‘boating’ in the assembly
Haryana MLAs are tech-savvy. While several of them could be seen sending SMSes or checking messages or posts on their Facebook accounts on their smart phones, a few others do peculiar things in the House during the session. BJP’s first-time MLA from Uchana Kalan, Prem Lata, did something the other day that became a talking point for some time. The wife of Union minister Birender Singh was seen making a boat with a piece of paper. After making it, she kept gazing at it for some time before taking it apart.
Punjab finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa’s budget speech must have been a huge disappointment for the leaders of alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The reason: Dhindsa, presenting his budgetary proposals, misspelled the saffron party’s name in his budget speech. The reference to the “re-elected” alliance in the first paragraph of the FM’s speech in English gave the spelling as “Bhartiya Janta Party”. While the BJP’s name was spelled wrongly, the minister got his own party’s name (Shiromani Akali Dal) right. But this wasn’t the only blooper. There was a mismatch of figures, including power subsidy, in his speech and budget at a glance. As expected, the FM and his team failed to curb the state’s expenditure, borrowings, subsidies, etc. But had they been more careful, they could have easily cut down on errors in the documents.
Punjab deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal feels Punjabis aren’t fair when they compare the infrastructure of their home state not with other Indian states but with that of Canada and the US. “They drive to Chandigarh on the highway, catch a plane from the international airport in Delhi, land in a foreign country and start making comparisons with Punjab. This is unfair,” he said while making a presentation in a plush hotel on Thursday evening. The infrastructure in Punjab, according to him, is much better than that in other states.
Punjab Vidhan Sabha secretariat has been overcautious in trying to ensure that the media does not report any ‘unparliamentary’ words or phrases which may embarrass the SAD-BJP government. At the start of the ongoing budget session on March 12, the scribes, along with their entry cards, were handed a set of rules on reporting the assembly proceedings to ensure nothing derogatory against the government goes out in the public. The secretariat, for the first time, did not allow the proceedings on the close-circuit television cameras, which one can watch only in the press gallery of the assembly. The directorate of public relations also diligently issued a press release every evening to ensure that the media did not carry anything which the Speaker might have forgotten to expunge from the proceedings.
Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal had to face awkward moments on financial assistance from the Centre. After MLAs of the opposition Congress raised the issue, the CM accepted that he was getting financial help and packages for Punjab from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the previous UPA government. “It was I who went to seek the packages,” Badal told the House. However, the opposition members were not content. “But now (PM Narendra) Modi doesn’t pay much heed to your requests,” said one from the opposition benches. The SAD is a member of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which is currently in power at the Centre.
Punjab Congress MLA Randeep Singh Nabha raised in the state assembly the issue of “extra-terrestrial” powers enjoyed by SAD’s local jathedars anointed as halqa in-charges. CM Parkash Singh Badal denied the charge, saying some people may be making claims, but the government had done no such thing. The BJP had also earlier objected to the powers enjoyed by local jathedars.
Legislators of the ruling and opposition parties in Punjab and Haryana may be slugging it out in their parallel sessions of the state Assembly these days, but there is bonhomie in the “press lobby” where the journalists covering the two states meet. Both states make arrangements for snacks and lunch for their scribes, ensuring variety in food. And the journalists share them as per their food preferences.
Politicians never miss an opportunity to take digs at one another. After a picture of Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar taking a nap in the lawn of his official bungalow went viral last week, Congress MLAs raked up the issue in the state Assembly. When a Congress legislator questioned the FM’s absence from the House during the budget discussion, health minister Anil Vij responded, “We have a collective responsibility. Your party’s FM used to go back home and sleep after presenting the budget.” To this, the Congress MLAs retorted, saying the CM was also photographed taking a nap in his lawn after the budget. While Khattar said there was nothing wrong in sleeping in the lawn, explaining the photograph as the work of an overenthusiastic party worker, the Congress appears to have found the picture handy. Before Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s visit to rain-hit areas of the state, Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar posted the picture on the social media with the stinging caption, “Kasht mein kisan ki nahin chinta, Bhajapa sarkar so rahi hai (The farmers are in trouble and the BJP government is sleeping).”
Resorting to wit
BJP MLA from Rewari, Randhir Singh Kapriwas, surprised members of the state assembly with his speech laced with Sanskrit slokas. While the first-time MLA was tentative initially, he soon got confident. When former Speaker and Congress MLA Kuldeep Sharma repeatedly asked him who was Lord Krishna, Kapriwas displayed his witty side. Having ignored the query a few times, the BJP legislator finally told Sharma that if he really wanted to know the answer, then health minister Anil Vij would tell him. The House broke into laughter as Vij had been squarely taking on Sharma since day one. The Congress leader did not ask the question again.
Finance minister Capt Abhimanyu and health minister Anil Vij are poles apart when it comes to sarcasm. While Abhimanyu makes subtle but stinging remarks on the Congress benches in the state assembly, Vij confronts the opposition MLAs. The FM, replying to a query on change of land use (CLU) permissions by the previous Congress regime, was amused when Congress MLAs complained about the non-availability of a hard copy of the reply. “We are quite happy that you are showing so much interest. I hope any of your deals are not pending,” Abhimanyu told them sarcastically. At once, Vij jumped from his seat to intervene: “Yeh log to yeh dekhna chahte hain ki kahin inka naam to nahin hai CLU ki list mein (They want to see if their names figure in the CLU details).”
BJP minister Kavita Jain was also noticed for a humane gesture after she and Congress MLA Karan Dalal had a heated argument and the latter had to finally withdraw his words. Moments later, Jain was seen having mishri and distributing it among her colleagues. When Congress MLA Kuldeep Sharma requested her for some, she signalled to him that she had no more of it. Then she took out a toffee from her bag and gave it to him which he happily accepted.
Show of strength
Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s visit to some villages in the interior areas of Haryana was aimed at bringing the party closer to the farmers, but some top state leaders turned it into a show of strength. As Sonia’s cavalcade reached Arya Nagar at Badhra in Bhiwani, supporters of former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Congress Legislature Party leader Kiran Choudhry started a war of slogans in favour of their leaders. While they managed to prove the popularity of their leaders before Sonia, their slogans suppressed the voice of the farmers, especially women, whose crops had been damaged by hailstorm and who had been waiting for the Congress chief for hours.
Blame it on poor coordination or the “fiefdom syndrome”. A new diktat of the authorities managing the Haryana mini-secretariat building in Sector 17, Chandigarh, has created huge confusion, causing inconvenience to visitors, including officials and journalists. The security staff has been denying entry to vehicles having the official “entry pass” issued by the state government for the Haryana civil secretariat (main) which also houses the offices of the chief minister, ministers and top bureaucrats. “Mini-secretariat ke liye alag se pass issue honge (Separate parking passes will be issued for the mini-secretariat),” insists the security guard. While there were no separate passes earlier, the instruction has created chaos, with visitors, officials and others, parking their vehicles on both sides of the road outside the secretariat building.
Dancing to oppn tunes
Himachal Pradesh CM Virbhadra Singh’s impromptu jig to mock the opposition members in the state assembly became a talking point. But the CM had his own quaint explanation. During his reply to discussion on the Governor’s address, he said BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal’s sangeet (music) was so good that it tempted him to dance.
Luck doesn’t seem to favour transport minister GS Bali who was caught on the backfoot when the opposition BJP cornered him on the purchase of “substandard” uniforms for government-school children in the state. What emboldened the opposition MLAs was that CM Virbhadra Singh asked them to question the minister on the issue instead of asking him. Bali had no option but to face the opposition onslaught alone.
First-timer Nachan MLA Vinod Kumar’s enthusiasm in the Vidhan Sabha did not go down well with the Congress. Kumar spoke on the bad condition of roads during the current regime. Chief minister Virbhadra Singh quickly countered the charge. “BJP ke samay mein to saari sadakein makhmal say banayee hui thee (During the BJP rule, all the roads were covered with velvet),” he quipped.
BJP legislator Hansraj, who tries to imitate famous Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans, found himself short of appreciation. When Hansraj got up to participate in a discussion on private members’ resolution, the response was lukewarm. The saffron party MLA was heard telling his colleagues to clap for him.
Lauding the effort of the Border Security Force (BSF) camel safari that ended at the Attari border, Union home minister Rajnath Singh, in his speech, said, “I have just learnt that a camel ride is tough. Badal saab (Punjab chief minister), who was sitting next to me, told me this just now. Since Badal saab has gone through the experience, I can understand it. But I am yet to have a camel ride.”
Contributed by Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Navneet Sharma, Manpreet Randhawa, Hitender Rao, Rajesh Moudgil, Neeraj Mohan, Gaurav Bisht and Aseem bassi