Punjab Congress MLA Rana Gurmeet Sodhi is known more for his flamboyance than anything else. One of the many Congress MLAs nursing dreams of becoming a chief minister, Sodhi is at least getting to live his real-life dreams in reel. He will be soon seen in a Punjabi flick playing the role of Punjab CM. And he believes in getting into the skin of the character. Sodhi is taking politics seriously and issuing statements on important developments of Punjab like never before. Real life on reel is common, but reel getting real? Sodhi has to be more than just plain lucky!!
Sukhbir’s curious choice for attracting investment
Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal went to Europe recently to attract foreign investments. The deputy CM, accompanied by half-a-dozen state officials, focused on food processing, farm machinery, milk processing and allied agricultural practices. While there is nothing unusual about his foreign visit, the state delegation’s choice of countries, Poland and Hungary, was curious. The two countries are not among the big investors as per the country-wise data on foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows in India between April 2000 and January 2014. While Poland figured at number 23 on the list with less than one per cent of the total inflows during the period, Hungary was at 67 with an even more minuscule share in foreign direct investments. Though Badal and his team did have detailed discussions with government representatives and entrepreneurs in the two nations, all eyes will now be on how their efforts translate into fund flows and transfer of technical knowhow to the state where fresh investments are drying up.
The problem of water-lodging!
A subject expert of the Punjab State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) made a power point presentation before the central panel on disaster management on behalf of the state education department last week, explaining what the department was doing in its awareness programme for students in schools. Her presentation made mention of floods, earthquake and “water lodging” instead of water logging. The much experienced subject expert also pronounced the term repeatedly as “water lodging”, embarrassing her colleagues. The panelists, who included senior IAS and other officers from Punjab, chose to ignore her faux pas, though.
Protest first, work later for Ludhiana councillors
Despite having a massive annual budget, the cashstrapped Ludhiana municipal corporation has rendered the councillors workless. The councillors of all three major parties are busy staging protests outside the offices of deputy commissioner and police commissioner these days to stay in the limelight. First, BJP councillors were up in arms against police inaction in certain cases and then SAD councilors came in support of SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar, staging protest outside police commissioner’s office for action against a councillor for his derogatory remarks. Congress councilors also took to the streets in support for party MP Ravneet Singh Bittu.“Sara kam aap hi saambh liya Badal parivar ne teh baaki sab nu vela karr ditta...chalo dharne hi laa laiyeye.... (Badal family has taken all the work in its hands rendering everyone else workless...let’s concentrate on dharnas),” is how an Independent councilor took a jibe at the government.
The name game
After he took over reins of the state in October 2014, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar had got the nameplate outside his office changed to “Manohar Lal”, dropping his last name. His name was written in three languages – Hindi, English and Punjabi – in the new one. The idea behind dropping the last name, according to his aides, was to show that he belonged to every community and not just one particular community. All official communication, including letters and press notes, has been giving his name as Manohar Lal since then. While his political rivals and media continue to use his surname, a few such as Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Naveen Jaihind have been distorting his last name in a distasteful manner to criticise the working of his government as khattara sarkar (rickety regime). “Kaithal mein kisaan apni zameen ke muawaje ki ladai lad rahe hain #aap saath hai. Khattara sarkar sun rahi ho na (Farmers are fighting in Kaithal for land compensation. AAP is with them. Khattara government, are you listening),” Naveen Jaihind tweeted on Saturday.
Rao’s guest list for power dinner
The dinner hosted by Gurgaon MP and union minister of state for planning Rao Inderjit Singh remained talk of the week, not because of the guests invited by him, but how some party leaders made sure they were invited. While Rao Inderjit had invited only MLAs and MPs of south Haryana, chief minister ML Khattar was also there finally. There is talk that only after Khattar visited Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party in-charge Anil Jain that Singh realised the import of including Khattar on the guestlist.
Vij and his changing stances
Vij may hate to accept it, he has once again flipped his stance. This time, it is on the issue of snooping. Vij had raised hue and cry after catching a CID man from outside his office, questioning who was behind it, and called DGP to his room and sought an inquiry. Now that the inquiry has, as expected, found that the CID man was not spying on the minister, but was there on routine “safety and security” duty, Vij has declined to give any importance to its findings. Before the inquiry was completed, he had already started saying that no one would agree that he was being spied on. Flip-flop or otherwise, Vij knows how best to send a message home.
Bali plays the peacemaker
Himachal transport and food minister GS Bali seems to share a love-hate relationship with chief minister Virbhadra Singh. Known for his political maneuvering, Bali was at loggerheads with the CM over issues such as recruitment of bus conductors and supply of pulses under the public distribution system, but he is suddenly trying to assume the role of peacemaker. Bali has urged Virbhadra and his BJP bête noire, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, to shed their animosity and work together for the development of the state. Bali shares a good rapport with Dhumal. However, the CM is still to give a positive response.
HP’s tech-savvy speaker
Himachal Vidhan Sabha speaker Brij Bihari Butail (70) has taken the lead in making the state assembly paperless through the e-Vidhan project. Thanks to his efforts, HP is the first high-tech legislative assembly in the country with use of e-book technology for laying papers and touchscreens fitted on desks of legislators for displaying the proceedings. On the 109th birth anniversary of late chief minister Yashwant Singh Parmar, known as the founder of HP, also, Butail’s flair for technology was visible. He read his speech from the touch screen fitted on the dais. On the other hand, chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who is not very tech-savvy, spoke on the ideals of Parmar extempore.
Kaul Singh upbeat after heart surgery
Himachal health minister Kaul Singh Thakur, who was in the news due to the controversial ‘CD leak’ episode, recently returned to Shimla after a gap of three weeks following his heart surgery at a private hospital in Chandigarh. He was given a rousing welcome by his supporters who organised a yagna at Sankat Mochan temple. Kaul Singh used the opportunity to show his might with Vidhan Sabha speaker Brij Bihari Butail and MLAs Asha Kumari, Sohan Lal Thakur, Rohit Thakur and Ravi Thakur by his side. “There is a no need to worry now. I have come back with a new heart that has more vigor and strength, to take on my rivals,” the health minister told his excited supporters.
Nadda parries queries on Shanta
BJP veteran leader Shanta Kumar had ruffled his colleagues when he wrote the “heads-hang-in-shame” letter to party’s national president Amit Shah, giving a tool to rival Congress. The party leaders had a tough time responding to criticism. When Union health minister Jagat Prakash Nadda visited his home state recently in connection with a training camp of the party, he was bombarded with questions on the controversy. However, Nadda, who did a long stint as party spokesman earlier, managed to parry the queries. “Hum sab milkar abhyas shivir ki baat kartein hein. Baki batein baad mein ho sakti hain,” was his stock reply to journalists at Chintpurni where the training camp was held. He was quick to notice posters put up by supporters of Shanta Kumar and former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal and asked the organisers to remove them to try and de-escalate tensions between the two warring camps.
BJP calls Jairam ‘gapodhshank’
Congress spokesman Jairam Ramesh’s allegation that BJP leader and former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal had caused undue gain to Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association headed by his MP son Anurag Thakur during his days in power infuriated the saffron party. One after the other, a number of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders stood up in defence of the fatherson duo. Shimla MLA and former state BJP president Suresh Bhardwaj went an extra mile, calling Jairam Ramesh a “gapodhshank(gossipmonger). “The allegation of leasing land worth `100 crore HPCA is not only baseless and false, but has also exposed Jairam Ramesh. The Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government, which probed the matter, believed that the land is worth `30 lakh only,” he said. Bhardwaj also advised Virbhadra Singh to face the inquiry being conducted against him and refrain from indulging in diversionary tactics.
Carrying on family tradition
The rivalry between the two top political clans headed by chief minister Virbhadra Singh and former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal has turned ugly with even their children going all out to attack each other. The other day, Dhumal’s younger son Arun Thakur alleged that Virbhadra Singh’s wife Pratibha Singh, former MP from Mandi, had rented out his private residence, Holy Lodge, to a private company that was allotted a hydel power project in Lahaul Spiti. Virbhadra’s son, Himachal Youth Congress chief Vikramaditya, retaliated by accusing Arun Thakur of “being frustrated” due to inquiries being conducted against him and his family members. “Main Thakur hoon, Rajkumar nahin. Main apni ladai khudh ladna janta hoon (I am a Thakur, not a prince. I can fight my battle on my own,” is what Arun Thakur said in response.
J&K minister, Omar fire salvos at each other
Jammu and Kashmir education minister Naeem Akhter and ex-CM Omar Abdullah are locked in a war of words. The minister had recently issued a notification for a screening test of teachers appointed under Rehbar-eTaleem (ReT) scheme. The test is being conducted after allegations surfaced about genuineness of educational certificates of a large number of such teachers. ReT teachers have been protesting since then. Taking a dig at the minister, Omar said Naeem, who could not pass the assembly test, can’t ask teachers to pass the screening test. Naeem, who is a member of the legislative council, hit back: “If Omar believes only those who study in Sanawar can access quality education, then he is living in a fool’s paradise.” He also said that Omar can’t speak either Kashmiri or Urdu, then how can he talk about imtihaan (test) and jamat (class).
Contributed by Sukhdeep Kaur, Navneet Sharma, Prabhjit Singh, Anshu Seth, Rajesh Moudgil, Gaurav Bisht and Tarun Upadhyay