A Fussy minister
Union minister of state for social justice and empowerment Vijay Sampla’s frequent visits to Ludhiana have been giving “palpitations” to bureaucrats, not because it means work, but because he loves to throw his weight around. Known for throwing tantrums, the minister is fussy about everything from his vehicle to the bureaucrats who would accompany him to public and private meetings. Fond apparently of all the attention he gets in the industrial city, Sampla likes to convene meetings of influential groups and become chief guest at the launch events of various central government programmes. His last trip left the officials on duty huffing and puffing, as he reached the Ludhiana railway station at 1am and created a hue and cry over the vehicle (Toyota Innova) arranged for him, as it had “tourist” written on it. It took the official concerned two-hours-and-a-half to get another car to go from Circuit House to Guru Nanak Dev Bhawan, a distance of 1.5 kilometers, the next morning.
Bathinda MP and Union minister for food processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal snubbed his younger brother, Punjab revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia, when the latter failed to pay heed to her pleas during the inauguration of state’s largest solar-power project at Jaga Ram Tirath in Bathinda district. During her address, Majithia was busy talking to some company officials. “Hun tu saadi vi sun le, apni tan suna ditti… gallan mari jane o (We heard you, now you listen to us; but you are busy talking),” she told Majithia. She wanted him to allot more solar-power projects to her parliamentary constituency.
At your service
Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal was in SAS Nagar the other day to interact with industry representatives. In his trademark style, he promised them the moon. “I am here today. Jo bhi kaam mujhse karvane hai, karwa lo. Presentation ek baar dikha do aur main batata jaunga haan ya na (I am at your service today. Show me your presentations once and I’ll be telling you yes or no, simultaneously),” he said. He had barely finished speaking when the industry association’s computer conked out. When the deputy CM got to know, he said with a laugh: “Main kam karan wala banda haan par tuhadi hi kismat kharab hai (I am there to help but you are out of luck).”
As the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan failed to make any impact in Amritsar, local bodies minister Anil Joshi wasted no time in re-launching the cleanliness campaign a few days ago in the holy city. While he hoped that things would improve with public support, he was haunted again by the municipal workers’ strike over the salary issue. The agitating workers refused to clean the tourist city, and as it continues to stink, launches and re-launches are not making any impact.
‘Bullet for bullet’
Theatre and film actor Om Puri was in Kasauli for the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival, where speaking on ways of combating the right-wing communal forces, he cited from former Punjab director general of police Julio F Ribeiro’s book ‘Bullet for Bullet’ to suggest they had to be “dealt with an iron hand like Rebeiro had contained terrorism in Punjab”. He won applause when he also narrated that how his director, Govind Nihalani, had recreated a Punjab village in Mumbai’s Fim City to shoot ‘Tamas’ in the mid 1980s “when Punjab was burning during terrorism”.
Identifying vote bank
The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) back office is carrying out a curious task these days —listing villages and constituencies that love and hate Akalis. The objective is to divide Punjab into two sets of people – they who will vote for the SAD, come what may; and those who will elect anyone but the Akalis. The SAD strategy for the 2017 election year is to focus on not the ones who hate the Akalis but those who love them. Faced with anti-incumbency again, the Akalis wants to ensure that their committed vote bank stays committed. What about the other seats? The SAD expects the other parties to divide them, leaving the Akalis with the highest numbers. Cool thinking, one must say.
Haryana health minister Anil Vij has a knack for hogging the limelight through his controversial and, sometimes, needless utterances. At a time when the bickering over beef was at its peak, Vij @anilvijmantri tweeted: “Declare cow as national animal in place of royal Bengal tiger”. Later, the minister even told reporters that he would make a request to the Prime Minister in this regard.
“In recent #BeefPolitics debates, the so-called #Intelligentsia advised people to respect sentiments of #beef eaters. Tomorrow if any #community starts eating #Human meat, then will they advise us to respect the sentiments of human-meat eaters (sic)?” he posted on Facebook on Saturday. Two months ago, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader had also questioned the use of the word “adhinayak” in the National Anthem, saying that a dictator had been defined as Vidhata (the creator). A few months before, his objection was to the “colonial” practice of students’ wearing black gowns at convocations. While he has been getting his share of limelight due to his controversial remarks and tweets, the opposition parties and leaders see these as attempts by the ruling party to divert attention from “poor governance”.
A speech too free
Call it a slip of tongue or his simmering anger, but a former sarpanch at the Congress rally against power tariff hike in Panchkula last week startled everyone. No, it was not his oratory but the free use of expletives in his speech. Former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had not arrived yet, but there were many people, including legislators, on the dharna site. The sarpanch used cuss words twice in his brief speech against “ineffective Khattar government in the state”. The outburst became a talking point, with journalists recounting the episode to many in the corridors of power.
Battle for Jat-land
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rules Haryana but it’s main opposition parties the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Congress that are sparring in Rohtak to claim “chaudhar” (influence) in the Jat-land. The INLD decision to shift the venue of its state-level rally on Haryana Day (November 1) from Delhi to Rohtak has worried the Congress. Rohtak MP Deepender Hooda, son of Congress leader and former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, responded by saying that the INLD was fighting for survival. “The party has shifted the venue because its leaders are worried about the (inadequate) size of gathering in Delhi,” he said. The remark evoked a sharp reaction from the INLD, and its senior leader Abhay Chautala questioned the political standing of the Hooda clan. “We are getting stronger but the two Hoodas are fighting for their survival in the Congress. They have been pushed to the sidelines,” said the INLD leader. Both sides just ignored the ruling BJP.
Holy book the Bhagavad Gita seems to be dear to several if not all leaders in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Haryana. While the government had roped in RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh) educationist Dinanath Batra to incorporate parts of Gita in the school text, several ministers are often quoting from the sacred book or referring to its messages. During the launch of the e-office system in the industrial training department and automation of fair-price shop of the food and supplies department in Panchkula the other day, chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said the Gita was at the heart of the word “DI-GITA-L”, a remark that brought smiles on the faces of many present.
The rustic sarcasm of the BJP MP from Kurukshetra, Raj Kumar Saini, had journalists in splits during his recent meet-the-press programme at Chandigarh Press Club. Decrying how prosperous people enjoyed reservation in the government jobs, he narrated an anecdote from his visit to religious place for the ritual of offering bread to dogs. “Jab main wahan gaya to wahan bahut kutte thay, aur jab meine unko roti di to meine dekha ke unmein jo sabse mota kutta tha, vahi saari roti kha gaya… aur yeh to nahin hona chahiye (Over there, I found many dogs and when I gave them bread, I noted that the fattest of the all ate up all of it, and it this should not happen).” The anecdote drew huge laughter but it wasn’t in good taste, considering his current political posturing.
Marriage and transfer
Bureaucrats seeking cadre change on grounds of marriage is nothing new; but then some states benefit more than others from the inter-cadre transfer policy. Newly recruited IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer Rahul Hooda may join Haryana from neighbouring Himachal Pradesh shortly. The case of the2015-batch IAS officercame up before a high-level committee of the centralgovernment last week, for inter-cadre transfer on the grounds of marriage with Manisha Choudhary, a 2011-batch IPS (Indian Police Service) officer of the Haryana cadre. The committee has decided to seek the comments of the Haryana government on the cadre-transfer request of the officer, who belongs to Delhi.
The first-information report (FIR) against chief minister Virbhadra Singh and the subsequent CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) raids on his residence have generated much political heat. Caught unawares, the government has ordered revamping of its intelligence wing and posted a dedicated team of policemen in the national capital to keep track of this kind of happenings on a day-to-day basis. The state criminal investigation department (CID), in a sudden reaction, conducted anti-bugging checks in the chief minister’s office, taking members of his staff by surprise and triggering speculations whether they were looking for a mole.
Himachal Pradesh transport minister GS Bali’s maneuvering often overshadows his skills. Three days before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team landed at Holly Lodge, private residence of the chief minister, he was the man who apprised the state cabinet about the raids planned on the properties of CM Virbhadra Singh. A curious scribe asked the minister how he knew what was going to happen. Bali said: “You forget that I am a Brahmin good in astrology and making prophecies. Come to me if you want to know something about your future.” His hidden skill left the journalist and others present awestruck.
Shanta’s new love
At a time when the CBI raids came handy for the BJP to launch an offensive against the Congress and its chief minister, Virbhadra Singh, former Union minister Shanta Kumar praised the state government openly for holding an investors’ meet in Delhi. His praising the CM blunted the party’s attack. The saffron party has been left wondering at the veteran’s newfound love for the Congress and its chief minister.
Desperate to emerge as a voice of the Jammu region (read its Hindu-dominated areas), the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP) is trying to set a record of sorts in holding demonstrations and giving calls for shutdown. It had failed to win even a single seat in the 2014 assembly elections but all its former legislators and others leaders join the protests every second day practically and enjoy media attention as well. While the BJP was “party of protests” all along, the JKNPP leaders now believe they can be popular by adopting the same plan.
Contributed by Anshu Seth, Navrajdeep Singh, Shailee Dogra, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Aseem Bassi, Prabhjit Singh, Chitleen K Sethi, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil, Neeraj Mohan, Gaurav Bisht, Naresh K Thakur and Tarun Upadhyay