Keeping tabs on power politics in Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh:
Capt’s team to have fresh look
Congress leader Capt Amarinder Singh will need to look for new faces for his cabinet. The reason: many seasoned leaders of the party, including a former chief minister and ministers, have lost. They include ex-CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, and former ministers Ashwini Sekhri, Jagmohan Singh Kang, Joginder Singh Mann and Mohinder Singh Kaypee. Had they won, they would have figured in his team. Two other senior leaders, Sunil Jakhar and Ajit Inder Mofar, also failed to retain their seats. Then, a number of other veteran leaders preferred to field their children. These include Lal Singh, Santokh Singh Chaudhary, Chaudhary Jagjit Singh and Gurchet Bhullar.
Finding solace in the drubbing
If the outgoing Badal government is feeling battered by not returning to power, it is not betraying any such signs. Some of its leaders, including CM Parkash Singh Badal, his son and SAD president Sukhbir Badal and his brother-in-law Bikram Singh Majithia, are not able to hide their sense of relief that it is the Congress and not the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that has taken Punjab. The Akali ministers who have lost the elections to Congress are less hurt than the ones such as Daljit Singh Cheema who have lost to the AAP. Same goes for most of party’s other MLAs. After all, there are matrimonial and even business ties between the old political foes. And they go a long way.
Capt gets cracking, picks OSD
Gurinder Singh Sodhi, a newly elevated Punjab Civil Service (PCS) officer, is the first to be appointed by CM-designate Capt Amarinder Singh. The officer, who recently finished his training, has been posted as officer on special duty in the chief minister’s office. Known to be an efficient officer, Sodhi started his career as a stenographer in the public relations department and attached with then CM Beant Singh. He then got elevated and inducted into the personal staff cadre of IAS officers. Sodhi then appeared for PCS examination conducted by Punjab Public Service Commission last year and got into PCS. Sodhi, who has been handpicked by Amarinder, has already joined his assignment. The new CM will take oath on March 16.
Bhattal’s team falls flat
A team hired by former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal to give a boost to her poll prospects failed to deliver. Before the elections, Bhattal had given a display advertisement in this newspaper to hire a team, seeking applications for walk-in interviews for selection of support staff for a ‘CM-level candidate’. Now that the five-time MLA has lost the assembly, she would definitely like to assess what went wrong.
Height of positive thinking!
There are various ways to get out of depression. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has after the poll drubbing decided to look only at the brighter side of things. A day after the results, several party workers were busy pointing out that 37 lakh Punjabis had actually voted for AAP which was an achievement in itself! What they did not want to look at was the fact that a larger number--- almost 39 lakh --- of Punjabis had voted for the Akalis and another almost 60 lakh voted for the Congress. In the end, AAP was not chosen by almost 90 lakh voters!
Capt win: Haryana Cong gives cold reaction
They desperately needed some good news, but the Congress leaders in Haryana have responded to the party’s thumping triumph in neighbouring Punjab with a stunning silence. While most of them are hoping that the party’s win would help it rediscover its mojo, hardly anyone of them spoke on it. They neither issued any statements nor posted any congratulatory messages on social on the spectacular success. The reason: Capt Amarinder Singh, who had scrapped the water-sharing agreements with Haryana, has led the Congress back to power and will be at the helm in Punjab. The divide created by the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal had also kept the party leaders from Haryana away from electioneering in the state. Kaithal MLA Randeep Singh Surjewala is among the very few to have spoken on the victory, but then he is All India Congress Committee media in-charge.
Babu pays for ‘bickering’ in party
Chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, it seems, hasn’t been able to settle on his core team of bureaucrats. He has made frequent changes in the chief minister’s office in the past two years. The latest to join the long list of officials and non-officials to make an exit from the CMO is Mukul Kumar, a Haryana Civil Service officer. An officer of special duty (OSD) to chief minister, Kumar, who was handling transfers, has been shifted to the tourism department as director and additional secretary. Though no reason has been cited, the soft-spoken officer’s transfer is being linked to the ongoing internal bickering in the ruling BJP. The MLAs have been griping against the state bureaucracy for ignoring their requests. There was talk of Kumar’s exit from the CMO two months ago also. The transfer was put off, but not for long.
Scribes find it hard to cross Khattar’s security ring
When he took over, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar had curtailed the number of security personnel deployed for VIP security, including some of his own. While he continues to prefer unobtrusive security cover, the security team deployed with him is a tad fussy, often becoming a big hurdle for scribes trying to speak to him. When the CM was in his Karnal assembly constituency recently, the journalists wanted replies to some questions. But the security personnel were not too keen. They kept pushing the reporters behind, creating chaos. Khattar did not like the actions of his security guards. “Arre aane do inko, muje kha jayenge kya yeh log,” he said. And it was only after his intervention that the journalists could go close and get their queries answered.
Project ‘delay’: Haryana forest dept head shifted
The Khattar government removed the head of the forest department Amrinder Kaur last week. Though several officials saw it as a ‘routine’ transfer, the buzz was that it was in the wake of long delay in taking steps for herbal forest in Morni hills. The forest project for which yoga guru Ramdev’s Patanjali Trust has already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Haryana government is a top priority for health minister Anil Vij. He had also written to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar against forest department officials. PP Bhojvaid has been posted as the new principal chief conservator of forest.
Special guests at Haryana House
The Haryana assembly had some special guests in the visitors’ gallery on the last day of the budget session on March 10. They were the six girls from the Government Model Sanskriti Senior Secondary School in Rohtak’s Sanghi village. The girls had hogged limelight for their Haryanvi folk song ‘Sudama’ on a video-sharing website. Accompanied by their music teacher Sumesh Jagra, the girls – Vidhi, Ishi, Sheetal, Rinku, Manisha and Muskan, were honoured by speaker Kanwar Pal.
Hacked FB page: BJP leader takes jibe at Sudhir Sharma
Himachal Pradesh urban development minister Sudhir Sharma’s account on Facebook was hacked recently. The minister, who represents Dharamshala in the state assembly, deleted his page, apologising to those who had received “nasty” messages from his account. But the opposition leaders are not convinced about the hacking theory. Former BJP minister Kishan Kapoor raked up the issue while interacting with reporters the other day. “May be it was done deliberately,” he alleged, taking a jibe at his arch rival Sharma.
Dharamshala as second capital: CM under fire
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh was under fire in the state assembly for declaring Dharamshala as the second capital of the state. Dharampur legislator Mahender Singh Thakur said Mandi should be given the capital status, but the chief minister declined his demand, saying that it was about the state capital, not a circus. Later, Shimla MLA Suresh Bhardwaj also told the CM that the British could rule a large part of the world from Delhi then what was the need for giving the second capital status to Dharamshala.
(Contributed by Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Sukhdeep Kaur, Chitleen K Sethi, Navneet Sharma, Neeraj Mohan, Rajesh Moudgil, Naresh K Thakur and Gaurav Bisht)