Tired of security
Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and his well-equipped commandos are a common sight in Punjab and elsewhere. But Sukhbir appears to be fed up with commandos breathing down his neck all the time. And it showed during a media interaction last week. As soon as the deputy CM entered the conference room, he told the security personnel not to stand behind him. “I don’t want any security man standing behind me while I address the media. You should not be seen in any of the pictures clicked,” he said. But he did not stop there. “Your presence in the photo could confuse the people and make them wonder as to who actually is the deputy chief minister,” he added to the amusement of everyone present.
This Rakhi, no Bhattal-Capt bonhomie
As the two former chief ministers of Punjab Capt Amarinder Singh and Rajinder Kaur Bhattal had a vitriolic war of words recently, some leaders in the party took a swipe at whether “sister” Bhattal would tie a Rakhi to “brother” Amarinder on Raksha Bandhan. The lovehate relationship between the two has not worried but amused the Congress circles as the two have fallen out only to make up with rakhi and birthday bouquets. After the recent verbal duel, Amarinder was heard telling people that he had reached with a bouquet at Bhattal’s “fake” birthday party. Few “siblings” would do this for each other.
Not numbers this time
The release of religion-based data from Census saw some Sikh political and religious leaders voice their concern over the decline in the decadal growth rate and dip in share of the community in national population, with one of them even advocating that the Sikh families should have four children to boost the numbers. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief and deputy chief minister was also asked for his reaction, but he chose to duck the query. On being pressed to give a response, Sukhbir said: “I can’t tell them to produce more children.” He refused to say anything further, clearly showing that the deputy chief minister, who loves to throw big numbers, didn’t want to talk numbers on this one.
Some Punjab ministers are wary of venturing into Badals’ territory. Though the attack of whitefly on cotton crop in Malwa and politics in the area are two different subjects, agriculture minister Jathedar Tota Singh, despite being keen to visit the affected area and meet the farmers, decided not to go there. The reason: it’s the area of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and also part of union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s parliamentary constituency. “I cannot go into their (Badals) area,” the agriculture minister told one of his aides while cancelling his trip. The farmers in the area are waiting for someone to hear and address their grievances, though.
Work after office
An instruction sent by the chief secretary, Haryana, to all ministers, bureaucrats and their staff having their offices in the Haryana civil secretariat has become a talking point in the corridors of power in the state. The instruction issued on Thursday lays down the procedure for opening the offices of ministers, top and middle-rung officers and their staff if they have some work once the office has been shut after working hours (9am to 5pm) and on holidays to ensure security. “The office will be allowed to be opened in case of emergency only on a written request from the personal staff of the minister or officer. The staff member will have to jot down his or her details in a register available with the security guard on duty in the secretariat,” said an officer, quoting the instruction. While it is unclear what led to the directive, the gossipmongers are having a field day, nattering about who sits after office hours or shows up on holidays and why. Of course, some of this talk is spiced up. But then there is no smoke without fire.
Some good news
After a series of electoral setbacks, the Congress leaders appear to be clutching at straws to keep the morale of their supporters from flagging further. A clear sign was the attempt by Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar to find solace in the victory scored by his party’s student wing National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) in the Rajasthan University Student Union polls. The Congress leader re-tweeted a few congratulatory messages on “historic victory” of the student outfit, but ignored the student outfit’s ignominious rout in the Panjab University Campus Students elections in Chandigarh, the capital of his home state, where it finished a poor third. While NSUI and its allies had done well in the past two years, they could not win any seat this time. But then the Congress leaders welcome any good news these days, irrespective of from where it comes.
The press conferences held by Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar immediately after his return from abroad, and another by director general of police Yash Pal Singal earlier on women police stations, left the journalists covering the state in a tizzy. Khattar evaded most of the questions on his government’s fiat on educational qualification for panchayat poll candidates or Jat or OBC brigades active in the state, asking the mediapersons to restrict their queries to the foreign trip he had undertaken to attract investments to the state. Singal was equally stingy with words, evading questions related to death of a youth in an encounter in Sonepat and other crime incidents. He also asked the reporters to put questions only about the all-woman police stations.
War of words
Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh and Leader of Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal love to take potshots at each other. When Dhumal was participating in a discussion in the ongoing session of the state Vidhan Sabha, Virbhadra asked him to be polite. Taking a jibe at the CM, Dhumal responded: “Prem jab bolta hai to prem say hi bolta hai. Aur bhadra logon ko bhadrata say hi bolna chahiye (When Prem speaks, he speaks with love. Virbhadra should speak with decency).” Virbhadra, however, did not like the remark. He said he had seen Dhumal’s love for him in the past. “I have seen your love in the past. You registered two false cases against me and I had to face trial,” the CM told the BJP leader. To which the former replied by suggesting a separate discussion on who had done what in the past.
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh never lets go of any opportunity to hit out at his detractors in the Congress. When a legislator posed a query during the ongoing assembly session regarding the menace of stray cattle in the state, Virbhadra got going, starting by assailing the cattle owners. “It is sad when the animals get old or infertile, they are forced out of cowsheds and abandoned in forest areas,” he said. Drawing a parallel with how circumstances compelled him to go into central politics at one stage, he said: “Jab bail buddah ho jata hai toh usko lathi mar kar jungle mein haank detein hain (When the ox turns old, it is driven to jungle using a stick) Congress kay logon ne bhi merey saath kuch aisa hi karney ki koshish kari thi, aur mujhe state say bahar dakka dey diya tha (Congress leaders had also tried to do the same with me and tried to push me out of the state).”
Taking potshots at police
Dharampur MLA and former public works minister Mahinder Singh Thakur vehemently attacked the police when the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) raised the law and order situation in the state. Talking about the efforts made by cops to detect the precious idol of Lord Raghunath stolen from Kullu, he said the police were being used by the ruling Congress to fix its opponents, but they had to use Google Maps to trace the exact location of idols hidden underneath stones on the basis of information provided by the Nepal police. The culprit was apprehended across the border. “They are unable to detect cases of idol thefts from temples across the state. If they have to use such apps, what is the use of having such a police force,” grumbled the four-time legislator.
Advice for police
BJP state unit chief Satpal Singh Satti has a suggestion for top cops. After a spate of thefts of ATM machines in Una district, he slammed the police officers and others for attending late-night soirees. “I have been told that they do not respond to calls made to their mobile phones in exigencies, and attend late-night parties and dance to DJ’s tunes,” said the saffron party leader. He advised them to avoid DJ parties and instead allow their families to take to the dancing floor.
Rahul’s dual objective
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had timed his visit to Jammu and Kashmir with a dual objective. He wanted to reach out to the people affected by the border firing. At the same time, he also directed his party to gear up for the elections to local bodies likely to be held later this year and the coming panchayat elections. As the party had fared badly in the Assembly polls, it is planning to go all out in these elections. Rahul had also made a personal intervention in the appointment of the PCC chief and his new team. The party believes that a comeback of sorts would help re-energize its cadres and put pressure on the BJP. In short, the Congress vice-president has put a lot at stake in the local body polls in the state. The party cadres do not sound as sure, though.
Contributed by Sukhdeep Kaur, Manpreet Randhawa, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht and Tarun Upadhyay