Wooing NRIs via Gujarat
Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal tried to make the most of the opportunity at Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Gujarat. He invited non-resident Punjabis to their home state to set up businesses, promising to roll out the red carpet. A large number of NRPs were present at the three-day event inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi. “Why should not we publicise it when our government had done so much for them (NRIs)?” said Punjab’s NRI affairs minister Tota Singh who accompanied Badal to Gandhinagar. Their claims apart, the state has in the past cancelled the annual NRI Sammelan, holding a series of smaller-scale NRI Sangat Darshan instead.
Militant info channels
The Parkash Singh Badal government in Punjab has been making loud announcements about those languishing in jails, but it has had to depend on radicals, who are out of jail, for information on such detainees. After his statement in Parliament demanding their release, Anandpur Sahib MP Prem Singh Chandumajra was recently called by Union home minister Rajnath Singh for details of detainees. The MP contacted former militants for information. Subsequently, a meeting between RP Singh of the Sikh Organisation for Prisoner Welfare and chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who wanted to understand the issue, was also arranged. “I explained each and every case to Badal, and that is the basis of representations given by the SAD to the Centre,” said RP Singh.
Akali rebel and Independent MLA from Ludhiana Simarjit Singh Bains, who was once the right hand man of deputy CM and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal, does not miss a chance to criticise him. The deputy CM has retaliated, inducting Bains’ closest associate Kamaljeet Karwal into the SAD last week. He also made some stinging remarks. To get even with the SAD chief, Bains, in a post on a social media site, wrote, “Badlan de barsan naal chiriyan aapna rasta badal laindiya ne; par baaz nu koi farak nahi painda (Rain from ‘clouds’ can force sparrows to change their path, but falcons remain undeterred).”
Once bitten, twice shy. Sensing the difficulty his government might face in release of cash-credit limit (CCL) for procurement in the forthcoming rabi (wheat) season, Punjab food and civil supplies minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon is busy asking the state procurement agencies to streamline affairs. The officials are apprehensive that in case the state does not reimburse a portion of outstanding Rs 42,000 crore, the Centre would release the CCL after deducting the amount. Hence, the agencies may have to raise loans. “We have asked all the officers to keep their balance sheets clean,” said an officer of the department.
Menace of drugs and Mann’s poetry
After the BJP planned a campaign led by its president Amit Shah against the drug menace, the SAD staged its own set of protests, giving an opportunity to its critics to target it. The Facebook page of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MP Bhagwant Mann, whose party had made the drug menace a poll issue last year, is full of rhyming digs. Sample two: “Nasha Vikda Jinna de order te; ohi dharna dende border te” (Drugs sell on whose order, are protesting at the border); and “Aape rog lounde, aape denia duwawa, jaa ve assi vekh laian terian vafava” (Those who give the illness, also offer cure; yes, we have seen your love, so pure). Pardon the translation!
Halting truckers just in time
A day before the Haryana CM was to lead an official delegation to the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas summit in Gujarat attended by over 3,000 non-resident Indians (NRIs) and persons of Indian origin (PIOs), the state government had worked hard on talks with the striking truckers on Wednesday to end the stalemate over oversized vehicles. The reason: CM Manohar Lal Khattar’s appearance at the Gandhinagar event, with truckers on strike back home, would not have sent the right signals. In Gujarat, his team comprising half a dozen IAS officers held a series of meetings to attract investment state. Another team of agriculture officials followed. The CM was so impressed with the event that he offered to hold the next edition in Gurgaon.
After the BJP formed the government at the Centre, several ministers had problems in getting private secretaries of their choice. But not Birender Singh. The Jat leader from Haryana has had his way. While Prerna Puri, a 2006-batch IAS officer of the AGMUT cadre, was posted as his private secretary in the rural development ministry, the services of 1999-batch Haryana Civil Service (HCS) officer Yash Pal were placed at the disposal of the Centre by the Haryana government last week for appointment as his PS in the panchayati raj ministry. The HCS officer is related to a bureaucrat-turned-politician who is now a ruling party MLA in Haryana. The buzz in the corridors of power is that the minister’s son, a Haryana-cadre IAS officer who has also worked in Chandigarh, apparently helped him select efficient aides.
Retiring at 60, or 58 now?
Speculation has been rife about a move by the Centre to reduce the retirement age of employees from 60 to 58 to cut the non-plan spending; this has left officers belonging to all-India services anxious. While PM Narendra Modi denied any such move at a BJP rally in Delhi on Saturday, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and his supporters have hit back, citing a similar decision by the BJP government in Haryana. And the saffron party’s leaders are having a tough time rebutting the charge, as the Khattar government in Haryana had, in one of its first decisions six weeks ago, had indeed rolled back the previous regime’s decision to increase the retirement age of state employees from 58 to 60. When Modi denied the move, Khattar was present on the dais!
Sehwag’s tons and Deepender’s reaction
The three-time Congress MP from Rohtak, Deepender Singh Hooda expressed a bit of brotherly heartburn on Twitter the other day, after back-to-back tons by Virender Sehwag for Delhi, the latter against Haryana, in the Ranji Trophy. “Congrats @virendersehwag for back-to-back ranji tons #ViruPowerOnceMore? Magar bro tera gussa Haryana par hi nikalna tha?” (Congrats… but brother did you have to vent your anger against Haryana?)
By your turn, minister!
Himachal power minister Sujan Singh Pathania landed at the state Congress office in Shimla unannounced the other day. He was following the chief minister’s diktat to all colleagues must go there by turns to hear public grievances. But there was no one there to receive him. Reason: It was not his turn to sit in the party office.
Late, ‘Congress style’
Haryana youth and agriculture minister OP Dhankar had to cut a sorry figure for coming late for a media interaction recently. Though he was just a few metres away (in another room) from the venue at Haryana Niwas, Chandigarh, the minister was late by half an hour. The moment he stepped in, a senior scribe jibed aloud that the minister had learnt the Congress style of coming late within two months of being in power. Embarrassed, Dhankar quickly said sorry, adding that he was not informed by his staff about the journalists’ arrival.
Only direct recruits for ECAs Haryana chief electoral officer Shrikant Walgad, who successfully conducted two elections last year, is being considered for a posting in the government, the state authorities recently sent a panel of three IAS officers to the Election Commission for selection of his replacement. The panel comprising a direct recruit from the 1990 batch and two promotees has been returned, though. As the post has been traditionally manned by direct recruits, the EC asked for a fresh panel. The government is now considering options afresh.
Lord Baijnath is enough
Baijnath MLA Kishori Lal owes allegiance to a rival group in the Himachal Congress led by health minister Kaul Singh Thakur, and was absent for most of the winter sojourn of CM Virbhadra Singh in Kangra. When the CM visited his constituency though, Lal finally showed up, showering praise on Virbhadra before reading out his demands, including a fire station. The MLA said he needed the CM’s blessings. “You already have blessings of Lord Baijnath,” is all that the CM said.
Blessings or Bali?
Kangra MLA Pawan Kajal has been in the line of fire of several Congress leaders after he attended a rally by transport minister GS Bali, who heads a rival faction within the party. He is now trying to make amends. The Independent legislator, while addressing a rally in his constituency, urged Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh and others not to associate him with any particular group. “I neither have any group nor do I owe allegiance to any individual. My group is you. And my constituents need your blessings,” he told the CM.
The Punjab government’s calendar for 2015 is not entirely an all Akali-BJP affair. It also features Sunil Kumar Jakhar, Leader of the Opposition. The Congress leader figures along with CM Badal and other leaders in a photo clicked during the foundation stone-laying ceremony of the Jang-e-Azadi memorial at Kartarpur near Jalandhar in October last year. When asked about the matter, a government official said, “The CM has repeatedly invited the Opposition on the floor of the House to attend state-level functions. Since Jakhar was present at the Kartarpur function, he made it to the calendar.”
Candy Crush cry
It’s a pet problem of Facebook users, and even parliamentarians are not spared. Technically, Candy Crush Saga is a mobile phone game in which people have to request their FB friends for additional ‘lives’. But its roaring popularity means your FB feed is flooded with such requests that can get, well, quite annoying. So much so that Aam Aadmi Party’s Patiala MP, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, who usually deals with more serious issues, posted on his FB account last week: “Please help me to rid of the nuisance of candy crush saga and other such requests. Thanks, Dr Gandhi.”
Contributed by: Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Anshu Seth, Neeraj Mohan, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht, Naresh K Thakur, Vikramdeep Johal and Aarish Chhabra.