Expert speak on agriculture
Dr MS Swaminathan, known as the Father of Green Revolution in India, was in Chandigarh last week and spoke about Punjab State Farmers’ Commission chairman GS Kalkat in high esteem. Both Swaminathan and Kalkat had worked together when India was struggling to grow sufficient food grains so as to match the needs of the population. The two agriculture scientists match each other’s calibre and expertise, but Swaminathan scores over Kalkat as he is more expressive and can give long narrations on agriculture. Swaminathan recalled that he has been visiting Punjab regularly for the past 20 years and visiting mandis of the state with Kalkat, especially during the wheat harvest season.
People’s Party of Punjab (PPP) has got a freshly-minted logo. It amalgamates the words of three languages – Punjabi, Urdu and English. ‘Pappa’ of Gurmukhi (Punjabi) script, ‘Pey’ of Urdu and ‘P’ of English language are depicted in the logo which reflects party chief Manpreet Singh Badal’s penchant for Urdu. “India is a multi-cultural and secular society. This is also the ideology of our party. I am of the view that it must reflect in our party’s logo,” said the PPP chief. He also drew attention to the basanti colour of the logo which, according to him, depicts sacrifice and martyrdom.No shame in comparison
Punjab forest and wildlife minister Chunni Lal Bhagat was all praise for slain BJP leader from Jalandhar Manmohan Kalia, father of Jalandhar (central) MLA Manoranjan Kalia, the other day. “I worked for him (Manmohan) for many years and he was a seasoned politician. Manmohan was the one who brought me into politics,” the minister said, recalling how he came from Sialkot (now in Pakistan) after Partition and started dabbling in politics. “But Manoranjan can’t match his father, I don’t know why,” he added. “There is no doubt about what Bhagatji says about my father, but either father is ahead of his son or vice-versa. There is nothing to feel bad about such comparison,” is all Manoranjan was willing to say in response.
Bajwa’s many lives
He is down, but not out. Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa seems to have been caught unawares by the news of his likely replacement. It brought a wide range of emotions as he was bombarded with calls -- from being defiant to taking “high moral ground” and accepting the high command’s decision and welcoming a successor. But after the decision was deferred, a relieved Bajwa could not help quipping before reporters at the Congress Bhawan recently that “a cat has nine lives, Bajwa has more”. Wonder what his rival, Capt Amarinder Singh, has to say on this.Softening stand
Since the SAD-BJP workers clashed in Tarn Taran, local bodies minister Anil Joshi has been slamming the Akalis with hard-hitting statements. In a recent interaction, the minister seemed to soften his stand though, cautiously responding to the queries related to the alliance partner. Asked about sudden softness, the minister had only this to say: “Har vele stand sakht nahin hona chaahida (One doesn’t have to be tough all the time).”
Punjab Infrastructure Regulatory Authority chairman DS Bains had to get two sofa chairs from home for his new office in the mini civil secretariat in Chandigarh. The retired IAS officer, made the infra body chief three months back, found the furniture in his office inadequate. The reason: the office had six chairs, as his predecessor Tejinder Kaur had returned the sofa set to PUNSUP on the completion of her term. Besides the two sofa chairs with a unique steel frame, Bains also picked up an old sofa dumped in his earlier office which he headed as principal secretary before retirement and got it repaired for his guests.
Amritsar residents have been grappling with infrastructure-related difficulties, but there is no dearth of assurances from Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal. Every time he visits the city, his public relations team issues press statements promising that the city would become “world-class” in a year. But nothing has changed on the ground. The civic authorities have not done anything to keep the promise. While Badal Junior continues with his assurances, locals have to put up with waterlogging, bad roads and garbage dumps.
Vij style of working
Health and sports minister Anil Vij appears to be getting popular with the opposition parties, but probably not within his own government. When the minister, who has had a few run-ins with mandarins, had tweeted about some people trying to curb his style of working more than a month ago, a few voices from the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) spoke in his support. Last week also, Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar thanked Vij when he recommended action against two senior doctors of Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS), Rohtak, over the alleged delay in providing ambulance service to a former CM, who passed away at a private hospital later. But the minister didn’t get his boss’ backing. The government, cagey about the fallout of the action, copped out, setting up another inquiry committee to probe the lapse. While there is also talk of political pressure, Vij has been rather subdued in his response on the matter so far. “But not for very long,” according to those who know him. He is bound to react sooner than later.
New but confident
They may be new, but the first-time BJP MLAs aren’t showing any lack of confidence in the state assembly. Union rural development minister Birender Singh’s wife Prem Lata, retired IAS officer Abhe Singh Yadav, Harvinder Kalyan, Gian Chand Gupta and Pawan Saini, besides several others, not just spoke extempore during the first week of the budget session, but also spoke well. Then, there were also several others who took timely jibes at the Congress legislators. Sample these: “Aapne sirf CLUs ki kheti ki hai (you have done farming of CLUs only) and Aap to vargon ko baantne ki rajniti karte ho (your politics is all about dividing communities).”
Unlike some previous regimes, the new BJP government has brought in a refreshing change. A new-found bonhomie was seen among members of different parties at official dinners hosted by chief minister ML Khattar and health minister Anil Vij last week. Probably for the first time, at least in recent history, all MLAs from ruling and opposition parties were present at the two gatherings. Congress Legislature Party leader Kiran Choudhry, former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda (both from the Congress) and Leader of Opposition Abhay Singh Chautala (INLD) were there too, exuding geniality. To be on the safe side, at least for now.
The meet the press programme with Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Sunday revealed Khattar’s humorous side. When a scribe asked the first BJP chief minister of the state as to why the chamchas of the previous Congress regime were still having a field day in his raj, Khattar said, “The officers are colourless. They do not belong to the Congress or Chautalas or to us. They only belong to the government.” He even narrated an amusing anecdote about a king who becomes fond of eating a brinjal (baingan) dish every day after he is told by one of his courtiers that baingan means bahu gun (having multiple qualities). But one day when the king gets an upset stomach after eating the dish, he asks the courtier for the reason. When the courtier tells him that baingan is actually bina guna (without any quality), the king asks him as to why he was changing his statement now. “Maine naukri aapki karni hai, baingan ki nahi,” the courtier said.
‘Punjab connection’ has always been significant in Himachal politics. CM Virbhadra Singh has often used his predecessor BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal’s Punjabi links to hit out at him. Dhumal had started his career as a teacher from Jalandhar’s Doaba College. Dhumal has got the opportunity to pay back now. And he hasn’t let it go. “I am well versed in Punjabi. Now you also must have started following it,” he told the CM the other day, pointing towards the royal wedding.
Virbhadra does a jive
Virbhadra Singh has a distinct sense of humour. On the second day of the ongoing budget session, when legislators of the BJP trooped to the well of the house and raised slogans, the CM, known for his short temper, managed to keep his cool. Then, he mimicked opposition legislators, resorting to Pahari folk dance, while the entire house broke into laughter.
Former HP health minister Dr Rajiv Bindal and current transport minister GS Bali can’t stand each other. Bali’s speech on the Governor’s address during the budget session caused “discomfiture” to several of his party colleagues, especially Virbhadra Singh. Bali, who is also averse to current health minister Kaul Singh Thakur, spoke at length on the functioning of the health department and then left the house after concluding his speech. Bindal, who was the next speaker, clearly seemed to miss him. “Bali ji hote to aur achha hota (It would have been nice if Baliji was present),” he repeatedly said in his speech. The speaker had to clarify that the minister had to catch a train to Delhi.
Gatecrashing at royal wedding
The royal Congress wedding — Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh’s younger daughter tied the knot with former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh’s grandson Angad Singh — kept the political circles agog in Himachal Pradesh. While the wedding was attended by President Pranab Mukherjee, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and scores of other VIPs from across the country, there were a few “uninvited guests” from the state. They found it difficult to get into the wedding venue — the palatial house allotted to AICC general secretary Ambika Soni on Akbar Road in New Delhi. Two ‘uninvited’ government officials tried to get in flashing red beacons atop their vehicles, but couldn’t find entry as the Special Protection Group had issued passes for guests. Upset over the attempts to gatecrash, Virbhadra has asked an SP-rank officer to prepare a list of such uninvited guests.
Royal wedding invite
From the wedding reception of Angad Singh to the invites extended to the guests, everything was royal. A royal reception was organised for the couple at Patiala on March 14 for the select guests. The invite mentioned Capt Amarinder Singh as Maharaja and his wife Preneet Kaur as the Maharani. Even the bride’s father Virbhadra Singh was referred to as Raja and his wife as Rani Pratibha Singh. The card with the royal insignia and serial number, mentioned at the top about the blessings of Rajmata Mohinder Kaur. The card also categorically asked invitees not to bring any gifts or shagun.
CONTRIBUTED BY GURPREET SINGH NIBBER, SUKHDEEP KAUR, ASEEM BASSI, PRABHJIT SINGH, NAVNEET SHARMA, RAJESH MOUDGIL, HITENDER RAO, GAURAV BISHT AND MONICA SHARMA