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Monday, January 22, 2007
India's Election Commission takes Punjab state police chief off election duties
The ruling Congress party in Punjab suffered a major setback ahead of Assembly polls as the Election Commission on Saturday ordered that Punjab's controversial Director-General of Police (DGP) S S Virk be taken off from all election-related duties.

The Election Commission has been sent a panel of three names of DGP-level officers of the Punjab police for appointment as the state police chief.

Punjab goes to the polls February 13, 2007. Elections will be held to 117 seats, along with the by-election to the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat that was recently vacated by former cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu following his conviction in a road rage death.

The Election Commission's action against Virk follows several complaints against him by the main opposition Shiromani Akali Dal alleging that he was a `Congress agent.'

Akali leader and MP Sukhbir Badal had recently alleged that Virk and his brother had got a Rs 2.5-billion mega-project for a convention centre, hotel and resort passed by the Amarinder Singh Government recently.

Badal accused that Virk, whose close relations with Amarinder Singh are well-known, had been `rewarded' with the mega project in return for having helped the Congress in the Assembly polls.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh told reporters in Patiala that a panel of names had been forwarded to the Election Commission for appointment of the new DGP.

But Sukhbir Badal said that merely transferring the controversial officer was no punishment. "He should be dismissed from service for indulging in open corruption," he demanded.

The Akali leaders had complained to Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami earlier this month, saying they feared that Virk would help the ruling Congress.

The CEC had then said there was no move to remove Virk till something concrete was found against him.

Sukhbir Badal then revealed Amarinder Singh's largesse to Virk's family through the mega-project that led to the Election Commission's order to take him off from all poll-related duties.

Virk had only two days ago reviewed election-related arrangements with top police and civil officials of the state.

Virk told reporters on Saturday that he would abide by the orders of the Election Commission. He said no orders removing him had so far been received, but he had been told about a panel of names being sent to the Election Commission for a new DGP.

He defended the mega-project saying that his brother had applied for it and that he himself had no role in that enterprise.

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posted by a correspondent @ 3:31 AM    
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