalangadu near Kottayam between 2014 and 2016. 
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun and other inmates of the convent. 
 
Mulakkal however, denies any wrongdoing.
 
He told the Punjab media last month that he was waiting to meet the probe team formed after Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra reviewed the case.
 
Statements were taken from the head of the Syro-Malabar Church Cardinal Mar George Alencherry and also a few other former nuns who were residents at the convent.
 
IANS
 

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Wanted Punjab criminal shot dead in Himachal

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Punjab Police on early Saturday shot dead a wanted criminal and arrested two of his accomplices in Himachal Pradesh's Bilaspur district after a brief encounter, said a senior police officer.
 
The encounter took place in Naina Devi, famous for a hilltop Hindu shrine.
 
"A team of Punjab Police was chasing gangsters, who snatched a car from Sohana in Mohali (in Punjab). As the police signaled the criminals, one of them fired at them. The police retaliated and fired back. One of the criminals died in the process," Bilaspur Superintendent of Police Ashok Kumar told IANS.
 
The dead criminal was identified as Sunny Masih of Gurdaspur in Punjab, he said. Two others -- Amanpreet and Goldy -- were arrested.
 
Two policemen also received gunshot injuries.
 
Mohali Senior Superintendent of Police Kuldeep Singh Chahal and other senior police officials visited the encounter spot.
 
According to the police, several criminal cases have been registered against the criminals in Punjab. They belonged to Pathankot-based Jaggu gang.
 
The encounter spot, nearly 130 km from the state capital, is located close to Punjab.
 
IANS
 
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Kerala bishop accused of raping nun denies moving to Vatican

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A Kerala bishop accused of sexually abusing a Catholic nun, once again denied the charges on Thursday and the reports of his moving to the Vatican.
 
Even as a special probe team mounted a detailed investigation against Franco Mulakkal, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar in Punjab, he dismissed any plans of going away anywhere.
 
Mulakkal told a Malayalam TV channel in his office in Jalandhar that he has not even been contacted by the police. He also said he has not applied for any anticipatory bail, "because he has done no wrong".
 
"I now hear reports that I am trying to run away to Vatican. I wish to state that I am very much here (Jalandhar) and all such reports are baseless and am not running anywhere," said Mulakkal.
 
Trouble began for the bishop when a Catholic nun alleged that she was sexually abused by him several times between 2014 and 2016.
 
An FIR was registered against the bishop and a 114-page detailed statement was taken from the nun.
 
Mulakkal, for his part, maintains that he has done "no wrong at all" and that the nun took part in several functions besides travelling with him.
 
"She also took part in the functions after the death of my mother. I have no clue on why all this has surfaced," added the bishop.
 
The probe team has so far collected evidences from a convent near Kottayam, where the bishop is alleged to have abused the nun.
 
The team will meet a few people in Kannur believed to be helpful in the case.
 
IANS
 
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SC orders shifting of Kathua rape accused to Punjab jail

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The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the shifting of seven accused in rape-murder of a eight-year-old minor nomadic girl in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua to the district jail in Punjab's Gurdaspur.
 
Seven of the eighth accused facing trial in the rape-murder case are currently lodged in Kathua district jail. The remained accused is a juvenile.
 
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice D.Y.Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra ordered the shifting of seven accused as senior counsel Indira Jaising told the court the purpose of holding day to day hearing has been defeated as the actual trial was taking only for a couple of hours since a lot of time was being lost in bringing the accused from Kathua jail to Pathankot.
 
The bench said that if any of the accused's relatives would like to meet the accused persons, at Gurdaspur and such a request is made, the Jammu & Kashmir government shall bear the expenses of their travel in accordance with the prescribed norms.
 
The court also clarified that it has passed this direction in view of the exceptional circumstances of this case.
 
The supplementary charge sheet, the court directed, would be filed in within eight weeks.
 
Transferring the trial in the case from Kathua to Pathankot in Punjab on May 7, the top court had ordered that the Pathankot District and Sessions Judge would hold the trial in-camera and on day-to-day with no adjournments.
 
Directing that the trial judge would ensure that the proceedings are held in camera, the court said that the court room would be converted for in camera proceedings.
 
The court said no one except the accused, their lawyers, the special public prosecutor and his team and the court staff concerned are allowed to remain present and assist the court during the trial.
 
It said that the trial judge would make all endeavours to secure the atmosphere for the trial and the Punjab and Haryana High Court would be approached by the contesting parties if aggrieved with any of its orders.
 
The court also directed the J&K government to provide security to the Special Public Prosecutor, as and when it is asked and the Punjab government to provide the security to the trial court judge and also secure the court premises.
 
The Pathankot court had framed charges against seven accused on June 7.
 
The top court's order came on a plea by the victim child's father who had moved the court seeking the transfer of trial from Kathua to Chandigarh.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
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Punjab: AAP lawmaker attacked by mining mafia, Amarinder seeks report

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Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislator Amarjit Singh Sandoa was injured on Thursday after he and his security personnel were attacked by sand mafia goons in Punjab's Ropar district.
 
Taking serious note of the incident, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh sought a detailed report from the Deputy Commissioner of Rupnagar (Ropar) on the incident.
 
Sandoa was attacked near Baihara village when he had gone to see an illegal sand mining site.
 
When Sandoa, the AAP legislator from Ropar, objected to the illegal activity, the goons attacked him and his security personnel. The attack was video recorded by the media accompanying Sandoa.
 
Hit on the chest by a stone, Sandoa was admitted to a hospital in Anandpur Sahib and later referred to the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) here.
 
However, the other side claimed that the legislator was demanding money from them and had enacted the drama.
 
The Punjab Police arrested three people allegedly involved in the attack on Sandoa.
 
Seeking a report on the incident, Amarinder Singh "made it clear that lawlessness would not be tolerated in the state under any circumstances and asked the DC to ensure a free and fair probe to ascertain the facts of the matter," a spokesman for the chief minister said here. 
 
"The Chief Minister asked the DGP to crack down on the remaining suspects and ensure their immediate arrest," he said.
 
The two PSOs (personal security officers) attached to the MLA have also come under the Chief Minister's scanner for evidently failing to protect him.
 
"They have been transferred to the Police Lines and the Chief Minister has directed the DGP to investigate their role in the entire episode," the spokesman said.
 
Besides Sandoa, his gunman Head Constable Sukhdeep Singh was also injured in the attack.
 
The spokesman disclosed that three relatives of Ajwinder Singh of village Baihara had been arrested.
 
"Ajwinder and another accused, Bachittar Singh of village Bhauwal, had fled after the incident and were expected to be arrested soon," he added.
 
Those arrested had been identified as Jaswinder Singh Goldy, Manjit Singh and Amarjit Singh, all residents of village Baihara. 
 
Meanwhile, AAP leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira and Lok Insaf Party leader Simarjit Singh Bains alleged that the sand mafia goons had the backing of the ruling Congress leadership in Punjab and were openly assaulting lawmakers and officials who were objecting to their illegal activities.
 
Bains demanded that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh should resign as his government had failed to enforce law and order.
 
IANS
 
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Seven killed as SUV rams into truck near Amritsar

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At least seven people were killed on Monday when the sports utility vehicle (SUV) they were travelling in rammed into a truck near Punjab's Amritsar city, police said.
 
The victims included one child and three women.
 
Eight passengers in the SUV were returning to Delhi after a pilgrimage trip from Himachal Pradesh and the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
 
The accident took place near Khalchian village on the National Highway connecting Amritsar and Delhi.
 
The police said that a three-year-old child survived but was hospitalised in Amritsar with serious injuries.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
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Rains bring relief to Punjab, Haryana

(Photo: IANS)
(Photo: IANS)
Rainfall in parts of Punjab and Haryana on Sunday brought relief from the heat wave and dusty conditions prevailing over the region in the past few days.
 
At many places, the maximum temperature hovered in the 23-25 degrees mark, making the weather quite pleasant.
 
Chandigarh and its surrounding areas were lashed by rain since Saturday evening.
 
The maximum temperature in the capital city of Punjab and Haryana was 29.4, nine degrees below the average on Saturday.
 
The city and nearby areas continued to get intermittent rain on Sunday and the skies remained overcast.
 
"Chandigarh saw such a bad weather in the past over one week. First there was a heat wave followed by two days of very dusty weather. The rain has brought so much relief," Manju Malhotra, a homemaker in Panchkula town, said.
 
All flights to and from the Chandigarh airport were cancelled on Thursday and Friday due to dusty conditions. Hundreds of passengers were affected by the flight disruption. Flight operation resumed on Saturday.
 
The Met Department has forecast light to moderate rainfall in several areas of both states till Monday.
 
IANS
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BJP chief meets top SAD leaders in Chandigarh

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BJP President Amit Shah arrived here on Thursday afternoon and held a closed-door meeting with the top Shiromani Akali Dal leadership.
 
Shah met Akali Dal patron and five-time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and party President Sukhbir Singh Badal.
 
The meeting was held as part of Shah's initiative to connect with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJPs) allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Shah had met NDA ally and Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackerey in Mumbai on Wednesday.
 
Sukhbir Badal's wife, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, is the Union Minister for Food Processing in the Narendra Modi government.
 
The alliance of the two parties did not do too well in the Punjab Assembly elections early last year. They also did not fare well in the Lok Sabha polls in April-May 2014 despite a clear Modi wave in most other states in north India.
 
The Akali Dal-BJP alliance in Punjab, which has been there for over three decades, was relegated to the third spot in the 2017 Assembly polls.
 
New entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) got 20 seats in the 117-member Assembly and became the principal opposition party.
 
The Congress, which was out of power in Punjab for a decade (2007-2017), during which period the Akali Dal-BJP alliance ruled Punjab, got 77 seats in the Assembly (the Congress tally increased to 78 after win in Shahkot by-election last month, giving the party a two third majority in the house).
 
Out of the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab, the Akali Dal-BJP combine holds five (four Akali Dal; one of BJP), while the Congress has four seats and AAP another four.
 
IANS
 
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Congress wins Punjab's Shahkot by huge margin

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The ruling Congress won the Shahkot Assembly bye-election on Thursday by a huge margin of over 38,800 votes, wresting the Shiromani Akali Dal stronghold after more than 20 years.
 
Congress' Hardev Singh Ladi Sherowalia got 82,745 votes against the 43,944 votes polled by his Akali Dal rival Naib Singh Koha.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
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Punjab Assembly bye-election: Congress leads in Akali Dal stronghold

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The ruling Congress built a formidable lead of over 16,000 votes in the Shiromani Akali Dal stronghold of Shahkot in Punjab after seven rounds of counting in the by-election to the Assembly seat on Thursday.
 
Congress candidate Hardev Singh Ladi Sherowalia was leading over his Shiromani Akali Dal rival Naib Singh Kohar after the first few rounds of counting.
 
Ladi received over 34,000 votes while Kohar got only around 18,000 votes.
 
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Rattan Singh was trailing far behind. He got just over 1,100 votes.
 
The seat fell vacant following the death of sitting Akali Dal legislator Ajit Singh Kohar in February. 
 
Kohar, a former minister, was elected five times from this seat. His son Naib Singh Kohar was fielded by the Akali Dal.
 
The Shahkot seat remained a stronghold of the Akali Dal for over two decades in the past.
 
There were 12 candidates in the fray this time. A total of 76 per cent voting was reported on May 28.
 
Punjab has a Congress government since March 2017.
 
IANS
 
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Budding Punjabi singer found shot dead

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A budding Punjabi singer Navjot Singh was found shot dead in Dera Bassi area of Punjab, around 15 km from here, following which police launched an investigation on Monday to catch the culprits.
 
Navjot's body was found in a pool of blood with five gunshot wounds near a factory plot past midnight on Sunday. His Nissan Micra car was found parked nearby.
 
He was shot in the chest from close range. A murder case was registered against unidentified persons.
 
The police ruled out robbery as the reason for the killing since nothing had been taken away from his person. Since he was a struggling artiste, extortion by gangsters was also ruled out.
 
The singer, aged around 22, was living in a rented apartment in S.A.S. Nagar, adjoining Chandigarh. 
 
He had called up his mother minutes before he was killed and told her that he was returning home in Behra village. The family began searching for him when he did not return home.
 
IANS
 
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Voting begins for assembly seat bypoll in Punjab

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Voting began for the Shahkot assembly seat bye-election in Punjab on Monday.
 
The voting began at 7 a.m. and will continue till 6 p.m., election department officials said here.
 
With the prevailing heat wave in Punjab, voters started queuing up early in the day to caste their votes.
 
Chief Electoral Officer S. Karuna Raju said that 1,72,676 voters will decide the fate of 12 candidates in this constituency.
 
The main contest is between the ruling Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), making it a three-cornered contest.
 
Over 1,000 security personnel, including Punjab Police and Border Security Force (BSF), have been stationed in the constituency for smooth conduct of the voting.
 
The seat fell vacant following the death of sitting Akali Dal legislator Ajit Singh Kohar in February this year.
 
Kohar, a former minister, was elected five times from this seat. His son Naib Singh Kohar has been fielded by the Akali Dal this time.Congress candidate Hardev Singh Ladi had lost to Kohar by nearly 5,000 votes in the assembly elections in February last year.
 
The AAP has fielded Rattan SinghAas its candidate.The Congress came back to power in the state in March last year after a gap of a decade.
 
IANS
 
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