Keeping tabs on power politics in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and J&K.
Punjabi Badal, English speech
Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has grown old, but retains his sense of humour. At a programme held by Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana at Law Bhawan in Chandigarh more than a week ago, Haryana’s advocate general BR Mahajan addressed the lawyers in Punjabi. But his Punjab counterpart Ashok Agarwal, who spoke after Mahajan, delivered his speech in English. Badal was the chief guest and addressed the gathering in the end. He also spoke in English, but made sure it does not go against him. “I am ashamed. The Punjab AG spoke in English and I am also speaking in English, whereas the AG of Haryana spoke in Punjabi. But I must tell you I chose English because someone might have said that the Punjab CM does not know the language,” he said before winding up his speech. The entire hall burst into laughter. Badal, too, paused for a while and kept on smiling.
Sufi singer at Brar’s rally and a ‘sulfa’ jibe
Expelled Congress leader Jagmeet Singh Brar is not only touring the state for his May 21 show of strength at Chappar Chiri near Mohali, but he has also roped in a crowd-puller besides his self-important self. Punjabi singer Kanwar Grewal, known for his Sufi renditions, will be a star attraction at the rally. Going gaga over it, Brar announced it on his Facebook pages: “I thank great sufi singer and mystic Kanwar Grewal for his support in my fight against drugs debt & dynasties…” But one FB-user commented: “Sulfa peen wala drugs de against ki kahoo? Brar Saab be honest.” (What will a cannabis-smoker speak against drugs?). Here is Brar’s reply: “There is a huge difference between the sufi/mystic way of life and the synthetic drugs being injected into Punjab’s veins. I hope this answers your question sufficiently.”
Punjab’s babu’s canine love
Punjab IAS officer Suresh Kumar, who superannuated on April 30, had special love for his Labrador. The loveable dog that died about a fortnight ago was with the Kumar family for 12 years. The dog was buried at an animal cemetery in Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (GADVASU) in Ludhiana where he was sent for treatment. The officer has now ordered a tombstone from Rajasthan for his dear dog’s grave.
Not everyone sticks to brief
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi had suggested doing away with the practice of holding interviews for recruitment at lower level appointments in government departments to put an end to corruption, one of his ministers had written to the chief ministers and administrators of all states and Union Territories urging them to abolish interviews for Group D, C and B non-gazetted posts. When the Centre reviewed the progress last week, the responses it got showed having the party’s government is no guarantee for implementation of ideas. The Punjab government in which Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are partners reported compliance. “Interviews have been done away. Copy of the notification will be provided at the earliest,” it said. However, the Khattar-led BJP government in Haryana did not completely agree, doing away with interviews only at Group D-level posts. “At Group C, weightage of interview has been reduced,” it said, without giving any commitment. The Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government in Himachal Pradesh and the Chandigarh administration failed to give any response.
Khattar’s yes, no lessons
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who completed a year and a half in power last month, shared his impression of bureaucracy recently. Khattar, speaking at a seminar, said that politicians were not in the habit of saying ‘no’ to anything and officers rarely said ‘yes’ to anything. “But this needs to change. Politicians have to learn to say ‘no’ and bureaucrats to say ‘yes’ to some things,” he remarked to guffaws from the audience. The mandarins, too, have their views about the chief minister’s working style. “He is down-to-earth, straight and well-meaning, but slow in decision-making. There is too much chintan and manthan before any decision,” is the common refrain. Unlike Khattar, they do not voice their views publicly, though.
Hooda puts up a brave face
Not withstanding the dark clouds, former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who has been booked in another case of dubious land allotment, tried to put up a brave face on Sunday. The Congress leader, who was at his Chandigarh residence, held a function for the entry of two ex-MLAs BL Saini and Ashok Kashyap, who quit the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), into the Congress. While Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar was not present, Hooda and some of his loyalists welcomed the two former MLAs and their supporters. “They are joining Hooda,” one of them said apparently to cheer the ex-CM who is facing the heat. Hooda, on his part, accused the Khattar government of doing only two things – badla (revenge) and badlis (transfers).
Sukhu, Bali spring a surprise
The ruling Congress recently held a rally in Theogh – the home turf of irrigation minister Vidya Stokes. The public meeting was attended by chief minister Virbhadra Singh and Stokes, besides most leaders from the Shimla district, but Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee president
Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and transport minister GS Bali stole the show. The two leaders first sprung a surprise by reaching the rally attended mostly by leaders owing allegiance to Virbhadra. Then, Sukhu spoke at length, heaped praises and recounting sacrifices made by the Gandhi-Nehru family. While Bali spoke more about Stokes, he also praised the chief minister.
Bharti takes potshots at Bali
Himachal Pradesh chief parliamentary secretary Neeraj Bharti has stirred up several controversies through his posts on social networking sites. The other day, the young leader trained guns on his senior party colleague and transport minister GS Bali who had been making claims about a possible visit by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to his constituency. Bharti mocked Bali, who was seen hosting the Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari at Dharamshala. “Instead of Sonia Gandhi, as a big Kangra leader of Kangra was claiming, it was Gadkari who came,” wrote the CPS. “Those who understand why this leader cozying up to the Union minister are intelligent and those who don’t should go and watch Pogo channel,” he added poking at his senior party colleague.
Vikramaditya kicks up storm
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s son and Himachal Youth Congress leader Vikramaditya Singh recently kicked up a controversy by stating that his team would present report card of all MLAs and ministers to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. While leaders of the rival camp criticised him in hushed voices, transport minister GS Bali spoke out in the open. Bali said: “Vikramaditya is a very good kid, but he should not demean the MLAs and ministers.” The people had elected their leaders and reserved the right to prepare the report cards, he advised the young leader.
Karan Singh’s woes
HP ayurveda and cooperation minister Karan Singh is seemingly upset with chairpersons of different cooperative societies in the state. He had sought detailed project reports on different projects, strongly advocating strengthening of cooperatives in the state. But what has added to his agony is lack of cooperation from chairpersons of cooperatives. “What to talk about projects, the chairpersons have not even met me after I became minister. They did not even pay courtesy call,” said the dejected minister.