Himachal transport minister GS Bali, known for his flamboyance, loves to publicise everything he does in a big way. This time, he seems to have found a different way to propagate his name across the state. The buses introduced recently under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) have a small cardboard panel on the windscreen, declaring them as low-fare transport. However, the phrase "Kam kiraye wali bus" (Low-fare bus) has been written as “Kam kiraye Bali bus”, which, according to his critics, means Bali’s low-fare bus. Deliberate or otherwise, the minister seems to know how to take credit.
Capt, Rahul in battle of wits
Why is Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Captain Amarinder Singh fast and furious? Not only has he given the monsoon session of Parliament a miss when his party was battling out the Narendra Modi government, he also shot bouncers at his party by first questioning the “dharnas” outside Parliament and later stalling of the GST bill. Party insiders attribute Amarinder’s restlessness to high command not ready to yield to his demands. So, even if his bête noire Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa goes, the former Punjab CM does not get to choose Bajwa’s successor. Worse, there are chances that his confidant Sunil Jakhar, Congress legislature party leader, whom Amarinder wanted to succeed Bajwa, goes too. He is also not getting the assurance of being the Congress’ CM face in Punjab. It is a war of wits between a former royal and an equally adamant political scion, Rahul Gandhi, the Congress vice-president. And neither is willing to let the other dictate terms.
Badal’s advice to councillors
The buzz around the election of Mohali’s first mayor overshadowed the “tea party” organised by the Punjab government for the state awardees following the Independence Day function in the city. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, who played host to the awardees and their families, remained surrounded by the elected Akali municipal councillors throughout the tea party. The councillors were making efforts to convince the CM to intervene, but the shrewd politician that he is, all that the councillors got was “advice” to let party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal sort out the matter.
KU V-C’s selective approach
Haryana IAS officer Hardeep Kumar, who is based at Chandigarh and was given charge of the vicechancellor of Kurukshetra University (KU) after Lt General DDS Sandhu (retd) quit the post last month, does not seem keen to talk to local journalists in districts. The 1984-batch IAS officer and other senior officials of the district administration were on Friday waiting outside the university’s auditorium for chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar who was to address a press conference there on the eve of Independence Day. The state authorities had invited reporters from Chandigarh, Kurukshetra and its adjoining areas for the event. When a group of scribes reached the venue, BJP’s Kurukshetra unit president Dhumman Singh Kirmach introduced them to Kumar. “Kya sab local hain (Are they all local?)” asked the IAS officer immediately. On being informed that they were from Karnal and Kurukshetra, Kumar just looked away, refusing to speak to them. “Do the university officials treat visitors on the basis of their place of posting?” one of the reporters quizzed other officials present there. But they also appeared bewildered by their senior’s reaction.
Anil Vij, famous for his candidness, was the star attraction at the oathtaking ceremony of new Himachal Pradesh governor Acharya Dev Vrat in Shimla. While journalists ran after him for quotes, political leaders and officials of Himachal seemed eager to exchange pleasantries with him. “I keep coming to Kasuali, but I have not visited other places in the state. Now, my friend Dev Vratji has taken over as the governor and I will visit Himachal Pradesh more frequently,” he told the scribes.
Guv’s liking for Sanskrit
Acharya Dev Vrat’s oath as the 27th governor of Himachal Pradesh was different in several ways. Before he was administered the oath of office by Himachal Pradesh high court chief justice Mansoor Ahmed Mir, patriotic songs were played in the jam-packed Durbar Hall of the Raj Bhawan in Shimla. Archarya, who was principal of a gurukul in Kurukshetra earlier, took oath of office in Sanskrit, becoming the first governor to take oath in a language other than Hindi or English. The guests from Haryana had packed the Durbar Hall, while dignitaries and officials from Himachal had to jostle for space.
Sycophancy at its best
Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission (HPPSC) is often in news for its erratic functioning and screening exams marred by controversies. The recruitment body continued the tradition in the recently held exam for allied services. Though the exam was a success for the commission, a general knowledge (GK) question not only left the aspirants amused, but also became a talking point in the corridors of power. The question — Who is the Himachal Youth Congress chief ? — was related to chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s son. And, it was seen as yet another instance of sycophancy.
Team Virbhadra at Raj Bhawan
After the Union home ministry announced the name of Acharya Dev Vrat as the new governor of Himachal Pradesh, the Virbhadra Singh government moved swiftly to post officials of its choice at the Raj Bhawan. Principal secretary to the governor Sanjay Gupta, who was in Delhi, was quickly substituted with Shimla divisional commissioner Pushpinder Rajput. Though Vrat asked the chief secretary to put the new appointment on hold, Gupta quickly relinquished his charge.
Ambitious Cong leaders
When Aunrag Sharma took over as the new chief of the Congress frontal organisation the Sewa Dal, several party leaders accompanied chief minister Virbhadra Singh to the function held at the party office in Shimla. Banjar MLA Karan Singh, who has been waiting for long for a ministerial berth, was also present. Though he was honoured by Sewa Dal workers with a Gandhi cap and a shawl, Karan was left red-faced when a Sewa Dal leader raised a demand from the dais for the elevation of chief parliamentary secretary Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, who is MLA from Badsar in Hamirpur, to the rank of a cabinet minister. Himachal Congress chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu was not too pleased as he hails from Nadaun in Hamirpur.
Piggy-back ride for Rana
After he lost the Lok Sabha election to Anurag Thakur from Hamirpur, chief minister Virbhadra Singh was quick to accommodate Rajinder Rana as the vicechairman of the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA). However, Rana, a protégé of former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal before he joined the Congress, rarely sits in his office. He has held only one or two meetings with his officials. During the recent cloudburst in Dharampur in which five persons died and property worth crores of rupees was damaged, he went to assess the loss, but was reluctant to walk through the flood water. He was given a piggy-back ride by one of the employees. The pictures of his ride through the flood-hit area went viral on social media. Later, Rana claimed that he had hurt his feet.
YC workers’ faux pas
Youth Congress (YC) workers in Himachal are enthusiastic these days. While staging a protest against the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) near the Dharamsala cricket stadium recently, they got carried away. Instead of raising slogans against the opponents, they started doing it against their own leader. A worker was shouting the name of leaders, whereas the rest were following it up with “murdabad”. At one stage, he started shouting the name of chief minister Virbhadra Singh and the overenthusiastic bunch followed it up “murdabad”. They repeated it a few times before realising the mistake.
Re-emergence of NC stalwart
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah, who underwent a surgery in London, is re-emerging as a rallying point of the party after its worst-ever defeat in the assembly elections in the state. He became the first and the only politician to address activists of the AIIMS coordination committee when bandh was being observed in Jammu. The NC president also did another first by visiting Sabjiyan along the Line of Control last week when firing was still on. Farooq is becoming active when Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who is a tad older, is in the saddle. The general perception is that Farooq alone can take on Mufti, a seasoned politician. His son, former CM Omar Abdullah, had lost from one seat and barely managed to take the other by a slender margin of 1,000 votes.
(Contributed by Sukhdeep Kaur, Chitleen K Sethi, Vishal Joshi, Gaurav Bisht, Naresh K Thakur and Tarun Upadhyay)