When Sukhbir acted as conductor
Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal was at his jocular best while accompanying journalists in a bus recently to inaugurate some major projects in Ludhiana. Sukhbir, who was the last to enter, greeted journalists seated in the bus. “Sariyan ne ticket le layi hai? (Has everyone bought tickets?),” he asked, much to the amusement of all those present.Rozy, Noni, Raju, Bunty... candidates on SAD list
Even if Santa Banta jokes are banned, nicknames of Punjab politicians are enough to tickle your funny bone. While the revolt by those denied tickets made headlines after the first list of 69 was released by the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) in Punjab, the nicknames of those who made it to the list provided some comic relief. There is a Rozy (Barkandi), Bunty (Parambans Romana), Raju (Khanna) and Noni (Mann). But it was no laughing business for comedian-turned-politician of the Aam Aadmi Party Bhagwant Mann, who said in a statement that all four had “links to mafias of Punjab”.
Money power of Sampla aides
The much-hyped demonetisation move of the Narendra Modi government seems to have had no impact on the party’s spending in Punjab. The state BJP spent a huge amount of money on arrangements for a rally addressed by its national president Amit Shah on Sunday. A close associate of state unit chief Vijay Sampla, who is seeking ticket from Jalandhar West, reportedly spent `25 lakh on hoardings put up at many places in the city to welcome Shah. While other MLAs from the city Manoranjan Kalia, KD Bhandari and Chunni Lal Bhagat were miser in installing welcome hoardings, the money power of Sampla’s associates has become a talking point in the city.
No head or tail
As the battle of wits raged between the Congress and SAD over the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue, some of the statements issued had no head or tail. For instance, a Congress statement said the SYL was being constructed at tail’s end of Abohar! This when Abohar is miles away from the SYL route. Perhaps the Congress media team meant Abohar falls at the tail end of Punjab’s canal system. As for the SAD, a Hindi newspaper recently carried an advertisement of Punjab CM’s cancer relief scheme with credit to a Haryana health department. The PR department realised it and corrected it in other papers. The pressure on media teams of political parties is telling.
Politics of bargain
As non-stop bashing of the SAD-BJP government by Independent MLAs Balwinder Singh Bains and Simarjeet Singh Bains frustrated the ruling coalition members during the special session on Wednesday, they decided to “expose” the two. Chief parliamentary secretary Virsa Singh Valtoha told the House that the two brothers were known to indulge in politics of bargain. He said they bargained for the posts of minister and CPS from Akalis in 2012, for the mayor’s post after the Ludhiana civic body polls and then a ticket before the parliamentary elections in 2014. “They used to invite deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal and minister Bikram Majithia to their home. When their efforts failed, they started bargaining with the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party,” he said.
Capt and his protégés
Punjab Congress chief Captain Amarinder Singh is known for backing his protégés. During his visit to Barnala on Saturday, Congress MLA Harchand Kaur and some detractors of Bhadaur legislator Mohammad Sadique tried to raise the issue of the latter’s absence from the party rally on the 10th foundation day of the district. Sadique, a folk singer, had to perform at a wedding function the same day. Amarinder, however, ignored the grumble. “Sadique di roji roti da sawal hai. He is a singer first. Don’t worry for him. I will ensure his ticket and victory. He stood by me in tough times,” he said.
Getting busy at last minute
When Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar convened an all-party meeting on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal on Friday, he expected state leaders of all the parties in the state to show up for the state’s cause. The chief secretary’s office, which organised the meeting, got in touch with leaders of the BJP, Congress, Indian National Lok Dal, SAD and the Bahujan Samaj Party. All of them agreed to attend the meeting. On the day of the meeting, only leaders of the three frontline parties and an Independent MLA turned up. And no one came from the remaining two parties. The BSP and SAD leaders – both parties have an MLA each – had also given their consent, but opted out at the last minute, citing important engagements. However, the meeting went off well with those present deciding to make request to President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to implement the court order.
Dushyant’s changing stance
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to demonetise `500 and `1,000 banknotes drew flak from the Congress and the AAP. While both parties slammed the move, the opposition Indian National Lok Dal in Haryana was appreciative. Hisar MP Dushyant Chautala was first from the party to give his reaction. “Bold step. Congratulate the PM on Moving a step forward against Corruption (sic),” he tweeted within hours on the demonetisation announcement. Thereafter, the young MP not just re-tweeted photos and videos that captured glitches in the demonetisation drive, tagging the Prime Minister’s Office and the finance ministry to draw their attention. His party’s youth wing held camps to help the people queuing up outside the banks to withdraw money or exchange old currency.
Abhay’s treat to scribes
INLD leader Abhay Chautala misses no opportunity to take a dig at chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar. The Ellenabad MLA, who was in Chandigarh last week to attend all-party meeting on the SYL canal, interacted with newspersons at his party office just a stone’s throw from the meeting venue. On learning that they had not had meals at the venue, Abhay expressed regret and asked party members to immediately bring snacks and sweets for them. “I am surprised that Khattar had invited you and not offered meals,” he said, insisting they have snacks and sweets while interacting with him.
IAS officer riding high
Going by frequent transfers and complaints of its leaders, it seems that the Manohar Lal Khattar government is still struggling to decide its core team of bureaucrats. But an IAS officer, SS Prasad, appears to be riding high. Prasad is not only additional chief secretary in-charge of two coveted departments – town and country planning and food and civil supplies. He also received an appreciation letter recently for Aadhaar seeding of accounts under the public distribution system and detecting duplication, thereby making a “good amount of saving” for the government. The 1984-batch officer had drawn the attention of the state government towards his achievement. Khattar instructed that the officer be given an appreciation letter for his “good work”. At a function attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Gurgaon on November 1 on the golden jubilee of the state’s formation also, he was among the few on the dais – and in the limelight.
Patch-up time for Bali, Sudhir
Himachal Pradesh transport minister GS Bali and urban development minister Sudhir Sharma had strained relations until recently. The two leaders used to often spar in the cabinet meetings, but they patched up their differences during the chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s recent tour to Dharamshala assembly segment represented by Sharma. During the daylong trip, people were taken by surprise when they saw the two ministers walk hand-in-hand and travel in the same car. The duo even had a long discussion on issues relating to state politics and projects undertaken by the state government.
Promoting dynastic politics!
Dynastic politics is nothing new in Himachal Pradesh. Both the Congress and BJP have leaders pushing their progeny. When chief minister Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya, who is president of Himachal Youth Congress, announced his intention to contest the state assembly polls slated next year, it came as no surprise. Though Virbhadra has refrained from making an open remark on his son’s announcement, he is surely backing him. When a scribe asked the chief minister during his recent visit to Dharamshala whether Vikramaditya would contest the assembly election, his one-word reply was: “Yes”.
(Contributed by Sukhdeep Kaur, Aneesha Sareen Kumar, Ravinder Vasudeva, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Vishal Rambani, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil, Naresh K Thakur)