Is the Punjab chief minister's office (CMO) looking for a new media advisor? Not yet, but the one holding on to the coveted post has been shown the door.
Harcharan Bains (61), a long-time loyalist and media adviser to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, was included in the Shiromani Akali Dal's (SAD) manifesto committee during the assembly polls in January - a development which necessitated his resignation under the model code of conduct.
But after the SAD retained power in March, Bains was conveyed that his re-appointment would not take place, sources in the CMO said.
When contacted, chief minister's principal secretary Gaggandip Brar confirmed that the post of media advisor in the CMO did not exist presently.
When asked whether the government was looking for another media advisor, Brar refused to comment.
The media adviser's plush office, however, is still vacant and has not been allotted to any of the new entrants in the CMO on the high-security second floor of the Punjab civil secretariat.
Bains was seen on Tuesday in the CMO after several days, assisting the CM's deputy director (Press) OS Lamba in re-drafting a press note.
"I am still with Badal Sahib, though this office is no longer mine," said Bains, who enjoyed the status of a cabinet minister during his last term. He now makes casual rounds to the residence of the senior Badal.
It is learnt that it was deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Badal who had sidelined Bains soon after the assembly election results in early March. Sukhbir was reportedly unhappy with Bains' media management during the elections, and quietly eased him out during the recast of the CMO.
Bains, who has been writing columns on contentious issues concerning the state, is also silent now with his pen. His proximity with the senior Badal goes back to the Akali-BJP government formed in 1997, when he was appointed to handle the media.
A perceptive writer, Bains has the rare distinction of serving as media advisor to two Akali chief ministers - Parkash Singh Badal and Surjit Singh Barnala.
He was a lecturer in English at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, in 1985 when he was handpicked by Barnala as his media manager. Later, Bains switched his loyalty to Badal in the mid-1990s when the Akali supremo staged a comeback in Punjab politics as chief minister in 1997. Bains was the media advisor to Badal during the Akali-BJP government's previous two terms (1997-2002 and 2007-12).