At Sukhbir’s door
A large number of Akali workers who were in Delhi to campaign for the SAD candidates thronged Punjab deputy chief minister and party president Sukhbir Singh Badal’s Delhi residence last week. They were told to go back to the areas allocated to them if they did not want to get “zero” in their ACR (annual confidential report). “I want you to work in your respective areas and make our candidates win. Coming here would fetch you zero,” Sukhbir told the workers. At any point of time, there were more people and vehicles outside the SAD chief’s house than any other leader residing in Lutyens’ Delhi.
As an Akali leader from Punjab’s heartland of Bathinda, Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal needs to brush up her Hindi. The Badal bahu, who is a two-time MP, admitted as much while addressing an election rally in Kalkaji assembly constituency in the national capital. “People used to say I am not conversant with Punjabi. Being in politics in Punjab, I have forgotten Hindi also,” she told the gathering after she inadvertently used Punjabi words in her Hindi speech.
Judge’s changing fate
Punjab and Haryana high court retired judge Nirmal Singh, who joined the Shiromani Akali Dal after retiring and got elected as MLA from Bassi Pathana, was seen anxiously knocking at the door of a meeting room in Delhi last week. While top Akali leaders were holding a meeting to work out the party strategy for the assembly polls, the MLA wanted to get into the room. The life of the retired judge appeared to have changed considerably.
Khattar’s rapid-fire rounds
As the new BJP government completed 100 days in Haryana, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar held a press conference in Chandigarh to give an account of his regime. The CM read out his government’s achievements and a to-do list. Though a dozen-odd top bureaucrats and the state director general of police were also present, none of them got a chance to speak. The brief Q&A session was conducted like a rapid-fire, with Khattar not in a mood to go into details on anything. While his predecessor, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, was more of a bumbling respondent in his first few months in power several years ago, the incumbent CM, though a tad more fluent, likes to get it over with quickly, offering sketchy, one-line responses before getting up suddenly by saying “thank you” to wind up the meet. He held another press conference in Gurgaon on Wednesday. A tactical move, so that the BJP central leadership takes note of his “achievements”. But it is not clear whether the strategy worked or not because the party bigwigs were caught up in a very tough contest in Delhi.
CM’s Twitter shadow
After Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar launched the official handle of the chief minister’s office (@cmohry) on Twitter in December, a shadow account has also surfaced on the site for “constructive criticism and opposition”. This account (@CMOhryShadow) has been tweeting and re-tweeting pictures, news clippings and clips of anti-government statements and protests. Though there is no clarity on who is managing the account, it appears to favour Congress leaders in particular. In contrast, the CMO’s official handle is still to demonstrate the alacrity needed to make an impact online. Khattar’s own official account is far more active, though.
Land of transfers
Mani Ram Sharma must have been happy when the Centre changed his cadre to Haryana from Manipur-Tripura. The 2009-batch IAS officer, who belongs to Alwar in neighbouring Rajasthan, got closer home. But what he perhaps did not know is that he had arrived in the land of transfers. While he had two postings — assistant commissioner and sub-divisional magistrate at Tamenglong and Churachandpur — in five years in Manipur, he has been served two posting orders in five days in Haryana. Mani Ram was posted as additional deputy commissioner, Mahendragarh, on January 31. He was transferred to Mewat before he could even settle down. HCS officer RS Verma, whom Mani Ram had replaced, is also back as ADC, Mahendergarh, in less than a week. Of course, there are others too. Though the BJP was critical of frequent transfers in previous regimes, the trend continues in its government.
A habitual latecomer, former two-time CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda used to keep journalists waiting sometimes for more than an hour when in power. But there appears to have been improvement lately. Hooda came about half an hour late at a press conference he held at his new official residence on Saturday. While some journalists cribbed about late arrival, some appreciated the lavish arrangement of snacks. They were also told about the lunch being readied. Hooda then assured that he would hold at least two press meets every month.
Longing for CM house
Virender Singh, political adviser to Bhupinder Singh Hooda when he was in power, is known for his rustic Haryanvi humour. Before the press conference called by Hooda, he sent mediapersons into splits by trying to explain that there would only brief religious rituals at Hooda’s new official residence in Chandigarh. “Hum koi gruh pravesh ke havan nahi karva rahe hain, kyunki yeh Hooda-ji ka permanent ghar nahi hai. Hum to chahenge woh jaldi se jaldi apne purane CM residence mein jayein (There would be no grand housewarming rituals, but only a simple one, for, this is not going to be Hooda’s permanent home; all of us want him to be return to his earlier CM house quickly,” he said. What he forgot perhaps in his enthusiasm is that there is a majority government in the state and the earliest would not be before five years. For that, too, the Congress would have to win the elections.
Shanta reads Modi’s body language
BJP MP Shanta Kumar, who submitted a report on restructuring of the Food Corporation of India (FCI), has differed from the announcements made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his rallies in the 2014 parliamentary polls on trifurcation of the massive organisation. But he does not seem cagey about these deviations. The reason: Modi hasn’t expressed any reservations so far. “Modi-ji was present during our presentation on restructuring. His body language was positive and he was receptive to the recommendations,” said the former CM of Himachal Pradesh.
Out of favour with Virbhadra?
Strange are the ways of the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government in Himachal Pradesh. Before the Lok Sabha elections, Virbhadra’s one-time lieutenant Amit Pal Singh had resigned from the post of officer on special duty in the CM office. He managed the poll campaign of the CM’s wife Pratibha Singh, who lost to BJP’s Ramswaroop Sharma. Thereafter, it took Amit Pal 10 months to find favor with the CM again. The delay had left everyone wondering as to what had really gone wrong between the two.
Himachal Pradesh’s director for information and public relations, Rakesh Sharma’s transfer took everyone, including the media, by surprise. Known to be an upright officer, Sharma was replaced by senior Himachal Pradesh Administrative Services officer MP Sood last week. Not the one to waste time, Sharma was quick to relinquish the charge, but not before sending SMSes to journalists to express his gratitude for their cooperation. Sharma will continue as special secretary to the chief minister and commissioner of tribal development.
Shooting the messenger
Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh and his predecessor, BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal are locked in a bitter war of words. They like to shoot the messenger from time to time. This time, the verbal duel aggravated after Virbhadra’s son, Himachal Youth Congress president Vikramaditya Singh, led a protest outside Deep Kamal, the state headquarters of the saffron party, resulting in violent clashes. Both Virbhadra and Dhumal are now blaming the media. While Virbhadra rebuked the media for describing the incident as a clash, Dhumal claimed that it was a pre-meditated attack.
While political parties were making big promises during the poll campaign to end the water woes of Delhi’s residents, the national capital was still reeling under an acute water shortage, with even the union ministers having to depend on tanker supply. One such tanker had to be used to fill water in the overhead tanks in the house of Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal too. People are awaiting the poll results, hoping that the winning party would end these woes.
Contributed by: Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil and Gaurav Bisht.