Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal held Gurpurb celebrations at his wife Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s official residence in Delhi on Wednesday to mark Parkash Utsav of Guru Nanak. Top BJP leaders Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Piyush Goel and Dr Harshvardhan were present. There was a good dose of spiritual singing followed by sumptuous langar. After the BJP’s disastrous outing in Bihar and the ongoing religio-political mess in Punjab for which the SAD is facing the heat, both parties, which were thinking of going alone in the 2017 assembly polls, seem to have come together. While state leaders of the BJP say the decision on the SAD-BJP alliance is still to be taken, top leaders seem to be already showing their faith in the dictum ‘unity is strength’.
Jakhar’s day out with James Bond
What did the outgoing Congress Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar do after being relieved of the post? He did not brood over having to resign even after doing his job well. He gave the keys of the bungalow -- which was vacated by his predecessor Rajinder Kaur Bhattal with a heavy heart -- and the Camry car back to the Punjab government. As the Congress was buzzing with activity in New Delhi over appointment of Capt Amarinder Singh as the new state unit chief, Jakhar was watching ‘Spectre’, the latest James Bond movie, in Delhi away from the humdrum. Reporters calling him got a message saying, “I am at a movie. Will call back later.” And he did that to say he would not sulk over what’s gone past. But outgoing Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa was not so sporting. He chose to avoid media after resigning and Amarinder’s appointment. Will he accept Amarinder’s hand of friendship is what Congressmen are guessing? The media, too, is keeping its fingers crossed.
All’s fair in love and war
Having made more headlines by staying away, Congress deputy leader in Lok Sabha Capt Amarinder Singh caused quite a flutter when he descended on Parliament on Friday. No prizes for guessing that an elated Captain made the show after Partap Singh Bajwa was shown the way out and his own anointment as Punjab Congress chief was to be made the same day. And guess who did lensmen relish taking his photographs with? His “friend” from Amritsar, Arun Jaitley, the union finance minister. Congressmen are calling it the “Swiss encounter” after Amarinder recently accused Jaitley of raking up the issue of purported Swiss accounts of his wife and son. Did Jaitley do some explaining to Amarinder or vice versa? Amarinder’s sheepish smile while talking to Jaitley reveals it was a safe encounter. All’s fair in love and war, they seem to have told each other.
War of words
The war of words between deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and Congress leader Capt Amarinder Singh is likely to intensify with the latter’s return as the Punjab Congress chief. Though the two had called each other names at public rallies and media interactions during the last assembly elections, the two sides seem set to ensure a repeat. A day after the Congress re-jig, Sukhbir fired the first salvo at a party rally in Moga. Trying to belittle the former CM, he called Amarinder a “buddha sher”. A senior Congressman responded: “Good that Sukhbir described Amarinder as a lion. Irrespective of age, lion is the king of the jungle.”
Blessing in disguise
Touted as the dream project of deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, the Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS), aimed at streamlining traffic and providing quality public transport facilities in Amritsar, is only adding to the woes and problems of the city residents. It has missed several deadlines and is still nowhere near completion. With the construction work in progress in several parts of the outer city, the semi-finished or partially completed bus corridors are coming in handy for those fond of taking morning walks. The most popular corridor is one from Chheharta to Putligarh Chowk. It is being used by fitness enthusiasts for walking, running and exercise. The dream project’s utility will only be known once it becomes operative. However, with open spaces shrinking in the city, it sure is helping locals stay in shape.
After a re-jig in the chief minister’s office (CMO), there was reallocation of departments last week. The first few copies of the allocation order issued by new principal secretary to chief minister (PSCM) RK Khullar created a buzz in the corridors of power. The reason: it gave the abbreviation of Khullar’s designation as SPSCM (special principal secretary to chief minister), a position he held before the reshuffle. Bureaucrats and journalists, who noticed the faux pas, joked that the IAS officer’s staff was still to adjust to his climb up the power ladder. The mistake was quickly rectified, though.
Not first such transfer
Fatehabad superintendent of police Sangeeta Kalia was not the first woman officer to have been shifted out following her spat with a minister. It was the second such incident, the first being in January this year when Kurukshetra civil surgeon Vandana Bhatia was transferred. Social justice and empowerment minister Krishan Kumar Bedi had ticked her off for ignoring his calls. Bhatia had recorded the entire conversation and complained against the minister, but she was shunted out.
At the ‘khula darbar’ programme of chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar in Karnal on Saturday, a youth complained about the difficulty he was facing in getting an electricity connection at his house. “I am not getting any marriage proposal due to lack of power connection. Meri shaadi ka sawal hai yeh (it is a question of my marriage),” he said innocently. Khattar, who gave him a patient hearing, burst out laughing before asking the officials to address the grievance.
Delicacies from south
The addition of new south Indian snacks and dishes in the menu of official canteens is creating a buzz in the Haryana civil secretariat. An official posted in the chief minister’s office was heard last week boasting about the lobbying he did for the inclusion of these snacks. “Why don’t you try the new idli, sambar, vada and dosa?” he said with a watering mouth.
Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh, apart from political skills, is also known for his wit. Amid the bitter war of words being fought between the ruling and opposition parties following the CBI and ED raids on his properties, the beleaguered leader’s sense of humour was intact. When a scribe asked him whether he expected the proceedings during winter session of the state assembly to be smooth, chief minister quickly replied, “It’s the responsibility of the opposition parties to cooperate for smooth functioning of the House. But expecting something from them is like reading a book to a buffalo.”
Leader, not dealer
At a time when the central agencies are probing chief minister Virbhadra Singh, a meeting between him and his known adversary and leader of opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal has left the political circles abuzz with speculation of all sorts. The bonhomie between the two has surprised their colleagues and supporters. As whispers in the BJP started growing louder, the Dhumal camp had to do some explaining. Dehra MLA Ravinder Kumar Ravi, one of his trusted lieutenants, said the meeting would not affect the party’s strategy in the winter session of the state assembly. Dhumal also later told reporters that he was a leader and not dealer.
Hectic activity in Cong
After the much-talked-about meeting between Virbhadra Singh and Prem Kumar Dhumal, there was hectic activity in the Congress. Health minister Kaul Singh Thakur went into a huddle with Himachal Congress chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu. Thereafter, Sukhu held separate meetings with Virbhadra loyalist and cooperative bank vice-president Harsh Mahajan, and irrigation minister Vidya Stokes. Both Thakur and Stokes have been contenders for the top job. While all these leaders are tight-lipped, these sudden meetings have set tongues wagging in the ruling party circles.
Body blow to police
The working of Kangra police became a major embarrassment for the cops, as a “dead man” walked home shortly after he was cremated. The goof-up was due to mistaken identity. The cops identified the dead body discovered in a jungle as that of a man from a Dharamshala village, about whom a missing report had been lodged at the local police station. Without following the procedure to identify the mutilated body, the police immediately declared it to be that of the missing man. The family members, who were in a state of confusion, took the body and performed the last rites. However, the “dead man” walked back home a week later, leaving the police stumped. The cops are now trying to find out whose body they had handed over to the family.
Bureaucrats, police officials and businessmen are making attempts to seek appointment with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti after chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s statement at a press conference that she deserved to be CM. Officers fearing a change in postings or wanting prime postings are making requests for appointment with her. A section of the bureaucracy believes the change may not come soon, but with the CM virtually endorsing her no one wants to take any risk and are trying to get into her good books sooner than later. Mehbooba is known to be short-tempered. Perhaps that’s what is keeping the state bureaucracy from going overboard.
(Contributed by Sukhdeep Kaur, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Anshu Seth, Harkirat Singh, Rajesh Moudgil, Vishal Joshi, Naresh Kumar, Gaurav Bisht and Tarun Upadhyay)