Social media savvy
They took some time, but more and more Congress leaders in Haryana are logging on to micro-blogging site Twitter. Congress Legislature Party leader in Haryana Vidhan Sabha Kiran Choudhry and Congress MLA Randeep Singh Surjewala, who is also in charge of communication department of All India Congress Committee, have finally caught up with the rest of the political class. While Choudhry tweeted about the Supreme Court stay on the conditions imposed by the Haryana government for contesting panchayat elections, Surjewala started with a congratulatory message on the inspiring performance of two Indian tennis stars in the US Open. He has been regularly retweeting posts of “Office of RG”, twitter handle of Congress vicepresident Rahul Gandhi. It’s, however, not clear whether the GandhiNehru scion, who made his Twitter debut four months ago, has inspired his party colleagues to start tweeting.
Development and dengue
Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal has been pushing the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) as a panacea for all traffic woes of Amritsar. While only time would tell whether the project delivers or not, it is being currently blamed for all the problems that ail the city. Traffic chaos is just one of them. BRTS is also seen as the culprit for faulty sewerage and broken roads. The district health authorities have cited the ongoing work for the project among the reasons for dengue outbreak in the city. The work on BRTS and other development projects in the city, according to district epidemiologist Dr Des Raj, is responsible for the spurt in dengue cases. “The scenario is likely to go from bad to worse in the days to come due to these projects.”
Chaos at MC meet
Not prepared for the pandemonium in the general house meeting, Ludhiana municipal corporation commissioner GK Singh was in for a shock to see the uproar. The meeting convened after a gap of nine months had the councillors from the Congress, SAD, BJP and Bains brothers raising objections to every sentence. Known for his cool temperament, Singh was baffled with the proceedings and offered apologies at regular intervals. “Commissioner saab da ajj sorry day hai... Jadd di meeting shuru hoi hai sirf maafi mang rahe ne....Akali party da ‘raaj nahi sewa’ da nara sirf afsara te hi laagu hunda hai (It’s a sorry day for the commissioner as ever since the meeting has started he is apologising... The SAD slogan is applicable only to the officials)” is what a councillor said.
French among comrades
Two French communists from Paris addressed a national convention of the Khet Mazdoor Union of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Chandigarh, for which the party had roped in Delhi-based French-Hindi translator from the Communist Party of India–Marxist (CPM). They addressed the national meet for 15 minutes each, taking pauses for the CPM man to translate their assertions for the farm labourers gathered from different states. The CPI’s move of inviting a couple of scribes later to interview the French scholars, however, turned futile as they could not go beyond ‘hello’ and ‘bonjour’ in the absence of the translator who had left the venue by then.
Bureaucrats have been making requests to the Centre for change of cadre states on grounds of marriage or physical disability. When the committee headed by Union secretary, personnel and training, Sanjay Kothari, met two weeks ago, the requests of two IAS officers, K Radhika Aiyar and Dhaval Jain, were taken up under the PH (physically handicapped) policy. Both Aiyar, a 2011 batch IAS officer, and Jain, who is from the 2014 batch, belong to the West Bengal cadre and had listed Haryana among their preferred cadres. While the state government has given the go-ahead to Jain, it denied “no objection” to Aiyar for the proposed cadre change. After the refusal of Haryana where the BJP government never tires of reiterating its commitment to women empowerment, the Centre has now sent her case to the Uttar Pradesh government. On the other hand, Jain is expected to join Haryana once his cadre state grants its approval.
Aside from his straight talk, Union minister for rural development Birender Singh shot off some smart cracks during a press conference in Chandigarh the other day. After he spoke on rural schemes and the land acquisition bill, reporters insisted on a direct reply on the Supreme Court order staying the recently amended Haryana law on panchayat polls. On being repeatedly asked to give his view on the law, the minister, who hails from the state, sent all in splits with his reply. “Kya mein samajhata nahin? Aap bhi vohi swaal puchh rahen hein alag dhang se. Main ek vakil bhi hoon, jawab nahin doonga, kyunki Supreme Court mein abhi hearing hai,” he said meaning that however differently he could be asked about it, he would not reply, for he was a lawyer too and the case was pending in the apex court.
‘United’ despite bickering
Bickering within the opposition Congress has become synonymous with the gatherings being organised by party MLA and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in Haryana. While supporters of Hooda and former finance minister Capt Ajay Singh Yadav clashed with one another in Rewari at a meeting held the other day to muster support for the party’s September 20 rally in Delhi, voices from the camp of state unit chief Ashok Tanwar also reflected the same infighting. Tanwar was in favour of party supporters donning red turbans at the rally, whereas Hooda harped on pink turbans. But there is consensus on one thing. Ask them about their differences and they have the same reply, always: “We are one”.
Things come to a head
The game of one-upmanship between Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda was evident at the Kisan Samman Rally in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan on Sunday. The supporters of Hooda and Tanwar, wearing pink and red pagris (turbans), respectively, jostled with one another and even had minor scuffles. While the Hooda camp had an edge over the state unit chief in terms of number of supporters at the rally, the competing colours, besides showing the party’s lack of cohesion, gave an opportunity to their rivals to take a dig. “Delhi rally mein Congressi bawardi pahunche hain. Kuch pink tatha kuch laal pagri mein. Congress ab band-baaja party ban gayi hai. Achha kaam hai,” BJP leader Anil Vij, who is also health minister in the Khattar government in Haryana, tweeted in his trademark style.
Being a good sport
The Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government has been on warpath with the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) headed by BJP MP from Hamirpur Anurag Thakur from the time the Congress came to power in December 2012. The cases filed by the government against HPCA also led to an all-out verbal duel between chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his predecessor Prem Kumar Dhumal. But, in a sudden turn of events, Virbhadra has now accepted the cricket association’s invitation to attend a T-20 match to be played between India and South Africa at the Dharamsala stadium, triggering a fresh round of speculations, with the most farfetched one being about the possibility of a truce between the two political bigwigs. But then just as cricket is a game of uncertainties, politics is the “art of the possible”.
CM unhappy with colleagues
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh is seemingly unhappy with his cabinet colleagues for not spending enough time in their offices in the state capital. While the CM wants them to spend at least four days every week in the secretariat, attending to visitors from across the state and discussing government policies and programmes with bureaucrats, he has been also critical of ministers frequenting Delhi to meet central leaders of the party. Health minister Kaul Singh Thakur, a known detractor of the CM, and transport minister GS Bali, who is also not happy with Virbhadra, travel frequently to Delhi. However, the CM is learnt to have conveyed his sentiment to the ministers.
Unequal distribution of work
A section of the Himachal Pradesh bureaucracy appears to be upset over frequent transfers. Additional chief secretary Vineet Chawdhry, a 1982 batch IAS officer, recently sent a letter to the personnel department, seeking information under the Right to Information Act on his removal from the urban development department. The department has been given to 1985 batch IAS officer Manisha Nanda. His wife Upma Chawdhry, who belongs to the 1983 batch, is also seemingly unhappy over being divested of the charge of the language, art and culture department and has proceeded on a 45-day leave. The work distribution is also causing heartburn. While there are scores of officers who are “overburdened” with two or more departments, there are others who have been virtually left without work.
Congress leader and former minister Anand Sharma is not a frequent visitor to his hometown Shimla. During his recent visit, he met chief minister Virbhadra Singh to discuss issues related to the party and government. He also discussed the security protocol given to him by the Congress government during his visits to the state. Sharma, deputy leader of the Congress in Rajya Sabha, is learnt to have asked for police escort and pilot vehicle. His concern for security follows the recent visit of Leader of Opposition Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad to Shimla. Azad was provided an escort pilot and security personnel. While Azad is a ‘Z’ category protectee, Sharma figures in the ‘Y’ category security list.
Complementing each other
Shimla mayor Sanjay Chauhan and wife Falma have been full-time members of the Communist Party of India for long. The two complement each other well in party work, besides taking care of their orchards. “This time, I sent my wife for apple harvesting whereas earlier I had spent several weeks in my orchards in Kotkhai,” Chauhan told the officials and reporters at the apple festival hosted by the tourism department on the historic ridge. He also used the opportunity to apprise chief minister Virbhadra Singh of the difficulties being faced by apple growers due to bad roads in the apple belt.
(Contributed by Shaheen Parshad, Anshu Seth, Prabhjit Singh, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil and Gaurav Bisht)