Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal loves doling out funds at sangat darshan to woo voters. But his enterprising son and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal is being talked about in political circles for promising funds for “start-ups”. Warring factions in both opposition Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) say the junior Badal has been engineering breakups in political parties by offering to fund new ones. It is the only way the ruling Badals think they can romp home in the 2017 elections and Sukhbir is betting high on the possibility of Amritsar MP Capt Amarinder Singh floating his own party in case the party high command does not give into his demands. The AAP is equally riled in its internal wars, and so is the BJP, leaving the SAD as the only main political party not plagued by factionalism. Badals have another consolation: though its chips are down, so are of all other political parties. Finally, it will be poll management that will decide the 2017 verdict.
Tirade against govt
Ludhiana MLAs Balwinder Singh Bains and Simarjit Singh Bains, known as the Bains brothers, have gone all out against the Parkash Singh Badal-led Shiromani Akali Dal government in Punjab. As if questioning every move of the state government in the assembly sessions was not enough, the brothers enjoying massive public support are holding open protests against the government’s “anti-people” policies, sand mafia and unpopular decisions such as property tax. Unable to contain the two legislators by keeping them in prison, a rattled SAD has resorted to indirect pressure tactics like discontinuation of fund allocation in the areas of councillors of the Bains group. Of course, the brothers and their supporters are not keeping quiet. At a recent protest outside the MC office, a supporter of the Bains group remarked: “(SAD president and deputy chief minister) Sukhbir Badal khud nu betaaj badshah samjhda hai, par janta di takat inni hai ki uh paira neecheyo zamin wi kadd leindi hei (Sukhbir Badal acts like a crown-less king, but people are supreme as they have the power to take away the land from under your feet).”
Change in times
Left ideologues and cadres are known to be atheists or non-believers in god, besides being votaries of simplicity in life. But the newly-constructed headquarters building of the Left parties in Chandigarh seem to defy their time-tested beliefs. Built right behind the ISKCON temple, it has another religious building on its front. The frontline leaders of the Communist Party of India (CPI), who gathered here for a central council meeting last week, were seen talking about the new plush building. “It’s plush and close to religious institutions,” whispered a leader, who had come from Delhi, to his colleague. Perhaps, a sign of changing times?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his finance minister Arun Jaitley have brought a tough law to tackle benami transactions and curb the use of black money. The party’s government in Haryana is trying to find the benami properties in a much simpler way. The state government recently circulated amended annual property return (movable and immovable) forms to all Class 1 to 3 officers, asking them to file details of their assets. The forms, as per which the officers have to declare cash, jewellery, shares, land, residential and commercial properties, also seek details of their benami holdings. “If a holding is benami, the name of benamidar should also be mentioned,” reads the property return form. One wonders if the PM and FM had considered this option before bringing in the stringent law.
‘Ab bas’ system
Taking a cue from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre, the Khattar government also launched the Aadhaar-based biometric attendance system (ABBAS) in Haryana. But ABBAS has riled the state employees of different departments in just two months. The reasons range from inadequate supply, non-functioning devices, bureaucratic indecision and long queues. When the new system was introduced, the departments specified their requirement of devices. One department asked for two dozen devices, including a few tablets, but got just half-a-dozen desktop-connected machines. “The tablet devices have had problems and are not being supplied,” it was told. At other places, the gadgets are either too slow or do not respond when the Aadhaar numbers are keyed in, resulting in long queues. When there is no electricity, all hell breaks loose. The employees don’t know what to do, as their bosses who have been instructed to ensure biometric attendance, insist that they use the machines to mark their presence. One word on the lips of employees in some departments is: ‘ab-bas’.
It was a funny scene at Haryana Niwas in Chandigarh last week when chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar launched ‘Mhara Gaon-Jagmag Gaon’, an inclusive voluntary scheme for rural domestic power consumers. Before the CM’s press conference, power officials played a documentary on the power sector on the screen at the venue. When the documentary was over, the screen still displayed the opening scene showing a lantern with the caption, ‘Haryana sarkar ki nayi pahal’. It seemed to convey, though inadvertently, that lantern was the state government’s new initiative. Within moments, there were strong murmurs and giggles in the gathering. The giggles soon turned into laughter. The screen was switched off only after the chief minister arrived to address the journalists.
CM loses temper
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh, known for his ready wit, is quick to lose his temper at times. At the launch of ‘Digital India’ at the Vidhan Sabha, the chief minister snubbed the information technology official who forgot to address him and Speaker Brij Bihari Butail and straightaway started his presentation on digital lockers. Other officials, who also made their presentations, were quick to learn as they spent much of their time in addressing the chief minister and other dignitaries.
In a state where the colour of your cap denotes your political leanings, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders usually do not support the green-colour Himachali caps worn by chief minister Virbhadra Singh. They favour maroon-colour caps worn by their colleague and former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal. However, Himachal health minister Kaul Singh Thakur presented a green cap to union health minister JP Nadda when he was here to inaugurate the national summit on good practices and public health care system. Nadda, who hails from the state, gleefully accepted the cap and delivered the speech wearing it.
Notwithstanding the internal strife within the bureaucracy, chief minister Virbhadra Singh has been more than benevolent towards babus. In the recent cabinet, he created three more posts of additional chief secretary in the state. As a result, there are now 11 additional chief secretaries. And, their tally is more than the number of cabinet ministers in his team.
CPS upsets CM
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh appears upset with chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Rajesh Dharmani who has twice tendered his resignation. The CM, who rejected his resignation letters on both occasions, is now turning down his recommendatory letters, besides promoting Bilaspur legislator Bhumber Thakur. When a woman met Virbhadra for some work with a demi-official letter signed by Dharmani, the chief minister tore it to pieces, asking her to write another one. The woman complied and the CM immediately granted the request.
(Contributed by Sukhdeep Kaur, Anshu Seth, Gurpreet Nibber, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil and Gaurav Bisht)