Bungalow blues for Karan Singh
Karan Singh was inducted into the Himachal cabinet after a long wait, but things have not been smooth for him thereafter. He had to first scout for an office in the HP secretariat and then struggle for an official bungalow. The minister selected a house at Ramchander Chowk only to find that it had been allotted to director general of police (prisons) Somesh Goel who locked the bungalow and was out of the state. Upset, Karan Singh complained to chief secretary P Mitra who ordered the general administration department to allot the house to the minister. Now the public works department has put its lock there and it remains to be seen whether Karan Singh gets the bungalow or the IPS officer retains it.
Tip-toeing towards Barnala’s door
Former Punjab chief minister Surjit Singh Barnala, a known critic of present CM Parkash Singh Badal, is recuperating in Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research at Chandigarh these days. Recovering from a serious ailment, he has seen a regular flow of visitors from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). The Akalis, including ministers, have been visiting the veteran leader quietly and at a time when there are not many people there. The reason: they do not want to get noticed and land in political hassle of any kind. “Let’s find the right time to meet Barnala saab so that no one recognises us” is what a minister was heard telling his colleague.
Not a fan of crop diversification
Punjab agriculture minister Tota Singh appears to be repenting the government strategy on diversification of cropping pattern in the state. Discussing the whitefly attack on cotton plantations and payment of subsidy to the sugarcane farmers the other day, he said: “We are better off growing wheat and paddy because diversification costs the government a lot and is also a cause of lots of criticism.” He added that the government was earning by imposing taxes at time of procurement of wheat and paddy, whereas it had to shell out crores for other crops. It’s, however, not clear whether the chief minister agrees with the minister or not.
‘White menace’ in Punjab
A group of politicians from the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) was found discussing the “white menace” in Punjab last week. “Chitti makhi narmey nuh kha rehe hai… tey chita (drug) Punjab di jawani nu (whitefly has eaten the cotton crop and white drug has eaten the youth of Punjab),” is what one of them remarked while sitting in the office of agriculture minister Tota Singh. Those present included ex-MLAs Sukhdarshan Singh Mrar and Veer Singh Lopoke and a number of party workers. While the entire group laughed at the remark, it was followed by a long silence that was louder than words.
Khattar’s breakfast buffet
Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar whetted the appetite of news hungry scribes when he invited them for breakfast at his official residence earlier in the week. While the mediapersons had heard Khattar during the just-concluded assembly session, the prospects of having a freewheeling conversation with a media shy Khattar was enticing. The CM though freely mingled with journalists, joining them for a bite and some lassi, his interaction remained formal and by and large a repetition of what he had said during assembly session. So probably the only option left for the “hungry scribes” was to relish the lavish spread of idlis, vadas, and puri- chana.
Tech glitch hits plan to go paperless
Overzealous tech-enthusiasts go overboard sometimes. In its effort to make the Haryana Vidhan Sabha paperless, the state government seems to be going one forward and two steps backward. During the monsoon session, apart from the MLAs, journalists were also given compact discs (CDs) and digital video discs (DVDs) of various reports tabled in the House. These included the one-man justice Iqbal Singh commission of inquiry into Mirchpur violence incident carrying a huge news value for mediapersons. However, several journalists were left fuming as their CDs did not work. They had struggle with the discs and meet their deadlines. One of them even sarcastically asked if this was a specimen of the digital initiative of a “happening state”.
Scribes stuck in lift
The Haryana Vidhan Sabha secretariat is trying to adopt new technology, but not everywhere. Like the previous assembly sessions, the latest one that concluded last week saw a major glitch when the lift got stuck in between for about 25 minutes. Inside the lift at that time were a few journalists. Getting stuck in the small, old lift was one grievance, missing the assembly proceedings for which they had come rushing, was a major loss. On learning about it, several journalists could be later heard narrating similar instances, making it appear that such glitches were a routine affair. They are now hoping that the assembly secretariat wakes up and takes some effective measures.
Virbhadra losing his touch?
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh, once known for his firm grip on the administration, appears to be losing his touch. The HP civil secretariat almost wears a deserted look whenever Virbhadra is out on tour. The ministers and bureaucrats turn up when the CM is in town. When he called a meeting to ponder over drug menace in the state the other day, almost all IAS officers were present. Putting to rest rumours about his long leave, health minister Kaul Singh Thakur also shared the dais with the CM. “Some ministers are at work 24X7, a few others come to Shimla for some days while some spend most of their time in Delhi. They have different working styles,” said the CM, taking a jibe at his detractors.
Buzzing Raj Bhawan
Himachal Raj Bhawan is abuzz with activity ever since new governor Acharya Dev Vrat has moved in. The governor has opened the doors of Raj Bhawan for bureaucrats, political leaders and also the common man. He has also set a four-point agenda - promoting organic farming, fighting drug menace, rearing cattle and protecting Indian culture. Dev Vrat also hosted a dinner for leader of opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal, but it is not known what really transpired between the two. The chief minister also called on the governor immediately thereafter. The governor house is still to clear the sports bill passed by the Vidhan Sabha during the budget session to regulate sports bodies in the state.
Bharmouri left to fend for himself
HP forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri has been embroiled in a controversy over “illicit” tree felling in his assembly constituency. While the opposition BJP has been after him both inside and outside the Vidhan Sabha, chief minister Virbhadra Singh has also, in a dramatic turn of events, appointed his one-time detractor, All India Congress Committee general secretary and Dalhousie MLA Asha Kumari as head of the district grievance committee that was headed by Bharmouri earlier. The move is being seen as an indication of changing political equations between Asha Kumari and the chief minister.
The tussle between CM Virbhadra Singh and food and civil supplies minister GS Bali doesn’t seem to have coming to an end anytime soon. The chasm between the two leaders has only grown ever since the Congress formed the government in the state three years ago. Virbhadra and Bali haven’t missed an opportunity to take on each other. During his recent trip to Kangra, someone pointed out to Virbhadra that substandard wheat flour was being supplied in fair price shops in Nurpur area. “Send some rotis made from this flour to Bali. Let him have a taste of it,” said the chief minister, taking a potshot at his minister.
Nadda calls the shots
Union health minister Jagat Prakash Nadda is still calling the shots in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Himachal Pradesh. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Chandigarh on Friday to inaugurate a new terminal at airport, the top brass of party’s state unit was there. There was an indication that they may get an audience with the PM, but they had to return after meeting Nadda. The health minister briefed them about the upcoming organisational polls and Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana, a social sector scheme of the central government.
Beef ban PIL
The J&K high court order to enforce beef ban on a public interest litigation (PIL) has drawn out fissures in the BJP-PDP alliance. While the PIL was filed by a BJP leader, the advocate representing the petitioner is also a BJP spokesperson. The case was filed last year when National Conference leader Omar Abdullah was the chief minister. The petitioner was made government advocate about two months ago and is now being reportedly asked by the law department to withdraw the petition. But he is refusing to do so. Withdrawing the petition could have political ramifications for the BJP. If it is pursued, it could create more trouble for the PDP. The petition is now listed after four weeks and the government response, especially from the divisional commissioner, Kashmir, will reflect the thinking of the alliance government.
CONTRIBUTED BY GURPREET SINGH NIBBER, HITENDER RAO, RAJESH MOUDGIL, GAURAV BISHT, NARESH K THAKUR and Tarun Upadhyay