The visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Chandigarh on Saturday saw some curious "misses" within his own party.
In the list sent by his office to the PMO, Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa's name figured at the top among state party leaders who were to welcome the PM on his arrival at Chandigarh. Bajwa, however, gave it a miss and flew from Amritsar to New Delhi on Saturday morning for an "important meeting".
The PMO too seemed to have "missed" Bajwa's name in the list of invitees sent to the Punjab Raj Bhawan for lunch to be hosted by the UT administrator and Punjab governor Shivraj Patil.
According to the seating arrangement faxed by the PMO to the Raj Bhawan on September 10, the first table was to seat Patil and his Haryana counterpart Jagannath Pahadia next to the PM besides the chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court Sanjay Krishan Kaul, chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana and union minister for housing and urban development Girija Vyas, who was accompanying the PM.
The list of invitees for the second table also hinted at the PM's political preferences. Other than the speakers of Punjab and Haryana and adviser to PM, TKA Nair and Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, the list included former railway minister and Chandigarh MP Pawan Kumar Bansal and the leader of the opposition in the Punjab assembly Sunil Jakhar. And it is Jakhar's reported proximity to the PM that seems to have ruffled Bajwa's feathers.
'Confusion due to goof-up'
When contacted, Bajwa said he had informed his office that he had to be present in New Delhi for an important meeting on Saturday. He said his name figured on the list of those to welcome the PM owing to a "goof-up".
Bajwa was in Jalandhar on Friday for his Punjab yatra and later in Qadian to attend programmes in the constituency of his wife Charanjit Bajwa and flew from Amritsar to Delhi on Saturday morning. "I had sent a bouquet to the PM through one of my aides expressing my inability to be present at Chandigarh due to an important engagement in Delhi.
Both general secretary in-charge of Punjab Shakeel Ahmed and secretary in-charge Harish Chaudhary are aware of my presence in Delhi. This evening, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar too is hosting a dinner for MPs. My name was wrongly mentioned by the PCC office in the list of those to welcome the PM despite my intimating them about my absence. The PM was here for a function of the UT Administration.
Had it been a Punjab function, I would have been present no matter how important the engagement," Bajwa said.
Interestingly, though Bajwa's Haryana counterpart Phool Chand Mullana too was not in the list of invitees, he was seen in the Raj Bhawan on Saturday accompanying Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.
He will be back to Amritsar on Sunday to attend a function at Majitha.
Cold war with Jakhar
Bajwa's absence has once again fuelled speculation on the cold war between him and Jakhar. In June, Bajwa had to contend with sitting with other MPs and MLAs from Punjab, while Jakhar was seated next to the PM when a Punjab Congress delegation met Manmohan at his residence on the food security act.