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Mudslinging reaches fever pitch in Punjab campaign

Advertisements targeting Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and opposition leader Parkash Singh Badal are an everyday feature.
PTI | By Jaideep Sarin, Indo-Asian News Service, Chandigarh
UPDATED ON APR 19, 2004 01:57 PM IST

The Punjab poll scenario seems quite untouched by the Supreme Court's ruling against mudslinging with advertisements targeting Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and opposition leader Parkash Singh Badal an everyday feature.

The advertisements, with defamatory content, appear in English and vernacular dailies in the state, focussing on Badal's corruption and Amarinder Singh's royal background. Their sons also figure prominently.

The smear campaigns have been launched by relatively unknown organisations at a conservative estimate of Rs 1 million a day.

While the campaign against Badal has been unleashed by a group called Miri Piri Sewa Dal, the one against Amarinder Singh is reportedly by a Delhi-based Sikh organisation, sources said.

"A proper agency should probe from where this Miri Piri Sewa Dal is getting the money to run the advertisement campaign against me and the Akalis. They are spending over Rs. 500,000 everyday," said Shiromani Akali Dal leader Badal.

The chief ministry tried to downplay the matter. "I have a hearty laugh on seeing things being written in these advertisements against me every morning. There is nothing much in them," he said.

The advertisements against Badal and his son Sukhbir highlight corruption.

Their assets and properties running in billions are shown with photographs. There are even poems on the father-son duo.

Amarinder Singh is being attacked on his royal style of functioning. Coming from the Patiala royal family, the chief minister, a known bridge aficionado, is shown playing cards with influential people.

His son Raninder, currently facing an enforcement directorate probe for foreign exchange violation, also comes in for considerable flak.

But not everyone is unhappy at the Congress and the Akalis -- the two main players in Punjab politics -- hitting out at each other in public, even if it is only by proxy.

"The advertisement campaign is healthy for the public. Misdeeds of these corrupt people are being exposed. This shows they are hollow leaders," stated a visibly happy Kanwarpal Singh Bittu of the Sikh separatist Dal Khalsa party.

The voters have also not been taken in by the smear campaigns.

"Since parties here do not have big issues to discuss, they are vying to expose each other and influence voters," said Kul Bhushan of Jalandhar's Adarsh Nagar.

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