SAD-BJP ‘matrimonial’ blues
Punjab deputy CM Sukhbir Badal’s new way of tackling tricky questions from scribes is to make analogies. When the Shiromani Akali Dal president was grilled about no heart-warming praise from BJP national president Amit Shah or Union home minister Rajnath Singh for whom the government had rolled out the red carpet at Anandpur Sahib last week, Sukhbir was quick to shoot an analogy. “The relations between the two parties are like that of husband and wife. They don’t praise each other yet they live together the entire life and help each other. The SAD and BJP too are the same, they may not praise each other but would stay together for many years to come,” he quipped. Wondering who Sukhbir thinks is the husband? Ask the sulking BJP!
While many of his cabinet colleagues escaped the political heat in the state by holidaying in cooler climes, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal stayed put in Punjab packing in long hours of work, including his trademark sangat darshans in villages. If the grand old man of Punjab politics was leading by example, was anyone following? His son, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal went holidaying in Europe with his family, finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa was in Denmark and some other ministers went to Malaysia and Singapore. One Badal working for all! Now you know why Sukhbir doesn’t mind waiting a little longer for the CM’s throne.
Nuggets of wisdom
When it comes to out-of-box ideas, Punjab agriculture minister Jathedar Tota Singh wins the crown hands down. The minister has been doling out nuggets of wisdom at every forum, be it during meetings with CM Parkash Singh Badal, talk on technology or party affairs. One of the rare gems from his closet is feeding cattle with high-nutrition potatoes to save the crop from facing a glut. He also peppers the advice with caution — don’t feed more than 3 kg as it may cause gastric problem to the cattle -- he tells those who care to listen, unmindful of the guffaws, smirks or words of admiration.
Liberal for ‘hardliners’
The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal has raised the hackles of not just the ally BJP over transfer of terror convicts to Punjab. The Amritsar police, too, faced some blushes for its “largesse” towards death row convict Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, who is under treatment at a hospital there. The authorities virtually allowed a free run to visitors to meet the prisoner till some police bashing by unsparing media reports. On the backfoot, the police now allow visitors only on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Even Bhullar’s wife the other day was not allowed to meet him to drive home the point.
Another Badal in poll fray?
Long after Dhuri was taken from the Congress in a bypoll, Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal continues to pamper the constituency with his sangat darshans. His new-found love for what was hitherto not seen as an Akali stronghold has set many tongues wagging. The buzz is Badal is “nurturing” the constituency for his daughter, Parneet Kaur, whom the Badal family may bring into the poll fray in the 2017 state elections. Punjab may or may not be ready to contend with another Badal but the family intends to have all members serving the state.
All for making a living
Earning a livelihood in politics can be really difficult. Ask Rajya Sabha MP Avinash Rai Khanna who was promoted as national vice-president of the BJP a fortnight ago. According to Khanna, he was jobless after completing his term as the Lok Sabha MP in 2009. So he had to take up a private job to make ends meet. He left it for a stint as member of Punjab State Human Rights Commission. After 10 months, he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2010 and began making a living as an MP. His worry now is what next after his term as RS member comes to an end. Even a plum party post with no fixed remuneration would leave the parliamentarian facing the challenge of no livelihood.
Sought-after Haryana babus
Haryana IAS and IPS officers seem to be favourites when it comes to important assignments in the Union government. Senior IPS officer Sharad Kumar was picked for heading the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the counter-terrorism outfit, during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule. After the National Democratic Allaince (NDA) came to power, IAS officer Tarun Bajaj was appointed joint secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office. The latest to join the bandwagon is former Gurgaon commissioner of police Alok Mittal, a 1993 batch IPS officer, who has been appointed as inspector general in the NIA.
Women development minister’s ‘maiden’ act
Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi’s Haryana visit to inaugurate the country’s first Nand-Ghar, an ultramodern anganwadi centre at Hasanpur village of Sonepat district, saw Haryana women and child development minister and local MLA Kavita Jain attending the function without her husband, Rajiv Jain. The vice-president of the Haryana BJP, Rajiv had worked hard to ensure the victory of his wife and never misses an opportunity to share the stage with her. Finally, through her “maiden” act, the minister has tried to walk the talk on women empowerment.
Going the Hooda way
When it comes to media interactions, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar seems to be following in the footsteps of his predecessor Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The two-time Congress CM would hardly hold any press conferences in districts. A senior RSS functionary, Khattar, too, is doing the same. Since October, when Khattar was sworn in as the CM, he has only once convened a press conference in his home constituency, Karnal. A common grouse of the scribes is that like Hooda, Khattar, too, opts to invite media for interaction only at Chandigarh, preferring to keep district reporters at bay.
PM all for selfies
His selfies during foreign visits has the entire nation talking. But it is the selfie contest of a Haryana village that has caught the imagination of PM Narendra Modi. The PM, during his Mann ki Baat radio programme, asked all states to follow the selfie-with-daugther contest held by the panchayat of Bibipur village to promote his flagship ‘Save the Girl Child’ campaign. The village in the vicinity of Jind had also awarded the three best selfies with cash prizes and certificates. It is basking in the glory of the honour now bestowed on its novel way to save daughters.
As the country recounts the days of emergency that was imposed 40 years ago in June, Haryana IAS officer Pradeep Kasni had his own anecdotes to share with some of his friends who called on him after his “abrupt” transfer from medical education to low-profile archives department, last week. He was heard recalling how he had to flee his home as a 16-year-old after police arrested his father, Dharam Singh Kasni, a journalist and political worker in Rohtak. He remained underground for over four months, only to be “arrested time and again and beaten up” by men in khaki inside the jail during the days of emergency. Kasni also fondly remembered his association with some senior journalists and political leaders in jail.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) not only submitted a charge-sheet against the ruling Congress but also took potshots at its mid-term celebrations. Terming the celebrations as dahiya (two and a half years) – which in astrology is considered inauspicious — former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said the Congress had mocked their government saying it is overshadowed by dahiya. “Now the Congress government does not have faith that it will last the full term. Ministers are squabbling with one another and chief minister Virbhadra Singh has to spend much of his energy in pacifying them,” said Dhumal. The CBI filing a preliminary inquiry against the CM and family are also signs of bad tidings.
In the woods
It seems age is taking a toll on senior Congress leader and Himachal minister Vidya Stokes. Her speeches were increasingly being seen as “missing the point and wayward”. Now the octogenarian leader has also started forgetting names, even of her cabinet colleagues. During the jamboree of midterm celebrations of the Congress government at Una, the 88- year-old while delivering her speech forgot the name of industry minister Mukesh Agnihotri, who was the main organiser of the rally. She asked the information and public relations officer standing nearby. As he whispered his name, the ageing minister asked, “Should I take his full name?” Her words reached the audience before Agnihotri’s name.
Smelling a conspiracy
Gagret MLA and AICC secretary Rakesh Kalia is becoming a major embarrassment for the Congress. The MLA always tries to play spoilsport in government or party functions. During the government’s mid-term celebrations in Una, he smelled a rat in the official on the stage not announcing his name. Kalia not only snatched the mike from him but also dubbed it as a conspiracy hatched by a few “mischievous” people in the party. No prizes for guessing that the target was chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s “blue-eyed” minister Mukesh Agnihotri, the event organiser, as the two do not see eye to eye.
Taking law into his hands
Blame it on Una’s high temperatures during summer months. Industry minister Mukesh Agnihotri lost his cool while warning political opponents gunning after CM Virbhadra Singh. While other ministers defended the chief minister by terming the preliminary inquiry against him as a conspiracy, the overenthusiastic industry minister cautioned the opponents saying, “Jo hath hamare mukhyamantri ko chhune ki koshish karenge, vo tod diye jayenge (The hands that try to reach our chief minister will be cut)”.
How do banks stop ATM thefts? When asked about the increasing number of ATM thefts in the region and safeguards put by the bank in place during his recent visit to Dharamsala, the managing director of Punjab National Bank had this to say, “The problem is more in north India. People involved in such acts should have some moral values.”
Contributed by Gurpreet Nibber, Chitleen K Sethi, Aseem Bassi, Hitender Rao, Rajesh Moudgil, Vishal Joshi, Neeraj Mohan, Gaurav Bisht and Naresh Thakur.