‘Not fair’ play
A college play titled “Drugs World Cup” organised by the students of Mata Sundri Girls College, Mansa, didn’t go down well with the chief guest, Union food processing minister and Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal. The stage show highlighted how the youth of the state were in the throes of drug addiction. One of the participating students playing the role of police even said that the “world cup” was actually organised by the SSP. When it was her turn to address the students, Harsimrat, wife of Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, made her unhappiness clear. “I’m disappointed about the manner in which the students have depicted the problem. Such a play only defames the state,” she said.
Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal is also the home minister. The command and control of the state police is in the hands of the home minister. However, some forces on the ‘Badal home front’ have been unofficially (mis)using the powers of posting and transfer of lower, middle and top-rung police officers, especially in the field. Sukhbir’s clout has been restricted to the police headquarters in Chandigarh. The grapevine has it that even the cops who were in the forefront of the deputy CM’s war on drugs and had played a key role in smashing heroin smugglers’ network were shunted out as the home minister is prone to cracking under ‘home pressure’. His self-styled advisers are a harried lot at the emergence of a “de-facto home minister”.
Chawla’s unsolicited advice
BJP firebrand leader and former minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla loves to talk about politics, but for a change, she decided to talk cricket after India’s defeat at the hands of hosts Australia in the World Cup semifinal left her shaken like millions of other fans. Her analysis of the defeat hovered around WAGs (wives and girlfriends) — our cricketers being allowed the liberty of the “company of women” during the World Cup. The former minister wondered whether it was a wise decision on the part of the BCCI to allow the cricketers to enjoy the company of their girlfriends. Her verdict: the BCCI had erred. “Our parampara (tradition) has always been to take the aashirwad (blessings) of our mothers before taking up any challenge,” she said, suggesting that if the cricketers had touched their mothers’ feet and taken ‘aashirwad’ the result against Australia could have been different. Let’s see whether the BCCI takes note of her advice.
Congress Sikh leaders who sport pagri found a novel way of ensuring that it remained on their heads during the toss and tumble at a recent protest. PPCC chief Partap Singh Bajwa and Fatehgarh Sahib MLA Kuljit Singh Nagra, among others, tied a cloth tagging their turbans around their necks to fix them in their place. Unlike in the past when many Sikh protesters lost their pagris in the melee, Bajwa and Nagra were ready for the water cannons and the elbows of slogan-raising colleagues. Being in the opposition for eight years teaches one a few tricks!
Bibi Jagir Kaur, former president of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, was bitter the other day about the way the Akal Takht jathedars function. Hukamnamas (edicts), according to her, have become ‘faxnamas’ (fax messages). Talking to the press, where she lashed out against her political bete noire Sukhpal Khaira, she could not stop herself from commenting on the Takht. “The jathedars (head priests) don’t go by the facts. They act arbitrarily without consulting other head priests and send a message on fax for the Panth,” she remarked.
No info with commission
The Punjab State Information Commission (SIC), the state-level body set up for dissemination of information to citizens for transparency in the government, appears clueless about info pertaining to pay of its members and staff. The commission members and staff have not been paid their salaries for the past month. And, they don’t even know when they would get it. One of them may have to file an application under the Right to Information Act to find the reason for the delay.
Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal, while concluding the debate on the Governor’s address in the Budget session, was at his wittiest best. Countering the opposition members’ allegation that nothing was being done in the field of religion, Badal played the quizmaster, triggering bursts of laughter. He asked them who Moti Ram Mehra was. Badal then informed the House that a memorial was being built in his (Mehra’s) memory, adding that he would make the opposition members raise their hands in approval that enough had been done. Mehra, who played an important role in Sikh history, used to feed younger sahibzadas of Guru Gobind Singh before they were martyred. The then Nawab of Sirhind, Wajid Khan, later got the entire family of Mehra eliminated. The bursts of laughter on Badal’s quizmaster act got political colour the next day when the Independents and the opposition MLAs raised objections to his remarks. A versatile politician, the CM quickly regretted his comments.
‘Right to Illiteracy’
Language preferences figured prominently in the state assembly last week with Congress legislator and folk singer Mohammad Sadiq moving a call attention motion, saying that Punjabi was maltreated in its native state where students of public schools neither spoke the language nor did they study it. On the other hand, Akali legislator Nirmal Singh, a retired judge of the Punjab and Haryana high court, while speaking in the House, said that English should be introduced from Class 1 in the state-run schools. The Akali MLA, who was speaking on the education system, also remarked that the RTE (Right to Education) should be renamed as RTI (‘Right to Illiteracy’), urging education minister Daljit Singh Cheema to bring an amendment in the education system in the state as it is on the concurrent list.
A resolution was passed in the state assembly on the last day of the budget session on Wednesday, asking the Centre to implement recommendations of the MS Swaminathan Commission. However, not everyone on the treasury benches was aware. After the resolution had been passed and discussion on the next issue had begun, revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia stood up to find out whether the resolution had been passed.
Married to work
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar is fast earning the reputation of being a workaholic. During the budget session of the state assembly, Khattar arrived in the Vidhan Sabha building sharp at 8am and was among the last to leave in the evening, sometimes even at seven. “This is what happens when you are not married. Your job is your whole life. But we have families. We need to go home in time,” quipped a cop on duty outside the assembly.
Haryana health minister Anil Vij, who often comes up with amusing remarks, caused quite a bit of consternation in the treasury benches during the budget session. Vij was unyielding and relentless in hitting out at the Congress benches despite CM ML Khattar bringing about a truce to the otherwise hostile proceedings at the start of the sitting. While Khattar stressed on having a meaningful discussion in the House and suggested that sarcastic words be avoided, Vij repeatedly made irksome remarks against the Congress benches, much to the discomfiture of his cabinet colleagues and BJP MLAs.
Haryana IAS officer Ashok Khemka made some emotive tweets last week after the CAG report was tabled in the assembly. The officer tweeted, “My actions in the Vadra-DLF land-licence deal have been vindicated in the CAG report, but I continue to suffer the stigma of the chargesheet. Real culprits sit in judgment over me. My pain and suffering may help cleanse the body politic.” However, chief minister ML Khattar was unimpressed. On Saturday, he told a news channel that no officer should call himself a victim. “Everyone should do their job. He says I have done an expose, but that is what is expected of officers. It is his job. The officers should perform the assignment given to them without expecting any special treatment. Politicians can claim credit for exposing something. But officers are officers.”
Rival camps in the ruling Himachal Congress owing allegiance to CM Virbhadra Singh and health minister Kaul Singh Thakur tried to use hospitality to outdo each other. Speaker Brij Bihari Butail threw a lavish dinner for the CM’s detractors who took the opportunity to exhibit their unity. At least 16 legislators attended the dinner that upset the Virbhadra loyalists. Transport minister GS Bali, who is unhappy with Virbhadra, also hosted a lunch for his detractors in the Vidhan Sabha complex. But the Virbhadra camp did not take it lying down. A Virbhadra loyalist, forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri, hosted a lunch for the ministers and legislators siding with the CM, who underplayed the detractors’ get-together saying “Khao, piyo, par isko pachao bhi (eat, drink, but also digest it).
A dig at CM
Known for his oratory, BJP legislator Randhir Sharma skillfully hit out at CM Virbhadra Singh when he spoke in the state assembly on the Apple Rejuvenation Project. “Your orchards have special high-yielding apple rootstocks. You should tell others how you were able to generate such high yields,” he said, taking a dig at the CM, whose income from apple orchards in Rampur has been questioned by tax authorities.
Lobbying for top jobs
There is never a dull moment in the corridors of power in the hill state, thanks to bureaucratic lobbying for top jobs. VC Pharkha, additional chief secretary to the chief minister, is tipped to be the next chief secretary. There is speculation that he may get the job even before the present incumbent P Mitra attains the age of superannuation next year. But it may not be easy for him, as there are four additional chief secretaries — Deepak Sanan, Ajay Mittal, Upma Chawdhary and Vineet Chawdhary — senior to him.
Contributed by Pawan Sharma, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Harkirat Singh, Chitleen K Sethi, Mohammad Ghazali, Hitender Rao and Gaurav Bisht