One wedding, many alliances
The high-profile wedding of Captain Amarinder Singh’s grandson, Angad Singh, with Aprajita, daughter of Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh, witnessed another interesting milani (cordial meeting) on Saturday. In attendance was Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, and her children. Sukhbir skipped the wedding, but had made it to the sangeet on Friday, interacting for four hours with the royal families of Patiala and Rampur Bushahr. What brought the political foes together was that Harsimrat and her brother, Bikram Singh Majithia, arefirst cousins of Gurpal Singh, son-in-law of Amritsar MP Captain Amarinder Singh.
Bhagwant Mann gets a plateful
Comedian-turned-politician and Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann never misses an opportunity to take a dig. He targeted the vegetarian thali in Parliament canteen this time. On his Facebook page, Mann posted the price list of items: Re 1 for tea, Rs 5.50 for soup, Rs 12.50 for the veg thali that has dal, subzi, four chapatis, rice and curd. His post, titled “Parliament ki thali ka price dekh kar dada-pardada ka zamana yaad aa jaata hai,” got 26,500 ‘Likes’ and a large number of comments in three days. But then not everyone seemed impressed with his carping. His critics questioned his digs. One tweet was: “Aap khud bhi to wahi khate ho”. “Why don’t you raise the issue in Parliament instead of Facebook,” advised another tweet. Another tweet suggested to the AAP MP to voluntarily give up the thali subsidy. Let’s see if he likes any of these suggestions.
Lal Singh sees no red on delay in coronation
In high spirits, senior MLA Lal Singh does not mind the delay in being named successor to Punjab Congress chief Partap Bajwa by a few days. According to his confidants, the veteran leader is waiting for an auspicious time, which in the Punjab Congress calendar, started after March 6.
“The Congress lost the 2012 state elections, the verdict for which came on March 6. Bajwa was appointed on March 6 and his innings is ending rather unceremoniously in two years. Lal Singh has requested the party leadership that the announcement be made after March 10,” one of his confidants shared. Singh’s love for numbers is not surprising considering he had added an extra ‘a’ to his name a few years ago.
Punjab MLAs cool their heels in Shimla
Punjab Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal is not pleased with the trend of various committees of the House “scheduling” their meetings in Shimla. When the Speaker expressed his reservations, a handful of MLAs urged him not to discontinue the practice, saying “all these trips are within the rules and provisions of the Vidhan Sabha”. On one occasion, two MLAs of a particular committee on “official visit” were spotted at ‘Cedar’ rest house of the Punjab government in Shimla. While the meeting could not take place for lack of quorum, the two members spent the entire day in the Queen of Hills.
Rain leaves Punjab agri director in the cold
Punjab agriculture director Mangal Singh Sandhu remained upbeat after strong winds, hailstorm and widespread rain lashed the state last week. “Bas balle balle hai ji sab jagah (It’s a great scenario all around the state),” he said, calling the rains beneficial for the wheat crop. But he perhaps spoke too soon. Other agriculture experts don’t find the situation so rosy, though. “There is damage to the crop due to the recent weather conditions which needs to be assessed,” said an agriculture expert who did want to be named due to the complaining nature of his ‘exuberant’ colleague.
AAP ke liye public interest
After the assembly polls in Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders and workers have started questioning the “high-handedness” of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders in Punjab. From increase in taxes to the formal inauguration of projects, everything is under the scanner. The Ludhiana unit of the AAP, in addition to holding demonstrations, at various government offices is also trying to create awareness in public over the rights and duties of the aam aadmi (common man). The delay in opening a ‘completed flyover’ is a recent example. The flyover was to be inaugurated by irrigation minister Sharanjit Singh Dhillon. However, the AAP led by advocate HS Phoolka declared it open for the public.
Dhankar, the bechara mantri
Haryana agriculture minister OP Dhankar doesn’t seem to think he is empowered enough. Asked to comment on the non-implementation of recommendations of the MS Swaminathan Committee, the first-time minister, during an informal interaction with journalists at a lunch hosted by him on Sunday, said that he was not in a position to implement the report as he was not a union minister. On criticism by the opposition, especially the Congress, Dhankar said that he was just a bechara mantri (helpless minister), whereas (Congress leader Bhupinder Singh) Hooda had remained the chief minister and even headed a working group on the matter at that time. “Woh toh mujh se thaadi stithi mein the (He was in a stronger position than me). What did they do from 2006 to 2014? They would have to answer,” said the agriculture minister, hitting out at the Congress. The committee headed by agriculture scientist MS Swaminathan had made its recommendations in 2005 and 2006.
Khattar springs surprise on minister Abhimanyu
There was never any doubt about his understanding of the subject, but Haryana finance minister Captain Abhimanyu also demonstrated his communication skills last week. The minister held two joint press conferences with chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar to present the new BJP government’s account of the state finances. At the first event, the CM was to make general opening remarks and then his minister was to go into details. But Khattar sprung a surprise by making detailed remarks on the ‘white paper’. When his turn came, Abhimanyu, who is pursuing his executive management programme in Harvard Business School, spoke at length. Though there was some repetition, the minister explained the contents in English and Hindi. Like most saffron party leaders, his Hindi, though immaculate, had some difficult words. One scribe even requested the FM to use simple words and he readily obliged. However, what did not escape attention was the two leaders’ reluctance to hit out at their predecessors whose poor financial management and lopsided planning, according to them, were responsible for the current fiscal mess.
Birender’s role reversal has Haryana talking
Political circles are agog with talk on the land acquisition amendment bill moved by the NDA government. Not because of its contentious clauses, but what the farmers are talking about. On social media, some are recalling how Sir Chhotu Ram, the grandfather of Union rural development minister Birender Singh, had got the farmers their land back during the pre-Independence era and how the latter is getting their land acquired by the government. “Nana ne zameen dilvayi thi aur dhota kabze dilva veh se,” one of them wrote, meaning the maternal grandfather had got the land released, while the grandson was getting it acquired. Singh, on the other hand, has been quoted as saying in gatherings that everyone in Haryana knew about his straight talk. “As I spoke against the Congress (his erstwhile party) when things went wrong, I would again waste no time and call a spade a spade in the BJP too,” he said in his home state.
Vij’s advice on advisers
Anil Vij appears to be at it again. In a tweet last week, he remarked: “Rajniti me sabse zyada nuksaan salahkaar pahunchate hain is liye salahkaar bahut soch samajh kar chunne chahiye (In politics, the maximum damage is caused by advisers and hence they should be chosen with great caution).” The tweet for a change was not a comment on politicians, but on advisers. Though it was carefully-worded, the tweet set the corridors of power abuzz with speculation about who he was referring to – political appointees or the bureaucracy. Everyone had his or her interpretation. Though the minister did not name anyone in particular, Khattar is the only one with official advisers.
Discourteous Dhankar faces biting criticism
The lunch hosted by Haryana agriculture minister Om Prakash Dhankar for mediapersons at his residence on Sunday almost turned unsavoury. Dhankar, who does not score much when it comes to extending courtesies, seems to have ignored his team of officers while addressing a press conference. Later, it turned out that he did not even ask them to join him for a bite. Feeling belittled, the officers decided to walk out of the venue, triggering alarm bells. However, the minister was quick to realise his slip-up and walked up to the officers to pacify them. Dhankar, a first-time MLA and a minister, has gained notoriety for being discourteous to officials. “At times, he does not even respond when you greet him,” complained one of them.
Holiday mood in HP, wedding bells in Delhi
Political circles in Himachal Pradesh were abuzz the whole of last week with the talk of the royal alliance between two of northern India’s powerful clans – chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s daughter Aprajita married Amritsar MP Amarinder Singh’s grandson Angad Singh. While the wedding function in New Delhi was attended by the who’s who of political circles, few had been invited from the state for the grand wedding. However, there were some officers who made efforts to figure in the guest list. And two top-rung officers whose spouses are in Delhi managed to get the invites for the wedding. One of them is an IAS officer and the other a cop. In the state capital, the officers and other employees were in holiday mood and only a few showed up for work.
Bali, Sharma cross swords at auction
Political rivalry between Kangra ministers GS Bali and Sudhir Sharma is an open secret. Having crossed swords on many occasions, the two leaders came face to face the other day. The occasion: auction of a hotel in the foothills of Dharamsala. Unlike previous encounters, Bali had an upper hand this time. While Sharma’s bank deposits fell short of the highest bid of around Rs 5 crore, Bali was able to pay the amount. Sharma lost one of his favourite places where he used to chalk out his strategy during the elections.
HP leaders on collision course over rail budget
The raw deal to the hill state in the rail budget has triggered a fresh round of blame game between leaders of the ruling and opposition parties. While BJP MPs Shanta Kumar and Anurag Thakur have made claims of approvals to several projects for the state by the Centre, Congress leaders see it as an attempt to save face, saying that the saffron party leaders’ tall promises have fallen flat. When Shanta Kumar issued a statement that the Centre has given its nod to make the Pathankot-Jogindernagar rail line broad gauge and sanctioned Rs 3 crore for the purpose, former MP Chander Kumar questioned his claim. “How will a track be laid with this meager amount? The train is delayed again,” he said.
Purchasing power irks the powerful
An IPS officer’s purchasing power has raised the hackles of his seniors. The SP rank officer recently submitted an application to the state home department, seeking permission to buy a sports utility vehicle (SUV). Earlier, he had sought permission to buy a large chunk of land.
Contributed by:Neeraj Mohan, Sukhdeep Kaur, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Prabhjit Singh, Anshu Seth, Navneet Sharma, Hitender Rao, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht and Naresh K Thakur.