Joginder Pal Jain, who switched sides from the Congress to the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and then again became the MLA from Moga, has made agriculture minister Tota Singh, a Taksali Akali, run for cover on his turf. The minister, according to Jain, has lost his base in the area, especially in Moga and Dharamkot. Though Tota Singh, refusing to take things lying down, has dared the Moga MLA to increase his mass base, the latter’s stock is up in the area. Jain’s son, Akshit Jain, has been made mayor of the newly-constituted municipal corporation and hoardings dot the highway passing through Moga, welcoming him as the new mayor. Tota Singh’s son Brijinder Singh Brar, chairman of Punjab Health Systems Corporation, is also trying to get some attention.
Cong on tenterhooks
The number of MLAs of Punjab Congress may be dwindling but that of the wannabe chiefs is going up as uncertainty looms over presidency of state party president Partap Singh Bajwa. While the name of senior MLA Lal Singh was “leaked out” as Bajwa’s successor during Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s sabbatical, his rival, former Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh, too has many hopefuls in his band of loyalists for the top job. According to party insiders, some MLAs are lingering in Captain’s group thinking the erstwhile maharaja will play kingmaker and give them his blessings. “There are so many contenders that Amarinder will only have one way out — to choose himself over the others,” said an MLA in Captain’s team. Some are toeing the neutral line precisely not to be seen on either of the warring sides. Who will take the throne — the suspense is keeping the Punjab Congress on tenterhooks.
Politics on social media
If the political parties are using social media to create hype about their activities, it has also emerged as a platform for the people to cut them to size. Ludhiana District Congress Committee (Urban) president Gurpreet Gogi Bassi and his team have gone out of their way to highlight their role as opposition even as factionalism in the district unit is more than evident at every house meeting and anti-establishment protest. Being a loyalist of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Partap Singh Bajwa, Gogi is in the firing line of Capt Amarinder Singh’s supporters. In retaliation to his daily posts on WhatsApp, a Congress worker wrote: “Gogi ji, lokan tak apne message pahunchan toh pehla, apne party workers tak ta pahunch jao (Before reaching out to the general public through messages, you should strike a rapport with your party workers).”
As chaos rules the roads in the city due to the ongoing construction work of the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), Amritsar mayor Bakshi Ram Arora finds himself in a helpless situation. Arora, who claims to understand the pain of the people, expresses helplessness every time he is asked about the traffic jams. In the MC general house, he has had to hear the complaints of his party colleagues against the mess in the city. “Dividers built by us have been broken, roundabouts damaged and streetlights destroyed, but nobody bothered to even ask us,” he says.
The video-conferencing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Haryana chief secretary DS Dhesi earlier in the week turned out to be an embarrassment for central and state officials. Due to a technical glitch, the PM was unable to have an audio-visual of the chief secretary for over half an hour. While Modi waited to get the snag fixed, the chief secretary watched an anguished Prime Minister on his video screen. Once the interaction started, Modi probably was not in the mood and winded up the discussion quickly.
Haryana health minister Anil Vij misses no opportunity to take a dig or two at his political rivals. In a recent tweet, he wanted to know whether the death of a Rajasthan farmer at a protest organised by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in New Delhi was a new version, directed by the party, of the film ‘Peepli Live’. Through another tweet, Vij took a dig at the recent Congress kisan rally in Delhi. “Congress ki rally topi aur pagadi ke varchsav ki ladai thi, Hoodaji bhi nayi party banane ki aur badh rahe hain, jhanda hoga gulabi aur party ka naam hoga gulabi gang,’’ he posted subtly meaning that the rally to him appeared to be a fight for supremacy between former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, whose workers sported pink turbans, and Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar whose supporters wore Gandhi caps. Hooda seemed to be heading to form a party of his own whose flag would be pink and name, “gulabi gang’’, the minister tweeted.
Khemka on Twitter
Like several other politicians and bureaucrats, senior IAS officer Ashok Khemka seems to be fond of airing his thoughts through Twitter, mainly on governance. Khemka, who has been in the news since he cancelled the mutation of a land deal between Robert Vadra, son-in-law of AICC president Sonia Gandhi, and real estate giant DLF, recently tweeted: “Political intervention v. interference! Moot question is how to distinguish the two. Haziness suits both. Niyat na ho, toh niti nakaam (Policies fail if there is no intention to act).” The tweet was in response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on political interference and intervention. However, the officer probably realised the mistake of taking on the Prime Minister and raised the white flag the next day. “PM inspires! Positive attitude, opportunity in adversity, teamwork, positive change in lives of people,” he tweeted.
Stealing the show
Himachal Pradesh health minister Kaul Singh Thakur, who was seen as the foremost contender for the chief minister’s post ahead of the 2012 state assembly elections and has his own set of backers among the Congress legislators, stole the show during the recent Regional Judicial Conference where chief minister Virbhadra Singh was the chief guest. A practising lawyer before he entered politics in 1977, Thakur spoke briefly, highlighting his career as a lawyer and the problems faced by the people due to delay in justice. The legal luminaries, including the judges and other participants, gave full attention to his speech. “Mann ki baat to Modi ji karte hain par maine to dil ki baat kahi hai,” he was heard telling the participants during the tea-break. What must have encouraged the minister is that those present on the dais acknowledged the issues he highlighted.
Confusion in message
Power and agriculture minister Sujan Singh Pathania hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi the other day. When he was discussing the agriculture prospects of the country with one of his cabinet colleagues, Pathania minced no words in questioning Modi’s slogan of “Per drop, more crop” for enhancing the agriculture production. “Ek boond mein to pyaas bhi nahin bujhti, to ek boond se kheti kaise ho sakti hai (One drop does not even quench thirst, how can it help cultivation),” he said. While Modi has been trying to convey the message to crores of farmers, a few people have apparently confused “per drop” with “one drop”. He may have to hold a special “Mann ki Baat” for ministers to put across his message.
The corridors of power in the hill states are buzzing with speculations about the file related to former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s prosecution sanction that was said be “missing” at one stage. While some reports claimed that the file had gone missing, the government has given information under the Right to Information Act that the file is with the high-ups in the government. Now, a group of second-rung leaders of the saffron party is trying to figure out who the high-ups are in the government and why they are holding up the file. The file containing the governor’s observation on prosecution sanction could give leverage to Dhumal in the case related to misuse of power in reconsidering the request of Indian Police Service (IPS) officer AN Sharma to join back service after he sought voluntary retirement to contest the assembly election in 2007.
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s one-time “blue-eyed boy”, superintendent of police (SP), Sirmaur, Balbir Singh Thakur, got a rude shock when young IPS officer Soumya Sambasivan, SP, CID (Intelligence), replaced him all of a sudden. The transfer has become a talking point not only in the police department, but also in political circles. Two months ago, the government had posted Soumya as SP, Sirmaur, but Thakur had managed to retain his position at that time. Thakur, who was in-charge of the CM’s security during the previous Congress regime, seems clueless this time. He is yet to take charge of SP, Intelligence, though.
Forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmouri likes to test the knowledge of youth approaching him for jobs in different government departments. The minister tells the youngsters aspiring for government jobs to acquire basic general knowledge about the state, in particular Chamba district. He then poses questions to them about the state and the district.
Contributed by SUKHDEEP KAUR, GURPREET SINGH NIBBER, ANSHU SETH, HITENDER RAO, RAJESH MOUDGIL AND GAURAV BISHT